With next Friday’s all-or-nothing Connacht MFC semi-final against Roscommon facing Mayo, the opportunity was understandably taken in tonight’s Round 5 match against Sligo to ring the changes in terms of team selection. As a result we took the pitch with a much-changed team, showing fourteen changes from last weekend, but, despite this, the two teams served up an entertaining contest, which ended 1-11 apiece.
Today felt in many ways like the first proper day of summer. The whitethorn blooming in abundance everywhere, sunshine and the temperature tipping 20 degrees in the west. Hastings Insurance MacHale Park was bathed in bright sunshine this evening, with the home team marginally enjoying the better of the exchanges in an entertaining first half.
The visitors opened their account right from the throw-in, when a burst forward led to a free that Lang popped over. Matthew Leonard responded from play for us, catching a crossfield ball from Ryan Gibbons who’d claimed a mark on the far side.
Ryan Gibbons then smashed over a real boomer to put us ahead but they hit back with two points in as many minutes. They wouldn’t, though, score again for over twenty minutes.
In the meantime we notched five points without reply to open up a bit of a gap on them. Fionnan Burke, off his trademark left, got the first, then Tiernan Egan collected the ball after the ‘keeper had saved his goal attempt, and drove it over.
Dara Neary got our next one, our only score from a free in the opening half. Then Thomas Tuffy drove forward, shipped a hefty shoulder and banged it over from well out. Fionnan Burke, collecting a clever kickpass inside, popped over his second to increase our lead to four.
Mostyn from a free finally got Sligo moving again and the same player bagged one from play just after. We made a mess of a restart, then committed an infringement at the hop ball and they scored the resultant 14-yard free to cut the gap to one. Fionnan Burke, from play, then scored to send us into the break two in front.
Sligo drew level early in the second half but we edged ahead again when, after a long period of possession, Seán Walsh popped up to knock the ball over the bar. They responded soon after with a point from Lang that just had the legs to make it over.
The direction of this contest was now very much in the balance but, just when it looked like Sligo might get on top, we broke through for a goal. Matthew Leonard got on the end of a ball pumped in from the right wing – which I think was an effort at a point – and the Stephenites player slid it home.
We were running the bench by then and the match was becoming disjointed but, coming down the closing stretch, still two points in front, we looked the likelier to prevail. This was despite getting very few decisions in our favour from a particularly fussy ref.
Then Sligo broke through for a well-worked goal, finished calmly, a score that put the Yeats County a point in front. That would have won it for them but for a late, late equaliser from Thomas Tuffy to secure a deserved share of the spoils for us.
Tonight’s match was meaningless for us in the broader scheme of things but Seán Deane will surely have been delighted nonetheless that what was in large part a second-string Mayo selection were able to eke out a share of the spoils. Now it’s on to weightier matters this night week, with a second meeting this year with Roscommon, this one a knockout tie, with both sides vying for the right to meet Galway in the Connacht final.
Mayo: Dylan O’Brien; Darragh McGovern, Seánie O’Reilly, Conall Breslin; Seán Walsh (0-1), Conor Jennings, Paddy Dunleavy; Tiernan Egan (0-1), Thomas Tuffy (0-2); Conor Nolan, Dara Neary (0-1, free), Conor Ryder; Fionnan Burke (0-3), Ryan Gibbons (0-1), Matthew Leonard (1-1). Subs: Luke Flatley for Nolan, James Lavelle for McGovern, Darragh Beirne (0-1) for Gibbons, Colm Lynch for Ryder, Evan Campbell (GK) for O’Brien.
In our Final Whistle pod from MacHale Park, Mike, Nigel Reape and I review tonight’s game and Mike also chats post-game with Seán Deane. The show is up now on Patreon.