Photo: The 42 (Inpho)
Mayo eked out a two-point win over the Galway students in cold and wet conditions at Elvery’s MacHale Park earlier today, coming out on top on a 1-12 to 1-10 scoreline. It was not a vintage performance from the men in Red and Green but on January 3rd that was not necessarily the top priority.
It was far from an easy victory for the county side against the NUIG students as they found themselves three points down early on and two points down early in the second period.
Early scores from Owen Finnerty, Micheal Daly and Criostar Davey set the students on their way before a brace of points each for Conor Loftus and Kevin McLoughlin pushed Mayo into the lead after 20 minutes. Loftus found himself through on goal on 21 minutes and just as the Crossmolina forward was about to pull the trigger Kevin McDonnell came across with a pitch perfect tackle to stop the corner forward.
Darren McHale edged Mayo further ahead two minutes later before Adam Gallagher shot his first score of the day, and NUIG’s first in 21 minutes. Jason Doherty restored Mayo’s two-point lead but a quick fire triple from Gallagher (2) and Peter Cooke had the students ahead by one at the break.
A Gallagher free early in the second-half pushed them two clear before Mayo went on a scoring run between the 37th and 45th minute which saw them open up a five point lead.
Points from McLoughlin and Mark Ronaldson levelled matters before the Knockmore man intercepted a ball out of the NUIG defence and fired to the net for the first major of the Stephen Rochford era. A brace of points from Colm Boyle and Loftus followed to leave the scores 1-10 to 0-8 in the home side’s favour.
The students found their rhythm again after that run of scores for Mayo and closed the gap to three with ten minutes remaining through scores from Cooke and Conor O’Shea. Tom Parsons had a chance to wrap up the win but his shot at goal sliced off his boot and wide, on another day it probably would have hit the roof of the net.
Parson’s miss was highlighted just a minute later when Brendan Harrison fouled Daly in the square and the referee correctly awarded a penalty. Gallagher converted into the bottom right corner and the teams were level again with just nine minutes to play.
That proved to be the student’s last score of the game, however, as they just couldn’t find a way past the Mayo defence to get themselves ahead. Two late frees from McLoughlin and Robbie Hennelly saw the Stephen Rochford reign begin with a hard fought win against the students.
Photo: @EmmaMc7 via Twitter
On a day when individual performances were as important as anything else it was Kevin McLoughlin, Tom Parsons and Colm Boyle who really stood out for Mayo. Considering the disappointment these guys went through at the end of last season it was great to see them back in action, and looking fit, early on.
Of the new faces Conor Loftus had a good first-half but tired towards the end. Shane Nally and Padraig O’Hora found themselves in the thick of things as well and will no doubt be given further chances to impress throughout January.
For now it is a winning start for Stephen Rochford and Mayo in 2016. IT Sligo are next up on Sunday at 2 pm in Ballina before a trip to Ballinlough to face Kevin McStay and his Roscommon side.
Mayo: Rob Hennelly (0-1f); Brendan Harrison, Kevin Keane, Padraig O’Hora; Colm Boyle (0-1), Shane McHale, Shane Nally; Jason Gibbons, Tom Parsons; Kevin McLoughlin (1-4,4f), Mark Ronaldson (0-1), Darren McHale (0-1); Keith Ruttledge, Jason Doherty (0-1), Conor Loftus (0-3,2f). Subs: Mikey Sweeney for Ruttledge (41), Keith Higgins for S McHale (51), Caolan Crowe for Gibbons (54), Ger Cafferkey for O’Hora (57).
NUIG: Donal O’Cullivan; Kevin McDonnell, Dave Cunnane, David Murray; John McManus, Lee Cullen, Adrian Nolan; Conor O’Shea (Mayo) (0-1), Peter Cooke (0-2,1f); Eoin O’Donoghue (Mayo), Micheal Daly (0-1), Adam Gallagher (Mayo) (1-4,1-0 pen,2f); Kevin Finn, Owen Finnerty (0-1), Criostar Davey (0-1). Subs: Sean Moran for O’Donoghue (20), Enda Boland for Nolan (41), Eoghan Lavin (Mayo) for Gallagher (54), Andrew McCormack for O’Shea (59).
Ref: Barry Judge (Sligo).