Mayo halt losing streak
Donegal defeated in repeat of last September’s pairing
Mayo's Barry Moran under pressure
A four game losing streak finally ended for Mayo in artic-like conditions at MacHale Park, Castlebar, yesterday where there was some measure of compensation for their All-Ireland defeat at the hands of Donegal.
Having scored just one goal in this year’s league it was no surprise that the man who managed to put one past Tyrone, Keith Higgins, orchestrated the vital score in this match when his scorching trademark run set up Michael Conroy who saw his effort end in the net with the aid of the goalpost.
That score, coming 16 minutes into the second half, was to see the game swing towards Mayo with the sides level at 0-7 each and when Donegal had Anthony Thompson sent off on a second yellow card, with 20 minutes remaining, only one result seemed likely.
But despite being a man down Donegal, who gave away a huge amount of ball, stuck rigidly to their task in a second half dogfight and were snapping at Mayo’s heels until substitute, Enda Varley, swung over two massive points in the closing minutes to finally seal victory and throw Mayo a division one lifebuoy to keep them afloat ahead of their final game against Cork.
It was a result which finally brought a smile to the worried face of manager James Horan who praised his team for their efforts given the pressure they were under to end that four game losing sequence
“We showed character and heart to win this game and we probably should have won it by more but we are delighted with the win,” he said.
But the worry for the manager was their failure to close out the game when they were on top with the extra man. “Yes, we had a lot of chances but a lot of players got stuck in out there and that is what won it for us but we still have another game before anything is decided.”
Donegal manager Jim McGuiness said: “I counted nine balls we gave away in the first half alone,” he said pondering on how Donegal found themselves trailing by 0-6 to 0-4 at the interval having dominated a good chunk of the half but failing to score for over 20 minutes.
“I’m more worried about Neil McGee (suspected knee) but I don’t think the sending off unduly affected us as we were as intense as Mayo in that second half,” he said.
Mayo fought their way back from being three adrift after just 10 minutes to take a two-point lead at half-time and they might have extended that had Jason Doherty not been denied by Donegal goalkeeper Paul Durcan who saved at the expense of a 45.
The Connacht champions were on target with an early free from young footballer of the year, Cillian O’Connor, but the All-Ireland champions hit four on the bounce, McFadden (free), Murphy from play, and from a free, and McFadden with his side’s fourth.
But, amazingly, Donegal failed to score for the remainder of the half as Mayo hit six without reply.
Man of the match, Barry Moran began to come more into it at midfield and O’Connor, McLoughlin, and a free from O’Connor had Mayo level by the 26th minutes.
Mayo just about clung on despite losing Jason Doherty on a second yellow three minutes from time but clearly learning much from the ambush tactics of Donegal to tackle in numbers and pilfer possession at vital stages in a frantic second half.