Spirited Mayo refuse to wave the white flag

 

NFL DIVISION ONE: Mayo 1-13 Down 3-7:DOWN MAY well wonder how they left MacHale Park, Castlebar on Saturday with just one point in the bag when, for most of this game, they looked the likely winners with no fewer than 11 of their All-Ireland final team on show.

Mayo, despite falling seven points behind in the first half, and five in the second, refused to lie down and new Mayo manager, James Horan will be encouraged by a gutsy performance from his new-look team which included five debutantes on his starting 15.

“We took the game to Down in the second half and in the end we had them on the rack,” said Horan who was clearly delighted to have taken something from what was his first real test since taking over from John O’Mahoney.

Horan heaped praise on his team’s workrate in the second half when they clawed their way back from what looked like an abyss.

Down may have mistakenly felt they had more than the measure of Mayo having dominated that first half of what was an absorbing game watched by around 7,000.

That belief was solidly based on a very strong opening 20 minutes which was helped by a goal after just two minutes when Martin Clarke’s 45 found the Mayo net.

Their second goal was crafted by Benny Coulter who opened the avenue for John Clarke to fire to the net from close range.

When Martin Clarke added a point a minute later, Down were seven clear and seemingly in control as Mayo’s new defensive formation looked vulnerable.

Mayo were thrown a lifeline before half-time when Alan Freeman cut through the middle with a 30-yard run before his deflected shot found the net to leave Mayo 2-5 to 1-4 in arrears at the break. Andy Moran on six minutes, Alan Dillon and Mark Ronaldson (two) accounted for the Mayo points .

When Conor Maginn found the net on 52 minutes the pendulum swung firmly in favour of Down who were five points clear with 20 minutes remaining. But they managed just one further point for the game as Mayo took control.

The introduction of Tom Parsons made an immediate impact as they hit five unanswered points, through Moran (free), Freeman, Kevin McLoughlin and Moran from play before Enda Varley landed a monster point.

Maginn hit what looked like the certain winner two minutes from time but Mayo conjured a late attack producing a stunning equalising point from Andy Moran.

MAYO:K O’Malley; T Cunniffe, C Hallinan, K Higgins; R Feeney, G Cafferkey, K McLoughlin (0-1); R McGarrity, J Gibbons; A Moran (0-6, four frees), A O’Shea, A Dillon (0-1); E Varley (0-1), A Freeman (1-1), M Ronaldson (0-3, two frees). Subs: P Gardiner for Feeney (45 mins), N Douglas for Ronaldson (45), T Parsons for J Gibbons (56), C O Connor for A Freeman (63 mins).

DOWN:B McVeigh; A Brannigan, D Gordon, L Howard; G McCartan, K McKiernan, P McPolin; P Fitzpatrick, K King; D Hughes (0-2), M Polan, M Clarke (1-3, two frees); P McComiksey, J Clarke (1-1), B Coulter. Subs: C Maginn (1-1) for C King (47); R Murtagh for J Clarke (49), P Morney for P McPolin (61).

Referee:C Reilly (Meath).