All-Ireland SFC Group 1 Round 2: Mayo 0-14 Louth 1-10
It wasn’t just the heat that had Mayo fans sweating in the dying moments of Sunday’s visit of Louth to Castlebar, as after the high of putting All-Ireland champions Kerry to the sword in a record-ending display at Fitzgerald Stadium, came a quite average performance by the Green and Red. It included a very nervous period of stoppage-time after which the hosts had only a point to spare over Mickey Harte’s side.
Mayo sit two points clear of the pack in Group One and even a draw in their final group game against Cork in two weeks’ time will guarantee a direct passage into the quarter-finals. But if they lose that and suddenly the minuscule margin by which they won this home game could come back to bite hard.
Louth, meanwhile, have no option but to beat Kerry on neutral turf if they are to have any chance of advancing to a preliminary quarter-final.
A 75th-minute goal by their wing forward Conall McKeever, and a Conor Grimes point moments later, had taken a large chunk out of Mayo’s five points advantage, with the relief palpable among the home support when referee Noel Mooney blew full-time after the next kick-out.
Until then Kevin McStay’s side, without ever reaching the heights of their Kerry exploits, had never really looked in danger of losing. In fact, when they raced into a 0-3 to no score advantage inside five minutes, thanks to points by goalkeeper Colm Reape, a free, Jack Carney and Ryan O’Donoghue, there was even the sense of them picking up where they had left off in Killarney. But three points remained the margin at half-time too, as Mayo’s appetite to unpick Louth’s ultra-defensive approach waned somewhat, albeit the exceptionally warm conditions in Castlebar were undoubtedly a factor.
A 22nd-minute point by the energetic Conor Grimes was Louth’s only score from play in the first half, which ended 0-7 to 0-4 in Mayo’s favour, with Wee County goalkeeper James Califf denying David McBrien from converting what was the only goal chance in the half.
A goal would certainly have given Mayo some breathing space but James Carr badly misjudged a pass to Aidan O’Shea in what was a gilt-edged opportunity to push five the team points clear in the 50th minute. Indeed it was Louth, for whom Sam Mulroy scored three frees, who had almost levelled matters when a strong hand by Reape helped turn Leonard Grey’s goal attempt over the crossbar.
The introduction of Paddy Durcan (injury ruled midfielder Diarmuid O’Connor out of the matchday squad) added some pep to Mayo and the captain’s point sent the home side four clear with11 minutes left to play. And with O’Shea unerring from frees (he scored four) and a 74th minute point by sub Fionn McDonagh extending the gap to five points, everything now looked quite comfortable for the home side.
Louth had other ideas, with McKeever’s late goal superbly fashioned by Donal McKenny and Ryan Burns, but ultimately Mayo’s fate remains in their own hands.
MAYO: Colm Reape (0-1, free); Jack Coyne, David McBrien, Sam Callinan; Pádraig O’Hora, Conor Loftus, Stephen Coen (0-1, mark); Matthew Ruane (0-1), Donnacha McHugh; Jason Doherty, Jack Carney (0-1), Jordan Flynn (0-1); Aidan O’Shea (0-4, four frees), James Carr, Ryan O’Donoghue (0-3, two frees).
Subs: Paddy Durcan (0-1) and Tommy Conroy for Doherty and Carr (both 51 mins), Enda Hession for Callinan (59), Fionn McDonagh (0-1) for Flynn (63), Bob Tuohy for Coyne (70+5).
LOUTH: James Califf; Bevan Duffy, Peter Lynch, Donal McKenny; Leonard Grey (0-1), Niall Sharkey (0-1), Anthony Williams; Tommy Durnin, Conor Early (0-1); Conall McKeever (1-0), Ciarán Downey (0-2, one mark), Conor Grimes (0-2); Conall McCaul, Sam Mulroy (0-3, three frees), Ciarán Murphy.
Subs: Craig Lennon and Liam Jackson for McCaul and Williams (h-t), Ryan Burns for Lynch (51 mins, inj), Paul Mathews for Murphy (70).
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan).