Mayo 3-15 Westmeath 1-14
A baffling performance from Mayo against Westmeath has drawn a sharp rebuke from manager Stephen Rochford ahead of Saturday's quarter-final clash with Tyrone at Croke Park.
While Mayo emerged with seven points to spare, thanks mainly to a goal deep in injury-time from Aidan O’Shea, Rochford said it would not be anywhere near good enough to advance to the semi-final as they would be exposed by better opposition.
How Mayo squandered an 11-point lead is one of the worries they face ahead of their biggest test following a game in which they looked poised at one stage in the first half to swamp Westmeath. However, but a remarkable second-half display from Tom Cribbin’s side saw them come within three points (2-13 to 1-13), eight minutes from the end of normal time, and that was with a man down after substitute Denis Corroon, was sent of on a second yellow card in the 64th minute.
Rochford said: “We turned over the ball a bit easily and not always under pressure and we really got penalised for two or three of them. We put six balls in the goalkeeper’s hands and over the course of the game they got three scores from it and the concession of the goal was disappointing. The good teams left in the competition will certainly penalise us.”
Thirteen minutes into the game, Westmeath had hit the front thanks to their top marksman, John Heslin, but this game changed dramatically in the last 15 minutes of the half as Mayo, who started without the injured Diarmuid O'Connor who picked up a dead leg in training, finally began to open up after a sluggish start, and it was the strong running of Donal Vaughan which set up the first goal for Jason Doherty, who fired home on 23 minutes.
Points from Cillian O'Connor, Evan Regan and Andy Moran saw Mayo take control of the game and when referee Rory Hickey penalised Westmeath goalkeeper Darren Quinn for overcarrying the ball in the small square, Cillian O'Connor shot to the roof of the net from the penalty to put Mayo into a 2-9 to 1-4 lead, five minutes before half-time.
But a superb run by James Dolan caught Mayo cold as he drilled low to the net from 25 yards. It could have been more embarrassing for Mayo when a stray pass out of defence presented a goal chance to Kieran Martin. However, he fumbled and allowed Mayo full-back Kevin Keane time to cover a mistake by Kevin McLoughlin, but at the cost of a free from Heslin, to leave Westmeath still in the game at the break - 2-10 to 1-5.
Four rapid-fire points from Westmeath, including a super effort from James Dolan and an equally fine score from full-back Francis Boyle had blown this game wide open with the lead pared back to four points within seven minutes of the restart.
Cillian O’Connor and Doherty steadied the Mayo ship with back-to-back points, but Westmeath were not going away and with eight minutes remaining it was a three-point game thanks to the unerring accuracy of Heslin and fine score from Kieran Martin.
Had Westmeath been able to match their industry with better finishing they might have got even loser but there was an audible sigh of relief from Mayo fans when Vaughan cut through for a big score to push the lead to four, Aidan O’Shea’s goal relieving the Mayo pressure valve, three minutes into injury-time.
MAYO: D Clarke; B Harrison, K Keane, K Higgins (0-1); L Keegan, C Boyle, P Durcan; S O Shea, D Vaughan (0-1); K McLoughin (0-1), A O'Shea (1-0), J Doherty (1-1); E Regan (0-3, two frees), A Moran (0-2), C O'Connor (1-6, three frees, penalty).
Subs: B Moran for Boyle (52 mins), A Dillon for Regan (54 mins), C O'Shea for Doherty (58 mins), A Freeman for A Moran (65 mins), C Barrett for Keegan (67 mins), Parson for S O'Shea (7 0 mins).
WESTMEATH: D Quinn; K McGuire, F Boyle (0-1), K Daly; J Gonoud, D Lynch, J Dolan (1-1); D Daly, A Stone; J Egan, P Sharry, K Martin (0-2); C McCormack, J Heslin (0-10, seven frees). J Connellan.
Subs: D Corroon for Stone (21 mins), Daly for Lynch (31 mins), D Bryan for Quinn (h/t), S Corcoran for J Egan (44 mins), D McNicholas for J Connellan (53 mins), D Conway for McCormack (65 mins).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).