Mayo 2-10 Monaghan 1-11
Deep into the death rattle seconds, Monaghan very nearly whisked this game out from under Mayo’s nose. They had spent the second half here burning through chances like a husband with a wandering eye, scoring only three times from 13 shots in that period alone. They had done just about everything possible to accommodate James Horan’s visiting side and yet they still had a chance to grab the win.
A hopeful cross landed in the Mayo square in the 76th minute and in the copse of bodies that went reaching for it, Ryan McAnespie got a palmed connection on the ball. There was no great skill or technique in Paddy Durcan’s goalline save but he got himself between the ball and the net, somehow, some way. “I think it just happened to hit me,” Durcan smiled afterwards. “No more than that. It was a bit close for comfort.” Whatever it was, it meant Mayo went home with the points.
Anything less wouldn’t quite have been grand larceny. Petty crime, maybe. Mayo deserved to win because they made good on their possession and were altogether more efficient in front of goal. Monaghan kicked 10 wides, dropped five shots short and Jack McCarron hit the post with a close-in free. For the second week in a row, Seamus McEnaney’s side paid the price for a chronic day’s shooting.
“We had a lot of opportunities that we missed,” McEnaney said. “Free kicks, 21-yard frees, opportunities that were easy tap-overs on another day. But we have to regroup back on Tuesday night, we go at it again. It’s not a fatal blow, it’s a setback.
“I wouldn’t think it’s carelessness, these things happen. Conditions were horrendous last week to be fair. It was a bit better today but difficult enough at the same time and Mayo had the same, so it’s certainly not for the want of practice in what we are trying to do. Over the two weekends we have definitely created enough chances in the first half to be further ahead at half-time and we didn’t take them. I would never mind that, that will come and I have no doubt in my mind it will come right. It’s not as good as we’d like at the minute.”
Mayo were fairly clinical here, only kicking four wides all day. Ryan O’Donoghue was whip-crack sharp inside and it did the hearts of the travelling Mayo support all the good in the world to see Jason Doherty bang home the decisive goal on 54 minutes, pushing Mayo into a lead they never relinquished. In the week they lost Tommy Conroy for the year; it was no bad time for Fionn McDonagh to pop up with a fine score as well.
They hung in through a first half in which Monaghan could easily have built up a decent lead on a going day. O’Donoghue side-footed home his goal on six minutes after some slapstick defending in the Monaghan full-back line, only for Jack McCarron to palm home a goal in reply three minutes late after good work by Micheál Bannigan. Rory Beggan missed a hatful of frees throughout the rest of the half and when McCarron, Niall Kearns and Bannigan all did likewise, it meant the half-time scoreline of 1-8 to 1-7 felt like a win for Mayo, even though they trailed by a point.
Monaghan only scored three points the rest of the way though - and only one from play. O’Donoghue had a goal disallowed for a push but soon after he fed Doherty for the killer goal after clever movement from substitute Jordan Flynn. Conor Loftus came off the bench to flick a nice score and O’Donoghue’s frees saw Mayo home.
Horan was hopeful afterwards that a first half injury to Eoghan McLaughlin wouldn’t be as serious as it looked. With players to return before the Dubs in Croker and three points on the board, it has been a decent start to the league, all in all. A draw nabbed in injury-time against Donegal, a win ground out on the road in Clones. Can’t ask for much more than that.
“I think getting the two points is important at this time of the year,” Horan said. “I think we put on pressure a bit better in the second half and I thought our passing improved. It was very crisp. And our support runs from the back were very good.
“A lot of stuff that was very good, so very happy with that. Our first half was a bit ropey again and Monaghan could have had a couple of goals. But we stuck in there. We grinded it out very well. Very pleased with the second half, in particular. But to get two points up here against a team like that is very pleasing for sure.”
Monaghan: Rory Beggan; Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie; Ryan McAnespie, Dessie Ward, Karl O'Connell (0-1); Darren Hughes, Niall Kearns; Conor McCarthy, Micheál Bannigan, Shane Carey (0-2, 0-2 frees); Jack McCarron (1-3, 0-1f), Gary Mohan (0-2, 0-1 mark), Andrew Woods (0-2).
Subs: Conor McManus (0-1, free) for O'Connell (43 mins), Aaron Mulligan for Woods (55 mins), Shane Hanratty for McCarthy (55 mins), David Garland for McCarron (63 mins), Killian Lavelle for Kearns (65 mins)
Mayo: Rob Hennelly; Brendan Harrison, Pádraig O'Hora, Lee Keegan; Paddy Durcan, Michael Plunkett, Eoghan McLaughlin; Conor O'Shea (0-1), Stephen Coen; Fionn McDonagh (0-1), Diarmuid O'Connor (0-1), Bryan Walsh; Aiden Orme, Jason Doherty (1-0), Ryan O'Donoghue (1-6, 0-5 frees).
Subs: Aidan O'Shea for Coen (26 mins), Rory Brickenden for McLaughlin (35 mins), Conor Loftus (0-1) for McDonagh (45 mins), Jordan Flynn for C O'Shea (48 mins), Donnacha McHugh for Harrison ( 63 mins).
Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone)