Mayo 5-19 Limerick 3-7
By Eoghan Cormican
Mayo’s latest qualifier journey began as expected, Stephen Rochford’s men comfortably disposing of Limerick to put themselves in the bowl for round 2.
By consequence of a third straight Connacht championship defeat to Galway last month, Mayo find themselves spending another summer on the backroads and while this particular outing was useful in getting game-time into the legs of Cillian O’Connor, Evan Regan and Lee Keegan, they were in no way tested.
O’Connor was the star of the show, finishing with 3-9 - 3-3 from play. His second and third goals arrived during a two-minute spell (63-65 minutes) where the visitors struck for three majors on the bounce.
O’Connor was also involved in his team’s fourth green flag, providing the final pass to Andy Moran.
The 2017 footballer of the year, though named to start, did not feature until introduced as a second-half substitute. He provided Mayo’s fifth and final goal after Lee Keegan’s shot - the 2016 footballer of the year was also sprung from the bench in the second-half - was parried by Limerick ‘keeper Donal O’Sullivan.
This 18-point hammering, played out in front of a crowd of 8,230, was Mayo’s 12th qualifier win and their seventh in-a-row since 2016.
Last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists led 1-10 to 1-1 at the break, O’Connor, starting his first game since injuring his hamstring against Tyrone on March 18, accounting for 1-6 of that total.
It was Limerick, mind, who struck first; Seán McSweeney converting a third minute penalty after Danny Neville was adjudged to have been fouled by a gaggle of Mayo defenders. The home side wouldn’t score again until the 20th minute, however, by which time Mayo had reeled off six unanswered points.
Cillian O’Connor slotted over their opening four scores before Evan Regan, starting his first game since suffering a facial bone fracture during their league defeat to Kerry on February 3, got in the act.
Aidan O’Shea kicked their sixth and although Iain Corbett momentarily stemmed the tide, Mayo registered 1-3 without reply on the run in to the break. The goal arrived on 29 minutes, Cillian O’Connor beginning the move with a sumptuous flick to Regan. He passed it back to the Mayo captain who placed the ball into the top left-corner of Donal O’Sullivan’s goal.
O’Connor and Mayo continued to terrorise the home defence in the second period.
Scorers for Mayo: C O’Connor (3-9, 0-5 frees, 0-1’ 45); A Moran (2-0); P Durcan, A O’Shea (0-2 each); C Boyle, C Barrett, S Coen, C Hanley, E Regan, J Durcan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Limerick: S O’Carroll (2-1, 1-0 pen, 0-1 free); S McSweeney (1-0 pen); J Ryan (0-2 frees), I Corbett (0-2 each); D Neville, J Lee (0-1 each).
Mayo: D Clarke; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; E O’Donoghue, P Durcan, C Boyle; S O’Shea, S Coen; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, C Hanley; E Regan, C O’Connor, J Durcan.
Subs: L Keegan for Boyle (46 mins); J Doherty for McLoughlin (48); C Loftus for S O’Shea (53); A Moran for Higgins (54); C Crowe for Hanley (60); S Nally for O’Donoghue (64).
Limerick: D O’Sullivan; G Noonan, S O’Dea, P Maher; P White, I Corbett, C Fahy; D Treacy, M Fitzgibbon; S McSweeney, D Neville, J Liston; P Nash, J Ryan, J Lee.
Subs: S O’Carroll for McSweeney (HT); T McCarthy for Liston (48); P Scanlon for Lee (53); G Browne for Fitzgibbon (57); D Lyons for Neville (61); D Connolly for Nash (66).
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).