(Mayo win 4-1 on penalties)
James Horan wants to make history in his second stint as Mayo manager but little did he think that a nugget of it would come in his first match back as they advanced to a FBD League semi-final showdown with Galway on the back of a penalty shootout.
The Connacht Council made the decision in advance but few were aware of it until a late Leitrim revival snatched a draw in front of around 3,000 at Pairc Sean MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon.
“That was certainly something new. It was very unusual,” said Horan. “The clár an lae came out on Saturday night and we saw that it was going straight to a penalty shootout.
“We didn’t think it would go that way but we knew it was on the cards and I thought we put them away well, all into the same side.
“But I thought we were lucky to get through as Leitrim were very good, very fit and very strong.”
Horan sent out a team with a good mix of youth and experience on his first day back as Mayo manager and will get a chance next Sunday to have another look when they take on Galway.
“Defensively we were wide open. The ball went over our midfield, we were opened seven or eight times during the course of the game. I don’t know how it is because we had a very seasoned, experienced defence out so we need to look at that,” added Horan.
His men led by 2-9 to 0-8 at half-time thanks to early goals from Reape and Boland and they went double scores ahead when Fionn McDonagh became the sixth forward to score nine minutes after the restart.
The Leitrim revival came, rather bizarrely, when midfielder Dean McGovern was sin-binned for an off-the-ball tussle with Brendan Harrison, but new manager Terry Hyland saw his men score 2-1 without reply when down a man on a day when the experimental rules had little impact.
Evan Sweeney and Ryan O’Rourke got the goals but there was a further twist deep into stoppage time when McGovern appeared to be sent off when he was booked. But instead of going off he set up Damian Moran for an equaliser four minutes into stoppage time.
Penalty shoot out! https://t.co/MvFcMl3b41— Connacht GAA (@ConnachtGAA) January 6, 2019
The crowd waited for extra-time but an announcement declared a penalty shootout and a further tannoy declaration made it clear only goals would count. Up stepped captain for the day Jason Doherty, Reape, Boland and Evan Regan to find the net, with O’Rourke the only Leitrim player to score.
“We probably opened brightly enough, I think they got the goals slightly against the run of play at the time,” said Hyland.
“But we probably retreated into our shell then and we didn’t do the things we had talked about in training. I think in the second half we started doing what we were supposed to do.”
Scorers for Mayo: F Boland 1-3; B Reape 1-1; J Doherty 0-3 (3f), E Regan 0-2 (1f); R Hennelly (1’45), C Moran, E O’Donoghue & F McDonagh 0-1 each.
Scorers for Leitrim: E Sweeney 1-3 (2f); R O’Rouke 1-0; P Dolan & J Heslin 0-2 each; S Quinn, D McGovern, C McGloin, D Flynn (1f), D Moran & S Moran 0-1 each.
MAYO: R Hennelly; E O’Donoghue, G Cafferkey, B Harrison; L Keegan, J McCormack, D Vaughan; S O’Shea, S Coen; F McDonagh, J Doherty, F Boland; C Moran, B Reape, E Regan.
Subs: C Crowe for Cafferkey (h-t), J Kelly for Coen (58), B Doyle for O’Donoghue (59), O McLaughlin for Moran (64), C Tracey for McDonagh (68).
LEITRIM: D McKiernan; P Maguire, F McTague, A Flynn; C Reynolds, R Mulvey, S Quinn; D McGovern, S Moran; S McWeeney, C McGloin, J Heslin; E Sweeney, P Dolan, D Flynn.
Subs: M Plunkett for A Flynn (39), R O’Rourke for McGloin (45), G Reynolds for Heslin (49), D Moran for Dolan (63), D Rooney for Mulvey (68).
Referee: James Molloy (Galway).