Monaghan 1-11 Mayo 0-12
This National Football League Divison 1 contest between heavyweights Mayo and Monaghan certainly wasn’t for the faint-hearted tonight, in front of a large crowd of 10,817 at Elverys McHale Park in Castlebar, writes John Brennan.
Only for some superb saves by All-Star goalkeeper David Clarke, this could have been a nightmare for Mayo manager Stephen Rochford.
Monaghan brought a physical edge to the table with a number of flashpoints throughout this bruising contest.
In Conor McManus they had a real match-winner, with the Clontribet sharp-shooter nailing seven points in a superb display.
Besides an early single from new recruit Fergal Boland, who making his National League debut, Mayo were struggling to contain a rampant Monaghan outfit.
McManus whipped over three frees in quick succession, before firing over a sweetly struck ’45. Defensively Mayo were struggling, with the lack of a platform around the middle third of field not helping their cause either.
Darren Hughes landed Monaghan’s first point from play in the 20th minute and they were cruising along nicely.
The warning lights were flashing for Mayo, but credit to them they stuck to their task and rattled off five points without reply to somehow edge ahead, arguably against the run of play. Evan Regan, Cillian O’Connor, Kevin McLoughlin and Alan Freeman brought the sides level, before Regan landed a free right on the stroke of half-time to somehow send Mayo into the ascendancy at the break.
On the resumption however, Monaghan kicked it up a gear and 1-1 in the space of two minutes parachuted them two clear.
Firstly, Darren Hughes palmed home in the 37th minute after combining with Conor McManus, with Colin Walshe landing a speculative effort from distance moments later.
Mayo were in a spot of trouble at this juncture, but they responded with Cillian O’Connor flashing over a free to keep them in touch. O’Connor and Thomas Kerr traded singles, but a booming effort off the carpet from Monaghan custodian Rory Beggan gave the Ulster men a new lease of life.
O’Connor remained Mayo’s scorer in chief with another effort to reduce the gap to three points, but Conor McManus who had drifted out of the game slotted his sixth point of the night under pressure.
When Karl O’Connell received his marching orders in the 61st minute, after picking up a second yellow, it gave Mayo a surge of optimism.
Cillian O’Connor rifled over, but Monaghan always kept them at arm’s length as Gavin Doogan launched over a wonderful effort from distance.
Mayo introduced some more of their frontline players at this point with Tom Parsons, Diarmuid O’Connor and Andy Moran all thrown into the mix.
David Clarke was forced into pulling off an outstanding save in the 63rd minute, as two Monaghan subs Owen Duffy and Ryan McAnespie almost combined to devastating effect.
Cillian O’Connor landed two further singles to pare the deficit to the bare minimum, but a superb score from Conor McManus settled it at the death to send Mayo crashing to their first defeat of the campaign.
Monaghan: R Beggan (0-1); F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie; C Walshe (0-1), N McAdam, K Duffy; D Hughes(1-1), K Hughes; K O'Connell, S Carey, G Doogan; C McCarthy, T Kerr (0-1), C McManus (0-7, 3f, ‘45).
Subs: D Malone for C McCarthy (36), R McAnespie for S Carey (52), O Duffy for T Kerr (58), J Mealiff for McAdam (68).
Mayo: D Clarke; D Newcombe, K Higgins, P Durcan; C Boyle, S Coen, D Drake; D Vaughan, D Kirby; F Boland (0-1), K McLoughlin (0-1), J Doherty; E Regan (0-2, 1f), A Freeman (0-1), C O'Connor (0-7, 5f).
Subs: D O’Connor for E Regan (50), T Parsons for D Kirby (53), A Moran for A Freeman (56), C O’Shea for J Doherty (68).
Referee: C Lane (Cork).