By Eoghan Cormican, Cusack Park
Mayo 2-14 Clare 0-13
Mayo's up and down summer continues as a determined second-half showing at Ennis progressed Stephen Rochford’s side into the fourth round of qualifiers.
Six clear at the finish, Mayo required two goals in a three-minute spell early in the second-half to take the wind out of their opponents’ sails.
The winners were full of running and indeed, full of purpose upon the change of ends. That was anything but the case in the opening 35 minutes.
Mayo, behind by 0-8 to 0-6 at the break, had it back to the minimum within 20 seconds of the restart, Kevin McLoughlin firing over. Then arrived the game-changing period of this third round qualifier, Mayo bagging two goals in the space of three minutes.
The opener came gift-wrapped on 42 minutes, Clare goalkeeper Joe Hayes kicking a free from directly in front of his goal to Conor Loftus, the Mayo corner-forward passed inside to Cillian O’Connor and he slotted home. Two minutes later and the net shook again. Aidan O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin and Cillian O’Connor strung the passes, with the latter’s brother, Diarmuid, applying the finishing touch. Ahead by 2-7 to 0-8 now, Mayo never took another backward step.
A David Tubridy free on 48 minutes was Clare's first score of the second period. That they had to wait until the 66th minute for their first score from play in the second-half tells its own story. Two separate three-point bursts had Mayo comfortably assured of their place in the bowl for Monday’s fourth round qualifier draw long before the finish.
It was anything but comfortable, mind you, for the visitors in the opening half.
Clare returned back down the tunnel at half-time with the thunderous roar of their supporters ringing in their ears. The home contingent in a packed Cusack Park were appreciative of an energy-sapping first 35 minutes churned out by Colm Collins’ side.
Their 0-8 to 0-6 lead was wholly justified and could have been greater had either of their two goal chances been converted. Jamie Malone was denied by Mayo ‘keeper David Clarke on the quarter-hour mark and perhaps the smarter option here would have been to offload to the unmarked Eoin Cleary. Their second green flag opportunity fell to Ciarán Russell, but his shot was smothered by a red and green shirt.
Clare’s lead was greatest on 20 minutes, a Keelan Sexton ’45 representing their sixth point on the bounce and shoving them into a 0-6 to 0-1 advantage. Andy Moran had Mayo off the mark within 15 seconds but they wouldn’t add to their tally again until the 20th minute.
Moran was Mayo’s chief marksmen in that opening period, clipping half of their 0-6 total. Cillian O’Connor endured a frustrating first-half, twice off target from the placed ball and twice giving away possession from open play.
All starting six forwards found the target for Clare, with Gary Brennan, superb at midfield, also raising a white flag. Their failure to keep asking questions of Mayo during the third quarter, ultimately, proved their downfall. Then again, they weren't let ask.
Scorers for Mayo: C O'Connor (1-5, 0-5 frees); D O'Connor (1-1); A Moran (0-3) K McLoughlin (0-2); K Higgins, L Keegan, A O'Shea (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare: D Turbridy (0-4, 0-4 frees); E Cleary (0-3, 0-2 frees); K Sexton (0-2, 0-1 '45); G Brennan, J Malone, S Collins, G O'Brien (0-1 each)
Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; L Keegan, C Boyle, K Higgins; S O’Shea, A O’Shea; D O’Connor, D Vaughan, K McLoughlin; C Loftus, C O’Connor, A Moran.
Subs: S Coen for Vaughan (bc, three mins); E Regan for Loftus (48); J Doherty for Moran (55); T Parsons for S O’Shea (59); F Boland for D O’Connor (65); A Dillon for A O’Shea (67)
Clare: J Hayes; D Ryan, K Hartnett, G Kelly; C Russell, M McMahon, C O’Dea; G Brennan, C O’Connor; J Malone, S Collins, P Lillis; E Cleary, D Tubridy, K Sexton.
Subs: J Hayes for O’Connor (40, inj); E Collins for Russell (41, bc); G O’Brien for O’Dea (53); S Maloney foor Lillis (65); D Nagle for Sexton (bc, 70)
Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).