Horan happy as Mayo motor

James Horan is targeting a prolonged run in the league to keep his Mayo charges sharp as they make a belated start to their championship campaign.

That much was evident anyway from the players he employed at St Conleth’s Park on Saturday night, with 10 of the team that started against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final last August and of those that weren’t, David Clarke, Pat Harte and Conor Mortimer are highly experienced campaigners.

In the end, that greater strength saw Mayo through what was until the final quarter a stern examination from Laois.

We’re used to managers saying they’re taking the league seriously, but not really doing so but that isn’t the case with Horan though. Their championship opener against Leitrim or London is not due until June 24 and he won’t want his crew to be inactive for any longer than they have to be.

“The first thing we’re looking to do is try to stay in this competitive league campaign as long as we can; try to get to the play-offs,” said Horan.

“It’s June 24 before we’re out in the championship. We’re one of the last teams in the country out, so the longer we stay in it, the better it is for us.”

While there were areas of concern, there was little doubt about the merit of Mayo’s victory and Horan was pleased to get the league off to a successful start.

“Two points. We didn’t concede a goal in Portlaoise against a Division 1 team. We’re happy to get out of here.

“We created a lot of goal chances but didn’t really take them. The goal we got then was a lucky goal but that’s something we’ve to work on.

“Laois were strong in the middle of the field. They bossed a lot of possession there so that’s something we need to look at as well.

“But overall, we got through, got the job done and it’s two points in the bag.”

Another problem was created for them by the sharpness of former All Star midfielder, Padraig Clancy, who looked excellent at full-forward for Laois in the opening half. That led to regular full-back Ger Cafferkey being called ashore in the 14th minute.

The flame-haired Timahoe man was heavily involved as the hosts plundered four points in five minutes midway through the half, to turn a one-point deficit into a three-point advantage.

Two of those scores came from frees awarded for fouls on the big man, while the others were excellent efforts by John O’Loughlin and the promising David Conway.

The hosts were stung by a 35th minute goal from Alan Freeman though. While there was a degree of fortune to the score, as Laois goalkeeper, Eoin Culliton was wrong-footed by O’Loughlin’s half-block on the shot, it was the least Horan’s men deserved.

They probably should have raised the green flag three times by that stage, as Alan Dillon blazed over from 12 metres when one-on-one with Culliton, Freeman toe-poked straight at Cahir Healy on the line after Culliton had been dispossessed and Conor Mortimer tripped himself up when clean through.

When Mortimer converted an injury-time free though, Mayo held the interval advantage, 1-4 to 0-6.

Mortimer was impressively accurate from placed balls in very windy conditions and responded to another converted Conway free with a brace of points, the first from play after a searing burst by Kevin McLaughlin.

Freeman launched a wonder point from wide on the right.

Laois were getting plenty of possession but the quality of supply deteriorated alarmingly as they resorted too often to aimless garryowens in Clancy’s direction. Darren Strong stopped the rot but that was Laois’s first score for 20 minutes.

In contrast, Mayo responded with four more points, including two from substitute Enda Varley to put the verdict beyond doubt.

Scorers for Mayo: C Mortimer 0-5 (4fs), A Freeman 1-2, E Varley 0-2, B Moran, A Dillon 0-1 each.

Scorers for Laois: D Conway 0-4 (3fs), R Munnelly 0-2 (1f), J O’Loughlin, D Strong 0-1 each.

Subs for Mayo: E Reilly for Cafferkey (14), J Doherty for Harte (54), E Varley for A Moran (54), D Geraghty for O’Shea (66).

Subs for Laois: D O’Connor for Cahillane (51), MJ Tierney for Conway (51), B Mulligan for Julian (59).

Referee: R Hickey (Clare)

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