Small in stature and diminutive in presence, the westerners showed their class at Croke Park, playing to their strengths by exploiting the vast acreage to rack up a stunning tally. By full-time, nine different players had made the scoresheet with Conor Loftus, Michael Plunkett and Tommy Conroy all striking goals.
It was the ultimate team display from a side that oozed positivity and class in virtually all sectors, moving the ball quickly out of defence with pace and efficiency.
Afterwards, Monaghan manager Frank Brady held his hands up. His team, he said, had experienced difficulties at centre-back and midfield all summer and fared poorly there again. But he ultimately accepted they were beaten by a rampant Mayo side that turned in a ‘perfect’ display and gave an exhibition of score taking.
With Roscommon or Tyrone still to conquer in the final, Mayo boss Gilvarry was naturally loathe to accept his team has peaked. He pointed out that their full-back line was exposed at times, requiring goalkeeper Mark Mulligan to pull off two great saves, from David McAllister and Diarmuid O’Connor, while the northerners also hit the woodwork.
But Gilvarry conceded his team had done what he’d asked them to do by running the legs off a physically superior Monaghan.
“We wouldn’t be the biggest team,” admitted Gilvarry. “Because of that, there were conscious decisions that we made when we looked at the squad. We try and play with as much pace as possible because if we can’t outfield them, then we’re going to have to outrun them.
“You could say we’re just a mad attacking football team. But it has been something we’ve done all year. We just decided to set out our stall as a team that, defensively, is not bad but will just go all out attack. We use the strengths that we have in our team and that is attacking and open football.”
Roared on by a vocal Mayo support ahead of their seniors’ semi-final tie with Tyrone, there was only one negative that they witnessed, a shoulder injury suffered by Cian Hanley which leaves him as a doubt for the final.
Other than that, it was all positive from a Mayo side who haven’t been to a final since 2009 — and haven’t won one since Gilvarry manned the full-back line in 1985 — but never actually trailed over the 60 minutes here.
The game essentially hinged in the 10-minute period approaching half-time. Mayo moved 0-7 to 0-2 clear at that stage with centre-back Stephen Coen bombing forward for two great points. But a 1-2 scoring burst for Monaghan in just three minutes levelled the game 0-7 to 1-4.
Conor McCarthy did well for the 23rd minute goal, fielding a long ball in before racing clear and rifling to the net at the Hill 16 end. But just a minute later, Loftus netted for Mayo, robbing Monaghan of momentum.
By half-time, Mayo had the margin out to four points at 1-10 to 1-6. They capitalised on their own momentum in the second half, swamping Monaghan’s defence to outscore them by 2-9 to just 0-6 in the 30 minutes.
It was impressive stuff as they probed forward from all angles, registering points from defenders as well as lively subs Padraig Prendergast and Conor Byrne.
There was a hint of fortune about their second goal, Plunkett swooping five minutes after the restart to convert after goalkeeper Conor Forde failed to collect a high ball in.
Their third was a quality strike with five minutes left, Conroy somehow hitting the top corner from the tightest of angles.
Scorers for Mayo: M Plunkett and T Conroy (1-2 each), C Loftus (1-1), D Doherty (0-4), L Irwin (0-3, one free), M Hall, S Coen and P Prendergast (0-2 each), C Byrne (0-1).
Scorers for Monaghan: C McCarthy (1-4), D McAllister (0-3, three frees), F McMahon (0-2), C Forde (one 45), R McAnespie and A Treanor (0-1 each).
MAYO: M Mulligan; D Kenny, S Cunniffe, E Doran; M Hall, S Coen, S Conlon; V Roughneen, D O’Connor; C Loftus, M Plunkett, C Hanley; D Doherty, L Irwin, T Conroy.
Subs: P Prendergast for Hanley (27), C Byrne for Doherty (50), R Finn for Doran (53), J Langan for Plunkett (57), F Duffy for Irwin (60).
MONAGHAN: C Forde; P McArdle, K Loughran, S Treanor; A Kieran, R McAnespie, M Brown; M Magee, M Murnaghan; D Ward, A Curran, M O’Dowd; C McCarthy, D McAllister, F McMahon.
Subs: D Meegan for Brown (21), N Loughman for Kieran (34), B McGinn for O’Dowd (ht), C Martin for McArdle (36), A Treanor for S Treanor (47).
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).