Magical O’Shea steers Mayo to record victory

Mayo 6-25 Sligo 2-11

Magical O’Shea steers Mayo to record victory

Few teams get to write one line of history, yet Mayo engraved their name on that and many more yesterday with their annexation of a fifth straight Connacht senior title being merely the most obvious of markers to be inked into the GAA annals.

The historians and stats men were out in force by tea-time and the verdicts soon came flooding in. The biggest total ever recorded by a team in a provincial final, said one. The joint biggest winning margin in a provincial decider, said another.

That honour, it seems, is shared with the Ulster final of 1933 when Cavan eviscerated Tyrone.

So, this one will be remembered for many a long year, regardless of how Mayo fare between here and September, but so will the individual performance with which Aidan O’Shea treated a packed and expectant Hyde on a cloudy but stuffy afternoon.

Reassigned to full-forward by the new management team of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly this season, O’Shea gave an exhibition in a role which he insists is not his favourite. He scored 3-4 of his own and his input was crucial to Sligo’s concession of another 3-4. Maybe more.

No-one was fully sure if his own scores amounted to a Connacht final record as well, but the bare numbers bore little relation to his performance. He was awesome. Power, movement, handling, aerial prowess, kicking: the man had everything.

Kevin McDonnell started on him. Brendan Egan took him on for most of the first-half, Daniel Maye for the majority of the second and then Ross Donovan got landed with him towards the end. All suffered. And in isolation, too.

Sligo manager Niall Carew talked about the benefit of hindsight afterwards, but the failure to stymie O’Shea with a second defender at any stage was bizarre given his influence and the frequency with which Mayo sought out the big Breaffy man.

The only mitigating factor was that they were suffering everywhere else, too. The roar which greeted Sligo’s goal in the minor final earlier was proof that Sligo would be dangerous if they could harness some momentum on the field and heat off it.

It never happened.

Cillian O’Connor and Diarmuid O’Connor were causing all sorts of trouble from the off, Tom Parsons was ripping it up in midfield and the likes of Donal Vaughan and Lee Keegan were prowling forward like lions on the Serengeti who had just sniffed blood. David Kelly soldiered up front on his own for Sligo for long periods with just Tom Cunniffe for company, but it took them ten minutes to claim their first point.

The game was dead and buried by then given Cillian O’Connor and Seamus O’Shea had already found the net.

Mayo were 2-4 to the good before Niall Murphy got Sligo on the board and the score read 4-9 to 1-6 by the interval with O’Shea claiming the second pair of three-pointers and Egan raising a hollow cheer from those in black when finding the net 25 minutes in.

Sligo were implicit in their problems, not only by failing to dilute O’Shea’s influence, but by continually losing short kick-outs to a Mayo forward lime that was clearly educated as to their opponent’s success with that tactic in the semi-final against Roscommon.

So often let down by their shooting in previous years, Mayo were clinical here. Only seven wides were accumulated all day and only bad luck and good goalkeeping/ defending prevented Aidan O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor and Jason Doherty for adding to the goal tally.

It wasn’t even as if Sligo were light on men at the back. Numbers were not the issue and yet there were numerous times when one Mayo player would play a short pop pass to a colleague who would instantly find himself in acres of space.

Whoever Mayo meet from here on in is unlikely to be as naïve or accommodating to their whims as Sligo proved to be and the concession of 2-11 – Pat Hughes got the losers’ second goal 55 minutes in – will be of note to future opposition, too.

Only two excellent David Clarke saves prevented Sligo from having more joy in that department, though it should be noted that Mayo put 4-17 past Donegal in an All-Ireland quarter-final in 2013 after the turkey shoot Connacht final defeat of London.

“I didn’t see it coming,” said Carew, “but the biggest fear that we would have had was that Mayo would have had a day like that.

“And when they are having a day like that they are unstoppable, whether they are playing us or they are playing Dublin. That is the way they operate.”

Maybe, but one piece of history remains unwritten for Mayo.

Game changer

Cillian O’Connor’s goal after just five minutes set the tone and it was curtains as early as the tenth minute when Sligo opened their account and trailed by 10.

Talk of the town

The margin. This was victory by an almost unseen, and obscene, distance. History books were sought, GAA stats men sought out. Whatever happens from here to September, this one will stand the test of time.

Did that just happen?

Mayo have now scored 14 goals in their last three Connacht finals against three different sides.

Best on show

Mayo were inundated with class performers, but Aidan O’Shea stood far above the rest. A privilege the non-Sligo fans in an attendance of 23,196 will not doubt remember for years to come.

Sideline superior

Sligo afforded Mayo far too much space despite the amount of bodies at the back and the decision not to double-team Aidan O’Shea looked odd long before the underdogs had gained the respite of half-time.

The man in black

Not the most difficult of occasions for Kerry’s Padraig O’Sullivan. No yellow or red cards were required and only one black – for Sligo’s Brendan Egan.

What’s next?

Mayo await the last machinations of the qualifiers to see who faces them next — probably Donegal — while Sligo face a difficult assignment against Tyrone.

Scorers for Mayo:

A O’Shea (3-4); C O’Connor (1-7, 5 frees and 1 ‘45’); D O’Connor (0-4); L Keegan and S O’Shea (1-0 each); J Doherty (0-3); M Ronaldson and D Vaughan (both 0-2); P Durcan, B Moran and A Dillon (all 0-1).

Scorers for Sligo:

M Breheny (0-4, 2 frees); P Hughes and B Egan (1-0 each); A Marren (0-3); C Breheny, N Murphy, N Ewing and E McHugh (all 0-1).

Mayo:

D Clarke; K Higgins, T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey; D Vaughan, C Boyle, L Keegan; S O’Shea, T Parsons; D O’Connor, K McLoughlin, J Doherty; A Moran, A O’Shea, C O’Connor.

Subs for Mayo:

B Moran for S O’Shea (24); A Dillon for Moran (HT); B Harrison for Cafferkey (45); M Ronaldson for McLoughlin (51); P Durcan for Keegan (53); C Barrett for Boyle (63).

Sligo:

A Devaney; R Donovan, K McDonnell, D Maye; E Flanagan, B Egan, K Cawley; C Breheny, N Murphy; N Ewing, M Breheny, B Curran; P Hughes, D Kelly, A Marren.

Subs for Sligo:

S Gilmartin for Murphy (44); C Davey for Ewing (50); E McHugh for Egan (black card, 57); J Hynes for Breheny (57); N Gaughan for Cawley (59); L Bree for McDonnell (65).

Referee:

P O’Sullivan (Kerry).

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

HOME DELIVERY SERVICE

Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.