Castlebar Mitchels duo Cian Costello and James Durcan, and All-Ireland U21 winner Fergal Boland, all hit the target to break IT Sligo’s stubborn resistance. Mayo manager Stephen Rochford fielded an experimental side, and started six players who had arrived home from the team holiday in South Africa less than 48 hours earlier.
One of them — Alan Freeman — showed that the break had done him little harm, as he racked up 1-7 in 60 minutes, including five frees.
Freeman’s well-taken goal on 23 minutes gave Mayo some breathing space, and they kicked on to lead by 1-12 to 1-6 at the break.
IT Sligo did their best in the second half to make a game of it, but they were unable to make up the ground they’d lost.
“I think we put in a reasonable effort, our performance levels weren’t up at the level that we would like, so there’s plenty to work on,” said Rochford afterwards.
“Everybody will get an opportunity over the next few weeks. Some guys weren’t involved in the match day squad today, but we’re in a reasonably good and healthy state.”
IT Sligo looked to be on their way to a second successive heavy defeat when they trailed by nine points early in the second half. However, Pádraig McGourty’s team rallied strongly in the last quarter, landing six points without reply, to set up an exciting finish. Top scorer James Shaughnessy (who hit 1-8, including a first half penalty and a string of frees), was a key man in the comeback. Andrew McClean, Ray Connolly and Cathal McGettigan also hit the target to leave just three points between the sides.
Mayo had drafted in the experienced pair of Donie Vaughan and Cillian O’Connor in the closing stages. They were both involved in the three late scores that made the game safe, but Vaughan was also sent for an early shower after being shown a black card, followed by a red card, in stoppage time.
D Clarke; D Kenny, R O’Malley, D Newcombe; D Drake, E O’Reilly, M Plunkett (0-1); S Nally, D Kirby (0-1); F Boland (0-3), C Carolan (0-1), J Doherty; E Regan (0-2), L Irwin (0-3, 2fs), A Freeman (1-7, 5fs).
J Durcan (0-1) for Doherty (inj); C Costello (0-2) for Irwin; D Vaughan for Drake; C O’Connor for Freeman; C Crowe for O’Reilly.
S Kilker; R Gallagher, E Bán Gallagher (0-1), P Neilan; R Gorman, E McGrath, D Curran; R Connolly (0-1), K McBrearty; A McClean (0-1), C Reape (0-1, 1f), J Brennan (0-1); B Walsh (0-1), J Shaughnessy (1-8, 1-0pen, 5fs), C McGettigan (0-1).
S Meehan for Curran; A Wharton for Meehan; E Broderick for Reape; C Surlis for Walsh.
S Hehir (Galway)