Mayo 3-17 Down 2-8
Michael Conroy bagged two goals and Alan Dillon, Andy Moran and Kevin McLoughlin pulled the strings as Mayo made very light work of a Down outfit whose defensive frailties were ruthless exposed at Croke Park.
It wasn’t all good news for the James Horan’s Connacht champions though, as Moran was stretchered off with what looked a very serious leg injury mid-way through the second half.
While the captain’s absence wasn’t felt for the remainder of a tie that was in the bag by the time of his departure, the full-forward’s cleverness and inspiration will be sorely missed in the All-Ireland semi-final.
The game got off to a breathtaking start as Conor Laverty had a volley smartly blocked by David Clarke in the second minute after great work by Benny Coulter and Eoin McCartan.
Laverty should perhaps have caught McCartan’s pass and was left to rue his missed opportunity three minutes later when Jason Doherty slotted a left-foot shot beyond Brendan McVeigh after running onto a brilliant lay-off by Moran.
Moran was on the mark himself three minutes later with a neat point following a typically adventurous run out of defence by Keith Higgins, following a well-read interception in his full-back line.
Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran demonstrated their superior fielding abilities from the outset but Aidan Carr converted a free for Down.
Cillian O’Connor responded in kind but Carr took a pass from Laverty to point before Kalum King brought the sides level with a goal at the end of well-constructed move that involved Coulter and Laverty.
The midfielder ghosted into space 14m out and turned nimbly for a big man to slot excellently to the net.
Down began to have greater joy around the middle, as McVeigh intelligently started to vary his kick-outs.
Carr brought his tally to four but an O’Connor free had edged Mayo in front before Michael Conroy bagged the westerner’s second goal.
O’Connor had crashed a shot off the crossbar not long beforehand, with Conroy pointing from the rebound. He benefited from Kevin McLoughlin’s direct running to send another low shot to the net and put four points between the sides once again with 27 minutes elapsed.
Some indiscipline in defence was punished on the double by O’Connor and Mayo led by 2-7 to 0-4 at half time.
The teams had shared four points before Conroy palmed his second goal eight minutes after the restart.
It was clinical work by Mayo as Moran took a quick free after being fouled to engineer the opportunity.
O’Connor’s hand-pass across the square was perfectly weighted and Conroy had the simplest task to finish.
That put nine points between the sides and there was no way back for Down. Indeed Mayo were impressive in the manner in which they kept driving forward.
Alan Dillon slotted brilliantly from a tight angle, before Moran was stretchered off. Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea, McLoughlin and Enda Varley were others to raise white flags as the margin stretched to 14.
Coulter did pounce for an expertly-taken goal in injury time, driving a shot off the ground into the roof of the net for what was his 21st championship major, but there was no masking Mayo’s superiority.
Mayo: C O’Connor 0-7(6fs); M Conroy 2-1; A Dillon 0-3; J Doherty 1-0; K McLoughlin 0-2, A Moran, L Keegan, E Varley, A O’Shea 0-1 each
Down: A Carr 0-6(4fs); B Coulter 1-1; K King 1-0; L Doyle 0-1(f),
Mayo: D Clarke; K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; B Moran, A O’Shea; K McLoughlin, J Doherty, A Dillon; M Conroy, A Moran, C O’Connor. Subs: A Freeman for Moran inj (55); R Feeney for Doherty (59); E Varley for Conroy (64)
Down: B McVeigh; D O’Hagan, D Gordon, C Garvey; N McParland, K McKernan, B McCardle, A Carr; A Rogers, K King; A Carr, M Poland, C Maginn; B Coulter, C Laverty, E McCartan. Subs: D O’Hare for McCartan inj (32); L Doyle for Maginn (ht); D Turley for Garvey (44); D Rooney for McCardle (59)
Referee: M Deegan (Laois)