Mayo 3-19 Monaghan 1-12
A classy minor side got Mayo’s big day at Croke Park off to the perfect start with a spectacular win over Monaghan to reach the All-Ireland final.
The Connacht champions were simply in a different class to their Ulster opponents, dominating every sector and playing delightful attacking football built on a philosophy of hard work and support for the man in possession.
That;s not to mention the class possessed by men like Darragh Doherty, Iam Irwin and Tommy Conroy up front and defenders Michael Hall and Stephen Coen.
The westerners sent out a message that they will be the team to beat, whether it’s Tyrone or Roscmmon they meet in next month’s decider.
Mayo played expansive and energised football in the first half, adapting to the wide open spaces of Croke Park to put their opponents under pressure right from the start, with half backs Michael Hall and Stephen Coen pushing forward to pick off early scores.
But they needed a reflex save from Mark Mulligan to deny Conor McCarthy, whose shot was deflected out for a ’45, which was converted by ‘keeper Conor Forde.
Tommy Conroy picked off a couple of points, and with Liam Irwin accurate from frees, Coen and Michael Plunkett tagging on quality scores, the westerners were on song, slicing holes in a nervous Farney defence at will.
The built up a five points lead, but the game changed suddenly. David McAllister pulled back a couple of points from frees, and in the 22nd minute they drew level when Conor McCarthy raced through to smash in a superb goal.
Their joy lasted less than a minute, though, for Mayo went straight back upfield for Conor Loftus to grab a deflected goal.
Mayo led by 1-10 to 1-6 at the interval, and corner forward Doherty showcased his class with two immaculate points in the opening moments of the second half.
They struck a killer blow in the 35th minute when Forde failed to hold Padraig Prendergast’s dropping shot, and Michael Plunkett nipped in to finish to the net from no more than a yard out.
Mayo ‘keeper Mulligan pulled off another smart save from Desmond Ward to snuff out what was one of a handful of sporadic raids in the third quarter, and by the beginning of the final quarter, the Connacht lads led by double scores, 2-16 to 1-8.
The class of Conor McCarthy still shone, however, the Monaghan corner forward firing over a couple of eye-catching scores to lift spirits.
But the dominant westerners finished of their challenge in devastating fashion with a third goal six minutes from the end, Conroy blasting a spectacular shot to the roof of the net at the Hill 16 end.
Monaghan: C Forde (0-1, ’45), S Treanor, K Loughran, P McArdle, A Kieran, R McAnespie (0-1), M Murnaghan, M Brown, M Magee, M O’Dowd, A Curran, D Ward, C McCarthy (1-4), D McAllister (0-3, 3f), F McMahon (0-2, 1f).
Subs: D Meegan for Brown, N Loughman for Kieran, B McGinn for O’Dowd, C Martin for McArdle, A Treanor (0-1) for S Treanor
Mayo: M Mulligan, E Doran, S Cunniffe, D Kenny, M Hall (0-2), S Coen (0-2), S Conlon, V Roughneen, D O’Connor, C Loftus (1-1), M Plunkett (1-2), C Hanley, D Doherty (0-4), L Irwin (0-3, 2f), T Conroy (1-2).
Subs: P Prendergast (0-2) for Hanley, C Byrne (0-1) for Doherty, R Finn for Doran, J Langan for Plunkett, F Duffy for Irwin
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).