A combination of their first three Allianz League performances was what Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney wanted against Mayo yesterday in Clones. He got that and more.
In the end, his side won pulling up against a Mayo team who faltered in the second half and finished the game with only 13 men after Jordan Flynn and Padraig O’Hora both received second yellow cards.
The red card to Flynn was the game’s major turning point, arriving in the 62nd minute when his side trailed by only two points. A minute later, Monaghan corner-back Kieran Duffy palmed home his side’s second goal after Kieran Hughes got in behind the Mayo defence to reduce the deficit to a single point.
The mountain was too steep to climb for Mayo after that.
“We talked at half-time and we were disappointed how the first half went,” said McEnaney.
“We were very aware that no Ulster team have beaten Mayo in two years since James Horan has come back in. They were quite defensive in the first half and we found it hard to break down — our shot ratio was only 40% which was disappointing.
“But we felt we were in control of the game before the sending off.”
McEnaney’s side returned an impressive 1-10 in the second half, with points from Niall Kearns, Jack McCarron (2), Conor McManus (4), Conor McCarthy (2), Conor Boyle, and Shane Carey either side of the goal.
Mayo manager James Horan would have been pleased with what he saw from his team in the first half, having held the ascendency for the most part, until McCarthy goaled in the 25th minute to give his side the lead for the first time, 1-4 to 0-6.
Up to that point, the Westeners had looked quite sharp, hitting eight points in the first half through seven different scorers, including corner-backs Oisin Mullin and O’Hora, to leave things locked at 1-5 to 0-8 at half-time.
However, they couldn’t match the intensity and hard running of Monaghan in the second half, with Horan admitting they were struggling even before the red card.
“It [Flynn’s red card] was a big moment, but there were some signs before that as well,” Horan said. “We weren’t playing well and Monaghan were getting on top before that sending off.
“We made too many mistakes in the way we were trying to play. Momentum was with Monaghan at that stage and the sending off didn’t help. They ran out very comfortable winners. [It was a] very disappointing day for us.”
After Flynn’s red card, Monaghan outscored Mayo by 1-4 to 0-1.
For McEnaney, however, the win for his side is a much-needed boost after allowing Dublin back into a game they should have seen out in Croke Park.
“Coming in today, I felt if we could get a combination of our first three performances [in the League], we could get a result. We were very aware that the last time we were here was against Armagh [when they were knocked out of the Championship last year].
“It’s not the type of feeling you want to be leaving here with. We were very aware and very conscious of that at half-time. There was loads of questions asked in the dressing room of our players, about how we needed to perform, and how we needed to control the second half.”
The loss for Mayo sees their Division One status, which they’ve held for over 20 years, in danger, with three remaining games against Kerry, Galway, and Tyrone.
For Monaghan, they’ll now be gunning for a League final.
R Beggan (0-1f); D Wylie, C Boyle (0-1), K Duffy (1-0); K O’Connell (0-1), R Wylie, M Bannigan; D Hughes, N Kearns (0-1); R McAnespie, C McCarthy (1-3), D Ward; D Malone, K Hughes, C McManus (0-6, 3f, 1 mark).
S Carey for Malone (12, blood); J McCarron (0-2, 1f) for Malone (41); C Walshe for Wiley (54); S Carey (0-1) for Bannigan (59); C McGuinness for McManus (72); P Keenan for Kearns (74).
R Hennelly; P O’Hora (0-1), O Mullin (0-1), L Keegan; S Coen, M Plunkett, P Durcan; J Flynn (0-1), A O’Shea; F Boland, R O’Donoghue (0-1), D O’Connor (0-1f); K McLoughlin (0-3, 2f), D Coen (0-3), J Durcan (0-1 mark).
T Conroy for Boland (35); Higgins for J Durcan (58); P Towey (0-1) for Coen (65); E O’Donoghue for Plunkett (71); C Loftus for R O’Donoghue (74).
A Nolan (Wicklow)