Aidan O’Shea revels in new role as Mayo get back on track against Monaghan

Mayo 3-15 Monaghan 0-11
Life as a supporter of the Mayo football team is rarely dull and this was another tale of the unexpected as a match that had been predicted to be tight, tense and tactical turned out to be anything but at a windswept MacHale Park yesterday.

Three weeks on from their systems failure against Tyrone, Mayo got their play-off plans back on track with their eighth win over Monaghan in nine attempts in front of a partisan home crowd of 6,067.

Those supporters that passed on Six Nations rugby in favour of watching how the Connacht champions would fare against the 2013 Ulster winners were nothing if not entertained.

Mayo were much sharper and brought more intensity this time around, and their attack was far more potent with All Star midfielder Aidan O’Shea deployed as a target-man at full-forward.

He finished his impressive day’s work with 1-3 from play and wreaked havoc as Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly decided to go back to basics in the face of Monaghan’s defensively-minded approach.

Unfortunately for the visitors, who finished with 13 men, it was one of those days.

Their game-plan started to come apart at the seams when Stephen Gollogly was red-carded for striking in the 28th minute and it flew out the window entirely when Ryan Wylie was also sent off in the 54th minute after pushing Mark Ronaldson into the perimeter fencing through sheer frustration.

In between, Dermot Malone was shown a black card by the overworked referee, Rory Hickey, for an off-the-ball incident as Monaghan lost their discipline, and their way, in the face of Mayo’s relentless onslaught.

There was an edge to the game throughout and Seamus O’Shea’s afternoon also ended early after he was black carded for a trip on a Monaghan opponent late in the opening half.

“We’re happy with the performance,” said Pat Holmes afterwards. “It wasn’t that we played particularly badly against Tyrone (three weeks ago) but we didn’t convert our chances. If we’d taken half of them, we’d have won.

“But, at the end of the day whoever has the most scores wins. We didn’t do that against Tyrone so we were determined to come here today and put in a performance. In fairness to the players, they did that.”

The three goals from Aidan O’Shea and substitutes Alan Freeman and Mikey Sweeney that adorned Mayo’s facile victory all came in the second half, but the foundations were dug in the opening period.

Monaghan were giving as good as they were getting in the first quarter and eased 0-5 to 0-4 up on 17 minutes when the talented Daniel McKenna clipped a neat score from play.

Mayo were in one of those moods though and, with Aidan O’Shea winning every ball that came his way in the scoring zone, and linking play cleverly, points arrived from Mark Ronaldson, Cillian O’Connor (free) and Jason Doherty to wrestle back the initiative.

Stephen Gollogly then pounced on a loose ball to open his account and pare the gap back to a point again. But three minutes later he was sent off, and the tide turned slowly but surely from there.

With All Star, Keith Higgins, deployed as the ‘free man’, Mayo upped the ante and a couple of crucial scores from Cillian O’Connor (free) and Kevin McLoughlin before the break left them 0-9 to 0-6 up at the short whistle.

Monaghan rallied briefly after the restart as Daniel McKenna and Paul Finlay both hit the target but Mayo were about to get into full stride, and they promptly rattled off 2-5 from play without reply during a dazzling 15-minute spell.

Aidan O’Shea lashed in the opening goal on 50 minutes to propel the home side into a 1-13 to 0-8 lead and Ryan Wylie saw red four minutes later.

Revelling in the wide open spaces, Mayo pounced for further goals from Alan Freeman and Mikie Sweeney in the 64th and 70th minutes to complete the rout.

“We’re disappointed with our performance overall,” admitted Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke. “Today just didn’t go to plan, as the game wore on they used their extra man better and better and we found it hard to cope. But we just have to regroup and be ready for next Sunday. Games on the bounce against Mayo and Donegal were always going to be difficult.”

Mayo ended with 3-11 from play and kept their second clean sheet in three games ahead of Sunday’s visit to Derry. What a difference three weeks made.

Scorers for Mayo: A O’Shea 1-3, C O’Connor 0-5 (0-4f), M Ronaldson 0-3, A Freeman 1-0, M Sweeney 1-0, D Vaughan, K McLoughlin, D O’Connor, J Doherty 0-1 each.

Scorers for Monaghan:

D McKenna 0-4 (0-2f), K Hughes 0-2, P Finlay 0-2f), R Beggan, P Meegan 0-1f each; S Gollogly 0-1.

Subs for Mayo: D Kirby for S O’Shea (bc, 29); C Boyle for Vaughan (inj, ht); A Freeman for C O’Connor (56); M Forde for McLoughlin (60); M Sweeney for Ronaldson (63); G Cafferkey for Keane (64).

Subs for Monaghan:

V Corey for K Duffy (inj, 35); D Hughes for O Duffy (ht); P Donaghy for D Malone (bc, 42); K O’Connell for Kelly (50); P Meegan for McKenna (63); P McGuigan for Boyle (66).

Referee: R Hickey (Clare)

Game-changer

When Monaghan’s Stephen Gollogly was red-carded in the 28th minute, there was only a point between the sides. Mayo took maximum advantage and went on to outscore the visitors by 3-8 to 0-5. The Monaghan resistance crumbled completely when Ryan Wylie was sent off in the 54th minute.

Talk of the town

When Mayo took on Tyrone three weeks ago, 9,555 people packed into MacHale Park. Yesterday the attendance was down nearly 3,500 paying customers as the clash with the Six Nations rugby match took its toll.

Did that just happen?

It’s now 31 years since Monaghan left Mayo with a victory. Yesterday was the 14th time the counties have met in a competitive fixture and Mayo lead the head-to-head 10-3.

Best on show

The unanimous choice was Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea who was stationed at full-forward and used his size and strength to wreak havoc. The All-Star midfielder finished with 1-3.

Sideline superior

There was only winner in this regard as Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke was left to rue his side’s indiscipline as it ruined his best-laid plans. Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly had their team playing to a definite strategy.

The man in black

Rory Hickey had his hands full with two red cards, two black cards and seven yellow cards dished out. In truth, he could have shown a few more black cards as well during a game that became very niggly during the second half. His linesmen and umpires also played key roles.

What’s next?

Mayo are away to Derry in Celtic Park next Sunday while Monaghan face Donegal in a repeat of last year’s Ulster Final.


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