FBD League - Mayo 1-12 NUI Galway 1-10: Late frees from goalkeeper Rob Hennelly and Kevin McLoughlin helped new Mayo manager Stephen Rochford get off to a winning start against the students of NUI Galway in Castlebar.
A crowd of 2,390 turned up at Elverys MacHale Park to see an experimental Mayo line-up, featuring just a handful of regulars, do just enough to see off the determined visitors.
NUI Galway, managed by former Mayo forward Maurice Sheridan, were full value for their two-point lead early in the second half.
But Mayo then put together a very impressive 10-minute spell as they rattled off 1-4 without reply to take the initiative.
The highlight of this purple patch was a brilliant interception and subsequent goal by Kevin McLoughlin, while Mark Ronaldson, Colm Boyle and Conor Loftus also hit stunning points.
Ahead by 1-10 to 0-8, Mayo seemed set to kill the game off.
Instead NUI, Galway rallied impressively and they were level by the 52nd minute when former Mayo panelist Adam Gallagher converted a penalty with aplomb. Ultimately though, all their hard work proved to be in vain.
The first half lacked for nothing in terms of energy and enthusiasm from both sides.
NUI Galway finished the period strongly and reeled off three unanswered points, two from the aforementioned Gallagher, to lead by 0-7 to 0-6 at the interval.
The students, who haven’t beaten Mayo in this competition since 2009, came flying out of the blocks and were three points up after less than six minutes.
The pick of their early salvoes came from talented centre-forward Micheál Daly (son of former Galway forward, Val) while Owen Finnerty and Sligo’s Cristóir Davey also hit the target.
Lining out with only five of the side that started against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final replay last August, understandably it took Mayo a little longer to get into a rhythm.
However, the Connacht champions went on to land six of the next seven points as debutant Conor Loftus (2), Kevin McLoughlin (2 frees), Darren McHale and Jason Doherty all found their range.
The nip-and-tuck trend continued right through the second half as well, before Mayo eventually made the decisive break.
They will take on IT Sligo in Ballina next Sunday, while NUI Galway face Roscommon.
Scorers for Mayo:
K McLoughlin (1-4, 4fs); , C Loftus (0-3, 2 frees); R Hennelly (1f), M Ronaldson, D McHale, J Doherty, C Boyle (0-1 each) Scorers for NUI Galway: A Gallagher (1-4, 1-0 pen, 2 frees); P Cooke (0-2, 1f); C O’Shea, M Daly, O Finnerty, C Davey (0-1 each).
R Hennelly, B Harrison, K Keane, P O’Hora; C Boyle, S McHale, S Nally; J Gibbons, T Parsons; K McLoughlin, M Ronaldson, D McHale; K Ruttledge, J Doherty, C Loftus.
M Sweeney for Ruttledge; K Higgins for McHale; C Crowe for Gibbons (inj); G Cafferkey for O’Hora.
D O’Sullivan; K McDonnell, D Cunnane, D Murray; J McManus, L Cullen, A Nolan; C O’Shea, P Cooke; O O’Donoghue, M Daly, A Gallagher; K Finn, O Finnerty, C Davey.
S Moran for O’Donoghue; E Boland for Nolan; E Lavin for Gallagher.
B Judge (Sligo)
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