Monaghan 1-11 Mayo 0-12: Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke hailed the efforts his players have put into their pre-season after their win over Mayo in MacHale Park, Castlebar on Saturday night.
The Ulster men were full value for the win on the night but went in as underdogs against last year’s All-Ireland finalists.
After losing in the Qualifiers to Longford last July, O’Rourke credited the work his players have done in recent weeks as vital to a winning start in Division 1.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of teams who have done more than us but we have done a fair bit of work. We did a fair bit of work in December and the MacKenna Cup campaign stood to us as well,” said O’Rourke.
“A lot of the boys have a fair bit of game time behind them, they’ve got a bit of physical work behind them. I’m happy enough with the level of fitness but in league you can go out one week and win a game the next week you mightn’t. They’re all tough games and we’re just delighted and we’ll prepare for next weekend [versus Cavan],” he added.
Despite being dominant Monaghan went in at the break trailing 0-6 to 0-5.
Ultimately it was a goal from midfielder Darren Hughes three minutes after half-time which proved crucial in deciding this game.
It turned Mayo’s half-time lead on its head and was followed almost immediately by a point from Monaghan captain Colin Walshe. Mayo could never peg Monaghan back for the rest of the game.
They had chances, particularly in the last quarter against 14-man Monaghan.
Karl O’Connell was sent to the line on 60 minutes by referee Conor Lane for a second yellow card and discipline issues like that and players conceding yards to make frees easier for Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor will concern O’Rourke.
It left the door open for Mayo and two consecutive points coming up to the 70 minute mark from O’Connor — the only Mayo player to score in the second half — had the gap at just one point with five minutes of injury time to play.
With numerical advantage, you fancied Mayo to at least draw level but they looked blunt in attack all evening and that did not change in the closing stages. The last say was Monaghan’s with the point of the night coming from Conor McManus tight in the left corner to see them home by two.
Afterwards Mayo manager Stephen Rochford said Mayo have a lot to address ahead of next Saturday’s trip to play Kerry in Tralee.
“We’ve got to be better than we were today, we’ve got to be a lot better,” he said.
“There’s ample areas for improvement ... our decision making, our ball handling, our shot selection at times, there’s a scope of different things but, I mean, it’s not uncommon to this stage in the competition.
“We’re on the first weekend in February and I know that we will improve as the competition goes through but we gotta pick up points and it is very disappointing to lose two points at home,” he added.
Mayo started with just seven of the team which started the All-Ireland final replay last October and had three league debutants — Castlebar Mitchels duo Donie Newcombe and Danny Kirby and Aghamore’s Fergal Boland.
They were slow to get going against a Monaghan team that simply looked more settled, particularly around midfield where the Hughes brothers, Darren and Kieran, excelled.
Darren got the crucial goal, to go with a first half point, while Kieran thrived with the new mark rule, fielding five successful marks across the game.
They will not be happy with their return in front of the posts in the first half however, only scoring five points from 16 shots. Four points (all dead balls) from Conor McManus and that point from Darren Hughes did have them 0-5 to 0-1 in front after 20 minutes.
It could have been more had All Star goalkeeper David Clarke not superbly blocked Conor McCarthy’s shot at goal.
Mayo had opened the scoring through Fergal Boland and in the final 10 minutes of the half they produced their best spell of the game.
Evan Regan (2), Cillian O’Connor, Kevin McLoughlin and Alan Freeman were all on target to see Stephen Rochford’s men take an unlikely lead in at the break.
It looked well primed for Mayo but Monaghan had other ideas and Darren Hughes’ close range goal, after Conor McManus did very well to cut open the Mayo defence, gave Monaghan a cushion they would not relinquish.
Scorers for Monaghan:
C McManus (0-6, 0-3 fs, 0-1 ‘45), D Hughes (1-1), C Walshe, R Beggan (f), T Kerr, G Doogan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Mayo:
C O’Connor (0-7, 0-5 fs), E Regan (0-2, 0-1f), F Boland, K McLoughlin, A Freeman (0-1 each).
R Beggan, F Kelly, D Wylie, R Wylie, C Walshe, N McAdam, K Duffy, D Hughes, K Hughes, K O’Connell, S Carey, G Doogan, C McCarthy, T Kerr, C McManus.
D Malone for McCarthy (ht), R McAnespie for Carey (52), O Duffy for Kerr (58), J Mealiff for McAdam (67).
D Clarke, D Newcombe, K Higgins, P Durcan, C Boyle, S Coen, D Drake, D Kirby, D Vaughan, F Boland, K McLoughlin, J Doherty, E Regan, C O’Connor, A Freeman.
D O’Connor for Regan (49), T Parsons for Kirby (inj. 53), A Moran for Freeman (55), C O’Shea for Doherty (67).
C Lane (Cork).
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