Leitrim's Jack Flynn tries to get away from Mayo's Enda Hession. Photo by Michael Donnelly
In a game overshadowed by off-field controversy, a battling but understrength Leitrim were outclassed by a strong Mayo side last Wednesday in Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar.
Despite being without four injured players and another five who were away with family for Leitrim's trip to New York last Sunday, the Minor team never took a step back but unfortunately came up against a Mayo team far too strong on the evening.
The controversy over Mayo's refusal to refix the contest certainly didn't help Leitrim's cause and the fact that only two subs were used in a 21 point loss illustrates just how much Leitrim were down to the bare bones.
You couldn't fault Leitrim's effort or workrate but missing so many first choice players left them exposed and you have to wonder if the game actually did Mayo any good, they would have been better off facing a full-strength Leitrim to find out just how good they are.
Mayo gave an early indication of their intent when Enda Hession, after just 25 seconds, pointed when he could have advanced for a goal. Seconds later, Liam Og Harkan had a shot scooped off the line by Eoin McLoughlin, Hession pointing a free after the ball was touched on the ground.
Hession added another free after a foul from McLoughlin while wing-back Conor Dunleavy, on his wrong right foot, kicked from the right wing over the Leitrim bar from distance. Leitrim’s only foray into the Mayo resulted in a wide from Shane Mallon.
It got much worse as a Patrick McKenna foul on Martin Ball resulted in a controversial penalty expertly scored by Hession, leaving the home side 1-4 to no score ahead after just six minutes.
Leitrim managed to halt the Mayo run of scores with a Jamie Quinn free on eight minutes and Leitrim started to get a bit of a foothold in the contest, stopping Mayo breaking free at will. An Oisin Bohan free on 15 minutes and a Quinn free three minutes later suddenly had the gap at four points.
With Mayo now kicking wides, another free from Jamie Quinn after 21 minutes had the gap at a goal and the Mayo crowd were growing restless as Leitrim drove at them repeatedly.
But Leitrim were hit with a double whammy when Mayo worked the ball up from defence and Lee Traynor fired over from distance. Unfortunately, a poor ball from the kickout saw the ball intercepted, Martin Ball setting up Fionnan Ryan for a low finish to the net.
It was a killer blow and Mayo made the most of it, scoring three points from Traynor, Ryan and Hession before the break as Leitrim keeper Matthew Earley also stopped a shot from Hession.
That left Leitrim trailing 2-8 to 0-4 at the break and Mayo continued from where they had left off in the second half, Jack Carney pointing after Matthew Earley had made a good save from a low close range shot.
But Leitrim responded with their best spell of the game, David O’Connell spinning well to fire over a good point before Shane Mallon scored a wonder point from the right corner on three minutes.
From that kickout, Leitrim worked the ball back into goal where O’Connell popped up in support. He saw his shot blocked onto the post but Daniel Maguire was on hand to force the ball over the line despite the efforts of a Mayo defender to stop the ball crossing the line.
Mayo responded impressively, Martin Ball responding with a point from the very next attack before Hession put a 55 yard free over the bar. And any hope Leitrim had of making a contest of the game was ended when Fionnan Ryan made a great catch from a booming high ball, turned his man and goaled from close range.
A stunned Leitrim were in trouble everywhere with Mayo midfielders Harry Burke and Jack Carney both adding points and the home side would go on to add further points from Burke, Traynor (2) and Ball before Diarmuid Kelleher scored a fine point on the run on 19 minutes.
Mayo never let up and further points from sub Conor Mylett and Martin Ball (2) were added to by a fourth Mayo goal from the impressive Hession with only a point from sub Caolann Clancy in response.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Main Man: Credit Leitrim for refusing to give up and Matthew Earley, David O'Connell, Shane Mallon and Tom Prior caught the eye for an overpowered team.
Talking Point: Hard to find a Leitrim fan with any good word to say about Mayo after their refusal to accommodate Leitrim's request for a postponement. This game did as little for Mayo as it did for Leitrim and leaves Leitrim GAA rethinking their relationship with Mayo in the future.
Turning Point: Leitrim looked as if they had got back into this game with Daniel Maguire's goal early in the second half but Mayo's deadly response, an unanswered 1-5 in the next six minutes, officially killed off the contest.
Ref Watch: Referee P. Daly wasn't flavour of the month with Leitrim fans over the decision to award an early penalty. Technically the decision may have been correct but it was a soft decision.
Highlight: Expected to roll over, the way Leitrim came out fighting in the second half raises a good bit of hope for this team while Shane Mallon scored a peach of a point in the first half.
Lowlight: The final 25 minutes of this game were tough for Leitrim fans to watch as Mayo tagged on 2-11 to just two points for the Green & Gold.
TEAMS & SCORERS
Scorers: Jamie Quinn 0-3, 3f; Daniel Maguire 1-0; Shane Mallon, David O'Connell, Oisin bohan (f), Diarmuid Kelleher & Caolann Clancy 0-1 each
Team: Matthew Earley, Tom McKeon, Eoin McLoughlin, Patrick McKenna, Niall Keegan, Jack Flynn, Oisin Niblock, Paul Keaney, David O'Connell, Diarmuid Kelleher, Jamie Quinn, Shane Mallon, Daniel Maguire, Tom Prior, Oisin Bohan. Subs: Caolann Clancy for Quinn (49), Francie Davitt for Kelleher (54)
Scorers: Enda Hession 2-5, 1 pen, 3f; Fionnan Ryan 2-1; Martin Ball & Lee Traynor 0-4 each; Jack Carney & Harry Burke 0-2 each, Ciaran Mylett & Conor Dunleavy 0-1 each
Team: Ronan Connolly, Sean Holmes, Eoghan McHale, Aidan Cosgrove, Ruairi Keane, Liam Og Harkan, Conor Dunleavy, Jack Carney, Harry Burke, Frank Irwin, Ultan O'Reilly, Lee Traynor, Martin Ball, Fionnan Ryan, Enda Hession. Subs: Luke Dawson for McHale (37), Fergal Sweeney for O'Reilly (42), Evan Ivers for Keane (48), Ciaran Mylett for Burke (51), Ethan Henry for Irwin (55), Paddy Meeneghan for Hession (58)
Referee: P. Daly (Roscommon)