It was a measure of how badly things had gone for us today that, when the announcement was made about the five minutes of added time, a large collective groan went out around Páirc Uí Rinn. We hugely outnumbered the home support in the 4,649 official attendance but that was the only area in which we were on top this afternoon. In the end, the final whistle couldn’t come soon enough for us.
Up until the ball was thrown in, the day was, I felt, going swimmingly well. The drive down from Dublin was a breeze, parking close to the ground was secured without any problems and the spuds were got at the Silver Key with the minimum of fuss. The stand at Páirc Uí Rinn was starting to fill up when we got to the ground forty or so minutes ahead of throw-in but it was well packed by the time the ball was thrown in.
We made two changes prior to throw-in, with Colm Boyle starting in place of Shane McHale in the corner, while Conor O’Shea replaced big brother Aidan at centre-forward. Donal Vaughan, named at 14, lined out in the half-backs, with Caolan Crowe pushing up to wing-forward.
Cork had the wind in the first half and two early frees got them moving. Brian Hurley and Lee Keegan, who tangled in a bad-tempered manner for as long as they were paired on the field, both got booked as early as the fourth minute.
We were back on terms quickly enough. Jason Doherty got the first from play and popped over the second from a free. We had two chances to take the lead but Evan Regan skied a free badly wide and Jason Doherty’s bending shot didn’t bend enough and ended the wrong side of the post.
Hurley, from a Paul Kerrigan assist, pointed smartly to put Cork back in front and it was Hurley who got their next one too, this one from a free. Soon the lead was out to four, Clancy belting one over from way out and then Kerrigan recovered the ball after his initial shot was blocked and fired it over.
Conor O’Shea, taking the pass from Evan Regan, was fouled at least twice before he managed to get his shot away. When he did, though, it was a good one, his point cutting the gap to three.
Less than ten minutes later, however, we were eight down and in serious bother all over the field. Cork took a vice-like grip around the middle, where they won every ball going and the resultant attacks yielded five points, two from placed balls. The final one in this spell was an absolute belter by Daniel Goulding from way out on the right wing.
By now, we’d lost Kevin McLoughlin – to a hamstring injury, someone said to me on the way out of the ground – with Aidan O’Shea coming on to replace him. Soon after he came on, Aidan missed a chance to cut the gap but, after Goulding’s glorious score, we did finally get a fourth point, Lee Keegan raiding forward to point.
O’Driscoll then restored Cork’s eight-point advantage, a score set up by Kerrigan, one that looked all too easy from our perspective. Evan Regan probably shouldn’t have shot for goal with the chance he had just before the break, as O’Halloran was equal to the Ballina man’s effort.
We simply had to tear into them with everything we had after the break if we were going to get anything from this game. Sadly, this didn’t happen as we had to wait a further 16 minutes to get our first score of the second half.
By then, Cork were out of sight. They were thirteen points ahead of us before that 51st minute point from Conor O’Shea but we could have been even further adrift at that stage. Robbie Hennelly fouled Hurley in the square but he then got down well to save the resultant spot-kick.
We were ringing the changes by now. A double switch saw Mikey Sweeney and David Drake coming on for Caolan Crowe and Donal Vaughan, with Michael Hall replacing Shane Nally soon after.
Lee Keegan should also have been taken off then, following a crunching collision with Eoin Cadogan. It looked as if the team doctor tried, but failed, to persuade the captain to come ashore but Lee looked shaken from incident and had to be assisted off the field, clearly in trouble, barely ten minutes later. I heard it was reported on the radio that he’s now out of the Dublin game, as I guess Kevin McLoughlin is too.
Conor O’Shea’s point was followed by scores from Evan Regan (a free) and Mikey Sweeney as we cut the gap to ten. Soon, though, it was a yawning fourteen-point margin.
Kerrigan pointed from play and then a softish penalty was awarded to Cork for a bit of pushing. Hurley made no mistake, ramming it into the corner of Robbie’s net.
Although Cork raided forward several times after that, they failed to add any further to their 1-18 tally. We got the final five points of the game, with frees from Evan Regan and Conor O’Shea, two from play by Tom Parsons and the final score of the day coming from a Mikey Sweeney free.
Cork, by the way, played out those final few minutes with just thirteen players. Two of their lads (I’m not sure who) were ordered off – one on a black card, the other on a second yellow – in one incident and they had used up all their subs by then. Sadly, though, it was far too late for us to profit, though it did enable us to get the final losing margin back down (just about) to single figures.
This wasn’t a performance that will live long in the memory. We were second best pretty much all over the field for most of the day and it’d be hard to pick any high points from this display. Robbie’s shot-stopping was as good as his one-dimensional kickouts were bad, Brendan Harrison did well in an overworked full-back line, while further up the field Conor O’Shea was the pick of the bunch.
All we can do after today’s thumping is dust ourselves down and move onto the next challenge facing us in this year’s League campaign. A big challenge it is too, with Dublin rolling into town next Saturday evening and our cause won’t be helped if, as expected, Lee Keegan and Kevin McLoughlin are added to an already too-long injury list for that one. A major improvement in performance will be needed from us in six days time or else our poor start to the season could, at least in the short-term, get a whole load worse.
Mayo: Robbie Hennelly; Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Colm Boyle; Lee Keegan (0-1), Caolan Crowe, Shane Nally; Tom Parsons (0-2), Jason Gibbons; Kevin McLoughlin, Conor O’Shea (0-3, one free), Diarmuid O’Connor; Evan Regan (0-2, frees), Donal Vaughan, Jason Doherty (0-2, one free). Subs: Aidan O’Shea for McLoughlin, Mikey Sweeney (0-2, one free) for Crowe, David Drake for Vaughan, Michael Hall for Nally, Cathal Carolan for O’Connor, Padraig O’Hora for Keegan.
Post-match audio report:
Who was our MOTM against Cork?
- Conor O'Shea (30%, 120 Votes)
- Robbie Hennelly (27%, 107 Votes)
- Tom Parsons (12%, 46 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (5%, 18 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (4%, 15 Votes)
- Padraig O'Hora (4%, 14 Votes)
- Evan Regan (4%, 14 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (3%, 12 Votes)
- Jason Gibbons (3%, 11 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (3%, 10 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (3%, 10 Votes)
- Mikey Sweeney (2%, 7 Votes)
- Cathal Carolan (1%, 5 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (1%, 2 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (1%, 2 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (0%, 1 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (0%, 1 Votes)
- David Drake (0%, 1 Votes)
- Michael Hall (0%, 1 Votes)
- Caolan Crowe (0%, 1 Votes)
- Shane Nally (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 399