Less than a hundred hardy souls turned up at MacHale Park today to watch the Mayo lads open their NHL campaign, but it was the travelling Derry side who came away with the spoils.
On reflection Mayo didn’t deserve anything from this game, but could have sneaked a point out of it if more time was available. After sixty minutes of play, Mayo were seven points down and Derry looked home and hosed but a dominant last ten minutes for Mayo nearly earned the home side a share of the spoils.
The difference in size strength-wise was evident as the Derry side posed a more physical presence all over the pitch. No more so than at centre-forward for Derry where stood Ruairi Convery with his massive six foot five frame.
He showed he had the skill to go with the size as he converted 1-6 of his side’s total, with a full house of scoring feats. Two pointed line balls, a goaled penalty, two points from play and two points from frees was the Swatragh man’s tally for the day, while he was also assisted by Alan Grant who converted six dead balls for the Oakleafers.
The first half was a nip and tuck affair as both sides stammered along to get going. The main difference was Convery’s two line balls and a converted penalty in the twentieth minute to leave Derry ahead at 1-8 to 0-7 at the break.
The Mayo side had numerous chances throughout the opening half but some wayward shooting and poor decision making left them playing catch-up for most of the game. Corey Scahill had a goalscoring chance close to half-time but his effort went into the side netting. St Judes recruit Diarmuid McLoughlin recorded his first point in a green and red jersey close to half-time but a lack of real penetration up front was becoming a major concern for Mayo.
The second half of proceedings saw Mayo’s attacking threat become even more frustrating as numerous scoring chances from good positions tailed wide. On another day they would have sailed over.
Joe McManus again for Mayo found the side netting as frustration mounted. Convery and Alan Grant led the charge at the other end of the field, while Mayo’s only real scoring threat came from their own half of the field where wing back and captain Cathal Freeman converted three long range points from play.
With just ten minutes remaining the Mayo attack eventually started to click. Joe MacManus, Austin Lyons, Kenny Feeney and Diarmuid McLoughlin recorded white flags and when corner back Brian Hunt ghosted in to score a Mayo goal in the 74th minute, Derry looked in trouble. Mayo never got into a scoring position for the remaining minute of the game, however, and in the end Derry were relieved to come away with the win.
So a fruitless start for Mayo in the NHL, but the foundations are there to build in the season ahead. Defensively, Mayo were in good shape with Brian Hunt, Ger McManus, Austin Lyons, Cathal Freeman and David Kenny all showing great craftwork in their play, while behind them Davog Freyne looked comfortable in his first start for Mayo.
The Derry attack only recorded four points from play throughout the seventy minutes, with everything else coming from dead balls. A less zealous approach in the tackle might have made it harder for the Derry attack in the long run, going on that stat.
However, Mayo just didn’t convert in the scoring department but had more than enough chances to claim the points. The half forward line of Joe McManus, Padraig Hickey and Diarmuid McLoughlin all showed individual spells of ability but a more cohesive team-game here will be needed to get the scores on the board throughout the year. The inside full-forward line for Mayo didn’t click either today either as the physically stronger Derry defence dominated the majority of the fifty-fifty balls sent in.
Mayo are away to Wicklow in Arklow next Sunday which will be a tough ask for the travelling Mayo crew. Wicklow comprehensively beat Roscommon today in their opening tie at Athleague.
Mayo: Davog Freyne; Brian Hunt (1-0), Ger McManus, Austin Lyons (0-1); Cathal Freeman (0-3), David Kenny, Gary Nolan; Sean Regan, Darren McTigue; Joe McManus (0-2), Padraig Hickey, Diarmuid McLoughlin (0-2); Shane Boland, Kenny Feeney (0-3,2f), Corey Scahill (0-2,2f). Subs: Adrian Phillips for Boland, Shane Morley for McTigue, Stephen Leneghan for Hickey, David Harrison for Scahill.