Ray Dempsey’s U21s got the defence of their Connacht title off to a winning start this evening up in Cloone, where, in the first ever Connacht championship match to be played under lights, they beat Leitrim by 0-13 to 0-9. This was a match we’d expected to win easily enough but the home side – with Mickey Moran facing us for the first time since taking over on the sideline at the Ridge County – had other ideas. From what I can gather (via regular updates from Club Mayo and Mike Finnerty’s post-match report on Midwest), we were under a bit of pressure at times this evening – especially in the second half – as Leitrim battled gamely to pull off what would have been a massive shock result. In the end, we survived the ambush but it’s clear that they pushed us a hell of a lot closer than most of us had expected they would.
We led by 0-7 to 0-5 at the break, with all bar one of our scores – two each for Neill Douglas (one a free), Shane Nally and Aidan O’Shea and one from Alan Freeman – coming from play. Our shooting was, a bit like the seniors last Sunday, leaving something to be desired, with the half-time wide count standing at eight for us compared to just two for them.
Further points early in the second half from Douglas and Freeman kept us on track but for the next ten minutes, we were pushed back on the defensive. According to Mike Finnerty, we were taking a leaf from Dublin’s copybook at this stage, with fourteen men behind the ball for a while. It worked too because although Leitrim cut the gap to two points, they never got closer than that and eventually we lifted the siege, with a point from substitute Ray Geraghty and two further points by Douglas and Freeman seeing us home by a margin of four points in the end.
Prominent for us tonight were, according to Mike, Lee Keegan, Shane Nally, Aidan O’Shea, Neill Douglas and MOTM Alan Freeman.
Next up for Ray’s lads is the Connacht semi-final against Roscommon at Hyde Park on Paddy’s Day at 4 pm. That could be a real cracker.
MAYO: Robert Hennelly; Pat Mulchrone, Shane McHale, Michael Gallagher; Lee Keegan, Eoghan Reilly, Sean Prendergast; Shane Nally (0-2), Ger McDonagh; Cathal Carolan, Kevin McLoughlin, Jason Doherty; Neill Douglas (0-4, one free), Aidan O’Shea (0-2), Alan Freeman (0-4, one free). Subs: Niall Prenty for Carolan, Ray Geraghty (0-1) for Prenty.