Photo: Mayo Mick
A wet and windy Bekan was the venue for Mayo’s second FBD game of the new season as they took on the students from IT Sligo.
A last-minute penalty from Alan Freeman saw the host side share the spoils in what can certainly be described as a game of two halves. It finished in a 2-8 to 1-11 draw.
Having been moved at the eleventh hour from Charlestown to the new Centre of Excellence outside Ballyhaunis it looked like Mayo got over the last-minute travel arrangements much quicker than the visitors as they stormed into a five-point lead within the opening ten minutes.
A fantastic run from wing-forward Cathal Carolan, one of a number of first team players who returned to the starting line-up, ended with the Crossmolina man scoring the opening goal of the game. IT Sligo goalkeeper and former Mayo minor, Alvin McCallig will, however, feel he could have done much better as the ball seemed to roll weakly by his outstretched hand.
From there the county side showed their superiority over the students as Shane McHale, Brian Gallagher and Darren Coen drove at the IT Sligo defence and gaps appeared at every opportunity.
Photo: Mayo Mick
The wides and poor shot selection that were evident on Friday night did not seem to be there during the opening 35 minutes as Mayo built up a nine-point lead heading towards half-time.
However, the loss of McLoughlin to a very soft black card contributed to a late scoring surge from the students. This saw them cut that deficit to three points at the break as they scored 1-2 without reply in the final five minutes of the half to go into the changing rooms only 1-8 to 1-4 down.
The second half took on a different dimension as the students took control of the game. The wind picked up during the break and with a slight slope going against the county side, Michael Moyles’ charges were able to chip away at their deficit.
Points from Mayo player Evan Regan and from Galway’s Cathal Mulryan for IT Sligo saw them on level terms for the first time since the opening minute.
The students took control of the game then and entered a period which saw the ball rarely travel past the half-way line into Mayo’s forwards. A raft of changes at half -ime which saw the introduction of All-Stars Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle alongside Michael Conroy also had an effect as it took them a few minutes to get into the game.
Photo: Mayo Mick
Using their superior possession IT Sligo were able to tag on a few more points, mostly from the boot of Regan and open up a three-point lead.
With time almost up it looked like the recent holiday abroad as well as the lack of training was catching up on the All-Ireland finalists and that the points would be heading north to Sligo town.
Mayo suddenly spurred into action with five minutes to go and in a late attack Darren Coen was hauled down in the penalty area, a definite black card offence going by the new rules but none was given, and Alan Freeman stepped up to blast the ball home and bring Mayo level.
One last attack by both sides yielded no further scores so the points were shared. The performance of IT Sligo over the final 50 minutes certainly bodes well for their upcoming Sigerson Cup campaign with the likes of Regan as well as Mark and, particularly, Ryan McHugh impressing for them.
For Mayo Andy Moran put in a good first-half shift while Darren Coen, Shane McHale, Kevin Keane and Brian Gallagher once again impressed. If they continue putting in good performances in this kind of weather then they are definitely worth a look for James Horan when the National League comes around.
Overall it was a good result for Mayo considering they went 37 minutes without scoring and they are still in with a chance of progressing to the FBD final if they can overcome Roscommon in Ballinlough next Sunday.
One more game after next week would be the best possible preparation heading into the opening National League games away to Kildare and Tyrone in early February.
Mayo: Brendan Walsh; Keith Rogers, Kevin Keane, Ger Cafferkey; Brendan Harrison, Shane McHale, David Drake; Jason Gibbons, Brian Gallagher (0-2); Sean Kelly, Cathal Freeman, Cathal Carolan (1-1); Kevin McLoughlin (0-3, two frees), Darren Coen (0-2, one free), Andy Moran. Subs: Jason Doherty for McLoughlin (black card), Mickey Conroy for Moran, Lee Keegan for Keane (black card), Enda Varley for Conroy, Alan Freeman (1-0, penalty) for Kelly.