Our first match in the qualifiers in each of the last two years was far from a relaxed experience. In gloriously warm and sunny conditions this evening in the Gaelic Grounds, by contrast, it was nice and easy pretty much all of the way. Although it took us a while to get motoring properly, once we did we exposed pretty sharply the gulf in class between the two teams. In the end we hammered them out the gate.
We were on the road for Limerick early enough today – too early for some of our travelling party but, thankfully, teenagers don’t have veto rights on such matters in our house – and were parked up in the shopping centre close to the ground not long after four. We were so early that the turnstiles hadn’t opened and the large travelling support from the West was starting to build by the time they finally stirred themselves at the gate.
An hour ahead of throw-in a lusty cheer rose up over in the Mackey Stand. From our perch high up across the pitch at the back of the open stand it was hard to discern what this was about. Then the eagled-eyed young buck spotted Tom Parsons making his way, with the aid of what looked like one crutch, to his seat on midway. Top man, Tom.
A bit later word came over with Rob, who’d joined us on the far side, that we’d be making one change ahead of throw-in. James Durcan for Andy Moran was the hot rumour, a story that proved to be correct.
Limerick won the ball from the throw-in and they also struck the first blow in this contest. A foul in the big square is always a penalty and a penalty it was for the infraction by, I think, Keith Higgins. McSweeney’s spot kick was low and into the corner and David Clarke, for once, could do nothing to keep it out.
We responded well, however, to this early setback. Cillian O’Connor only needed two points to overtake Conor Mortimer as the county’s all-time highest scorer and he fired over two from play in short order to get us going. A free from the same player drew us level as gradually we began to turn the screw.
For too long in the first half, though, we seemed to be trying to land killer blows on them but our repeated attempts to run in goals yielded nothing but frustration. Adding to this frustration was the fact that we’d passed up a number of easy points in the process.
When the goal did come there was an air of good fortune to it. A wayward pass inside found an unintended target and when Evan Regan claimed possession he offloaded smartly to Cillian who smashed it home from close range.
The goal seemed to relax us. Two fine points from distance, the first from Chris Barrett and the second a cracking snapshot by Colm Boyle, pushed us further clear. A close-in free by Cillian O’Connor, after a foul on Evan Regan who’d collected a glorious low raking pass in from Aidan O’Shea, left us 1-10 to 1-1 up at the break.
The result was never in doubt from there. Limerick got the first score on the resumption but we got the next four, sucking further life out of the contest.
Aidan got the first one, bulling his way through before shooting over off his left. A Cillian free, a clever one from play from Evan and then a super score from Paddy, who collected the kickout and then finished the move at the other end, put us further clear.
A big cheer went up ten minutes after the restart when Lee Keegan joined the fray, replacing Colm Boyle. Jason Doherty came on for Kevin McLoughlin shortly afterwards.
Then we got caught napping at the back. Seamus O’Carroll was loitering inside, Keith wandered too far off him and a glorious fifty-yarder found the Limerick sub who rounded David Clarke and blasted to the net.
In retrospect, there was an element of poking the bear about that score. We responded by upping the tempo on them, aided by our use of the bench and, in particular, Andy Moran’s introduction. All of a sudden we were running riot at their end.
We blew them to bits over the final twenty minutes. The rout saw us run in three goals in succession, Cillian completing his hat-trick before Andy added two more. Andy and Cillian seemed determined to keep reprising that Kerry goal from last year’s All-Ireland semi-final replay, with the handpassing over and back before the ball got dispatched to the net.
We closed out our 5-19 account with a Paddy Durcan point but they had the last say. A pretty ludicrous penalty award – it was neither in the big square nor was it a foul – saw Limerick bookend their evening’s scoring with a second goal from the spot.
We won by eighteen at the finish and can be more than happy with the result. It wasn’t a perfect performance but it never was going to be and when we finally decided to throw them under the bus we didn’t exactly hold back in doing so. It was, by any fair measure, a productive evening’s work.
So we’re in the hat on Monday morning for Round 2. Another qualifier run is underway. We’ve no idea where we’re headed next or how we’ll do when we get there but we did okay, against extremely limited opposition, this evening. One hurdle over, the next one will be in view soon enough.
Mayo: David Clarke; Eoin O’Donoghue, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Colm Boyle (0-1), Chris Barrett (0-1), Paddy Durcan (0-2); Seamus O’Shea, Stephen Coen (0-1); Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea (0-2), Cian Hanley (0-1); Evan Regan (0-1), Cillian O’Connor (3-9, five frees and a ’45), James Durcan (0-1). Subs: Lee Keegan for Boyle, Jason Doherty for McLoughlin, Conor Loftus for Seamus O’Shea, Andy Moran (2-0) for Higgins, Caolan Crowe for Hanley, Shane Nally for O’Donoghue.
Who was our MOTM against Limerick? Pick your top three performers.
- Cillian O'Connor (54%, 703 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (7%, 93 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (5%, 68 Votes)
- James Durcan (5%, 68 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (5%, 62 Votes)
- Cian Hanley (3%, 45 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (3%, 44 Votes)
- Andy Moran (3%, 36 Votes)
- Eoin O'Donoghue (2%, 32 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (2%, 28 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (2%, 27 Votes)
- Evan Regan (2%, 23 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (1%, 14 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (1%, 14 Votes)
- Shane Nally (1%, 13 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (1%, 11 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (1%, 9 Votes)
- Caolan Crowe (1%, 8 Votes)
- David Clarke (1%, 7 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (0%, 5 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (0%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 864