It ended up heavy on the Mayo for the Exiles at Gaelic Park today but only after supporters of the Green and Red were given an early scare when the home team raced into a four-point lead after just five minutes. When Robert Moran pointed his second free to make it 0-4 to 0-0 for New York at this early juncture, visions of all those other sluggish starts we’ve seen the lads make this year came flooding back – they couldn’t, they wouldn’t, fall to the most embarrassing defeat of all time … or could they?
Of course, they couldn’t. The Yanks ran out of gas after the first quarter and when our lads started to use the astro turf to good effect to up the tempo, they quickly took control. Points from the Moran twins calmed whatever early panic there was, then Aidan O’Shea banged over his maiden championship point before Tom Parsons cut the deficit to the minimum. Aidan brought us level after 19 minutes with his second of the day but, two minutes later, we were four clear with Alan Dillon cutting inside to clip over a point and then Pat Harte came steaming through to bang in the first goal of the 2009 championship. After that, it was simply a question of how much we were going to win by.
Over the course of the remaining fifteen minutes of the first half, it became apparent that the answer to this question was that we’d win by quite a bit. Alan Dillon, who many of us have seen dropping balls short in McHale Park from little over twenty yards out, punted over a monster score a full 60 yards from the posts and this was followed by a second from Andy Moran and then a belter from well out by Ronan. Peadar Gardiner then knocked a ball into the danger zone and the bounce on it deceived everyone so that it ended up over the bar to stretch our lead to eight points.
A minute later, we hit them with the killer blow as Pat Harte went through the gears and then offloaded to Aidan O’Shea who palmed the ball to the net. Aidan had another goal chance beaten away just after this but we still went in eleven ahead at half-time, with the home side not having scored since the eleventh minute.
The only issue to be sorted now was whether or not our lads wanted to beat the living shite out of their kind hosts. Over the course of a soporific second half, they gave ample evidence that their good manners were not going to allow them to do any such thing. Instead, the winning margin crept out slowly towards where it eventually settled at the 15-point mark, with New York adding another five points to their first half tally while we notched another nine.
Trevor was first off the mark right from the throw-in and then Donal Vaughan and Barry Moran both missed goal chances before Alan Dillon got our second point of the half. Pat Harte was fed by Dillon for our third soon after before New York – after a scoring drought for them that had lasted more than 30 minutes – finally raised a white flag, Cavan’s Paddy Smith doing the honours.
We traded two points with them after that – Andy getting both of ours – as Johnno finally started to empty the bench. First into the fray was, fittingly, James Nallen who started his 14th successive championship when he replaced Trevor Howley. Billy Joe joined the fun soon after, replacing Tom Parsons who had some packing to do ahead of an overnight flight back home tonight.
With ten minutes to go, Aidan Kilcoyne came on for Andy and, within five minutes, Killer had two points on the board, the second from a ‘45’. Pat Harte – later named as MOTM by Midwest’s co-commentator, Pat Holmes – was then given a breather, with David Heaney coming on for his first piece of competitive action this year. Shortly before the end, Mikey Sweeney brought the number of championship debutants to five when he replaced Alan Dillon.
Right at the death, Killer bore down on goal but keeper Evan Byrne – who’d saved the Yanks more than once before that – prevented a third green flag for the visitors. Aidan O’Shea did, though, manage a point and that one proved to be the final score of the day.
So, a walk in the park it proved to be in the end and, that mini-wobble at the outset aside, I don’t think there’s all that much that can be read into today’s Stateside performance. The lads went there knowing that they needed to win convincingly and they went out and won convincingly. Job done, in other words.
It sounded like Pat Harte had a super match: he was the one who hauled us out of our torpor and, as well as the goal, he was instrumental in setting up a good few of those rapidly-taken points that eviscerated the home side’s early lead. He did get yellow-carded in the first half but this happened when he was blocked when trying to complete a one-two and it sounded as if he just kept going, taking his man along for the ride.
Alan Dillon was also prominent and, as well as knocking over three points, was the instigator of a number of attacks that yielded scores. Aidan O’Shea enjoyed an extremely fruitful senior championship debut, one that yielded 1-3 in scores and he ended the day at centre-forward. With Barry Moran doing well inside and Trevor less than convincing in this pivotal role, we could see the Breaffy youngster operating there from the start next month.
We had a good spread of scorers today, with ten different players troubling the umpires, and most of those scores were from play. Sure, it must have been easy enough to fire over the points today but it’s an encouraging way to start any championship campaign and the hope must be that the lads will as eager and willing to find the posts when they next take the field six weeks from now in the Connacht semi-final.
Today was all about getting the show on the road, trying out a few things and making sure that the win was achieved with the minimum of fuss. In that respect, the lads ticked all the boxes, even if they couldn’t resist giving us that early scare just to make sure we were all listening in intently to the remainder of the proceedings over in the Bronx. If we end up winning all of our championship matches this year as easy as we did today’s, then there’ll be no complaints about slow starts but, as we all know, today was a one-off. The real championship action starts for the lads once they get back this side of the Atlantic.
MAYO: David Clarke; Liam O’Malley, Ger Cafferkey, Kevin McLoughlin; Peadar Gardiner (0-1), Trevor Howley, Donal Vaughan; Tom Parsons (0-1), Ronan McGarritty (0-1); Pat Harte (1-1), Trevor Mortimer (0-2), Alan Dillon (0-3, one free); Andy Moran (0-4), Aidan O’Shea (1-3, one free), Barry Moran (0-1). Subs: James Nallen for Howley, Billy Joe Padden for Parsons, David Heaney for Harte, Aidan Kilcoyne (0-2, one a ‘45’) for Andy Moran, Mikey Sweeney for Dillon.