by Brían Mangan
Five brilliant goals including two in each half from corner forward Paul Walsh allowed Mayo to defeat Sligo by 9 points tonight in glorious late June sunshine in Castlebar in the Connacht Minor Semi Final. It was revenge for the home team who fell to defeat to Sligo in the round robin phase of the competition in Markievicz Park, as a large MacHale Park crowd cheered them on to an impressive victory and set them up for a shot against old rivals Galway in the Connacht Final on July 5th in Tuam.
Mayo played with the strong breeze in the first half and came out of the traps quickly, although Jack Davitt showed a serious turn of space to get in along the endline and open the scoring for Sligo in the opening exchanges. This was quickly followed by 2 fine scores from Mayo corner forwards Paul Walsh and Frank Irwin put them in the lead, which they wouldn’t look back from. In the 8th minute a long range line ball was allowed to bounce in the Sligo penalty area causing panic, eventually coming down off the post falling to Paul Walsh who acrobatically scissor kicked the ball to the net from close range for a spectacular score. Walsh followed this goal up 4 minutes later when he scorched through the heart of the Sligo defence before calmly rolling past Teape in the Sligo goal. The gap was now 7 and Sligo looked in trouble, fumbling a lot of ball and misplacing long and short passes. Paddy Heneghan was having a huge game at midfield for the home team and he kicked a fine point in the 19th minute, followed up by beauties from Mylett, Morrin and Shaun Dempsey as Mayo ran at Sligo in waves. Indeed, they would have been further ahead if they had been a bit more clinical, kicking 11 wides in total in the first period. Sligo just had two Eoghan Smith frees added to Davitts early point to show for their efforts after the first 30 minutes as the teams went to a half time score of 2-6 to 0-3.
Dylan Walsh’s sweetly struck pair of 45s in the first few minutes of the second half gave Sligo a brief period of hope, but they were unable to kick on from this and once Walsh fisted home his hat-trick goal in the 15th minute after a dangerous cross from centre-back Ruairi Keane, the game was as good as over as a contest. 1-1 from the impressive Jack Davitt and a nice score from Gavin Duffy brought the gap back to 6 with 10 to go, before Ciaran Mylett crashed home a left footed rocket from 13 metres for Mayo after being set up by hard running wing back Sean Dempsey to put the result beyond doubt, followed closely by Castlebar Mitchels man Walsh’s 4th goal from a rebound after a good Teape save. Eoghan Smith and Gavin Duffy kicked late points for Sligo to leave the final score 5-17 to 1-10, after a round robin campaign where they gave strong performances in each game and showed the massive potential that is in this group of players.
SLIGO J Teape, S Muldowney, M Connolly-McGowan, O Hynes, C Mulligan, C McKeon, C Finn, J Keaney, J Lavin, O McDonagh, E Smith (0-4, 0-3fs), J Davitt (1-2), L Deignan, O Gorman, G Duffy (0-2) SUBS D Walsh (0-2 45’s) L Casserly, K Feeley
MAYO L Jennings, A Morrison, O Tunney, A Cosgrave, S Dempsey (0-1), R Keane, E Gilraine, P Heneghan (0-1), E Henry, C Mylett (1-1), R Hughes, D Thornton, P Walsh (4-1), C Reid, F Irwin (0-2), SUBS R Morrin (0-1) E McHale, E Murphy, M Tighe C O’Connell, N Feeney