By Brían Mangan
Mayo advanced to the Connacht Junior Final against Galway on June 16th after a very entertaining game of two halves in MacHale Park today against Leitrim. Leitrim were much the better in the first half, and led by man of the match Conor Beirne they went in at half time 2 points up, and the upset looked on. However, the half time team talk did the trick and Mayo came out with all guns blazing after the restart with 8 points on the trot to win them the game, running out 2-15 to 1-14 winners eventually.
The first half was an exhibition of score taking, with Leitrim in particular kicking some unbelievable points from all angles, with the elegant Beirne in particular catching the eye. Beirne is a throwback target man who doesn’t stray too far from the D but he is brilliant at winning possession and along with Niall Brady in the full forward line he caused havoc for the Mayo defenders in the opening half. Keith Hopkins scored the first of his two close range first half goals for Mayo in the fourth minute after a brilliant run through the heart of the defence by Tomás Feany to put the home team 2 points up. After this however Leitrim took over and led by 1-6 to 1-1 after 18 minutes when Seán O’Heslins midfielder Oisín McCaffrey stole forward and goaled at the third attempt after Mattie Flanagan brilliantly saved his first two efforts on goal. Three minutes later Mayo were level in a helter-skelter game, Hopkins palming to the net after being set up by Darragh Keavney who punished a mix up with the Leitrim kick out. Keavney himself then scored a lovely point from a narrow angle to level the scores following a twisting, jinking run. Leitrim would have been disappointed all their good work was undone, but they steadied the ship and rattled off three more points, one of which a beauty from the left wing by Riordan O’Rourke, who scored twice in the first period. 2-4 to 1-9 the score at half time so was a fair reflection on the first period, Leitrim having played with a strong wind.
Liam Moran led the Mayo charge in the third quarter with three magnificent points from long range. Two excellent saves from Damien Maguire kept Leitrim in it as they faced wave after wave of attacks, with sub Seán Walsh having an increasing influence at midfield for Mayo. Leitrim hung around however and kicked three frees of their own in a row through Beirne and Brady to narrow the gap to 2 with 5 minutes remaining. Goalie Mattie Flanagan then came up and kicked his second 45 of the half to stretch the lead before fine fisted points by subs Justin Healy and the excellent Walsh settled the contest for the home team. A Connacht Final now awaits Mayo against Galway on June 16th, a match which will be the curtain raiser to the senior final.
Ref: John Gilmartin
MAYO: Mattie Flanagan (0-2 ’45s), Ronan Conlon, Barry Duffy, Mark Forkan, Seamie Lally, Cian Bourke, Conor Igoe, Paul Kelly, Tomás Fahey (0-1), Liam Moran (0-3), Brendan Carr (0-4, 0-3fs), Stephen Conroy, Darragh Joyce, Keith Hopkins (2-2, 0-2fs), Darragh Keavney (0-1) SUBS: S Walsh, P Prendergast, J Healy (0-1), B Leonard, A Leonard
LEITRIM: Damien Maguire, Jason Byrne, Conor Farrell, Patrick McKenna, David Mulvey, Caillin Canning, Rory McTague, Keith Keegan, Oisin McCaffrey (1-1), Cathal McCauley, Niall McGovern, Riordan O’Rourke (0-2), Padraig Gallagher, Conor Beirne (0-6, 0-3fs), Niall Brady (0-3, 0-1f) SUBS: M Diffley, D Mitchell, F Fitzpatrick, S McMorrow (0-1), M Dolan, J Stenson (0-1)