MAYO maintained their 100% start to the Allianz Hurling League Division 3B campaign with a hard fought one point win over Louth in Dowdallshill on Sunday.
The result leaves both teams level on points at the top of the table although Mayo have a game in hand on Louth. Paddy Kelly’s men face long distance journeys in their final fixtures; away to Donegal on April 3 and away to Roscommon seven days later and the Reds will have to pick themselves up from this narrow defeat if they are to ensure a place in the league final on April 17.
A draw would have been the fairest outcome following this rousing encounter. The Wee County came into the game on the back of three straight wins and they raced into a 1-5 to 0-1 lead after just 10 minutes. Gerard Smyth was influential for the home side, hitting their first two scores before setting up Derek Horan for a clinical finish to the net after just four minutes. Brian Corcoran and Domhnall McArdle also got in on the act with wonderful efforts of their own.
Mayo looked shell shocked by the early blitz but they responded well, gradually whittling away at Louth’s lead. Darren McTighe fired them back into things with a 13th minute goal after Niall Murphy’s shot was blocked and a four point haul in the space of seven minutes, Kenny Feeney finding his range with two points, had Louth 1-7 to 1-6 ahead after 25 minutes.
Stung by Mayo’s response, Louth’s early momentum ground to a halt. A scrappy period before half time saw both teams try and seize control and it was the home side who finished strongly with Diarmuid Murphy smacking a long distance free over the bar before Smyth followed suit in injury time to give Louth a three point lead at the break.
The game was turned on its head early in the second-half when McTighe and Niall Murphy hit goals in quick succession to put Mayo in command. McTighe’s goal arrived just 46 seconds after the throw in. The full forward looked very much the second favourite to reach a loose ball but he battled past Mark Wallace to get enough purchase on his strike to find the net.
Four minutes later and James Connolly’s net was rippling again when Murphy fired a loose ball into the net following a mighty scramble just outside the Louth square. After 39 minutes, Mayo had their noses in front for the first time.
The pendulum continued to swing both ways until the final whistle. Smyth and Murphy reeled Mayo to within a point before arguably, the game’s turning point arrived in the 47th minute when Corcoran opted to go for glory himself when a pass to the unmarked Shane Callan would have yielded a goal chance.
From being in a position to go two points ahead, Louth soon found themselves three behind as Feeney punished them with two quick fire frees.
Donagh O’Sullivan and another Smyth score kept the Wee County firmly on Mayo’s coat-tails before substitute David Kettle put Louth one point to the good with a 60th minute goal. The Knockbridge forward collected Domhnall McArdle’s long ball in the danger-zone before rounding a couple of Mayo defenders and their goalkeeper before finding the net.
Things looked even more promising for Louth when Castlegar man Patrick Connell saw red for a second bookable offence with seven minutes to go but Mayo, to their credit, staged a late rally with Feeney capping a great display by hitting a hat-trick of fine efforts to put his side in the driving seat.
Louth closed the gap to the minimum with a late Shane Callan point but their hopes of salvaging a deserved point evaporated when Smyth saw a last gasp free blocked on the line by a group of Mayo defenders.
Scorers – MAYO: Kevin Feeney (0-8, 6f), Darren McTighe (2-0), Niall Murphy (1-0), Derek McDonnell, Eoghan Madigan (0-2 each).
LOUTH: Gerard Smyth (0-5, 3f), David Kettle, Derek Horan (1-0 each), Diarmuid Murphy (0-3, 3f), Shane Callan (0-2), Domhnall McArdle, Donagh O’Sullivan, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Brian Corcoran (0-1 each).
MAYO: Donal O’Brien; Stephen Connell, Patrick Connell, Greg Henry; Shane Morley, Aidan Connelly, Michael Morley; Derek McConn, Brian Higgins; Niall Murphy, Derek McDonnell, Kenny Feeney; Ronan Cullinane, Eoghan Madigan, Darren McTighe. Subs: Conor Ryan for M Morley, 55 mins; Brian Hunt for D McTighe, 63 mins. Booked: Ronan Cullinane, 14 mins; Stephen Connell, 27 mins; Patrick Connell, 40 mins. Sent-off: Patrick Connell, 62 mins.
LOUTH: James Connolly; Adrian Wallace, Conor Kerrigan, Mark Wallace; Domhnall McArdle, Ronan Byrne, Diarmuid Murphy; Donagh O’Sullivan, Shane Callan; Cathal Ryan, David Dunne, Derek Horan; Brian Corcoran, Gerard Smyth, Diarmuid O’Sullivan. Subs: Shane Fennell for C Ryan, 23 mins; David Kettle for D O’Sullivan, 53 mins; Darren O’Hanrahan for D McArdle, 69 mins. Booked: David Dunne, 16 mins; Shane Callan, 24 mins; Brian Corcoran, 27 mins, Conor Kerrigan, 55 mins.
WIDES: Louth – 6 (2 first half), Mayo – 12 (5 first-half).
REFEREE: Sean Cleary (Kilkenny).