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NFL Division Two Semi-Final: Mayo show their experience against Clare

Clare: 2-18 Mayo: 2-22

By Darragh Walsh

Mayo booked their place in Division 1 of the Allianz football leagues for the 2022 season as they overcame Clare in Ennis on Sunday afternoon. The reigning Connacht champions had to hold off a Clare side that fought hard in the second half, trying to force a comeback. The Munster side trailed by eleven at the half time interval and managed to narrow the deficit to three points with their impressive second half performance but in the end the spoils went to the away team. While Mayo fans will be happy with the result the sight of brothers Diarmuid and Cillian O’Connor leaving the filed of play with injury will have Mayo natives worried.

Cillian O’Connor opened the game’s scoring in the first minute with a free kick and Mathew Ruane quickly doubled Mayo’s lead with a fisted point. Clare replied with three singles of their own through Gavin Cooney, Cathal O’Connor and a fine score from captain Eoin Cleary. A converted mark from corner forward Ryan O’Donoghue levelled the game for Mayo with the game producing six scores in the opening six minutes. Cleary responded with a free of his own for Clare and his teammate David Tubridy curled the ball nicely over the bar.

A scoreless nine minutes for the home side saw Mayo take control of the contest. Tommy Conroy added a couple of singles and Bryan Walsh raised a white flag before Cillian O’Connor scored the first goal of the game. The prolific full-forward made no mistake in finding the net from the penalty spot after he was dragged down in the square by Cillian Brennan. O’Connor added another point to end the first quarter of play.

Following the water break Stephen Coen ventured forward for Mayo to put the ball over the bar and Kevin McLoughlin followed suit in slotting the ball between the posts. O’Connor converted a further freekick before Cleary replied for Clare with a free of his own. Pearse Lillis added a point for Clare before Mayo found the net for the second time. Conroy squeezed through the Clare backline before laying the ball off to the onrushing Oisin Mullin who rocketed the ball into the back of the net. Mullin’s co-fullback line member, Lee Keegan ventured up the pitch to add a single and O’Connor raised another white flag. Cleary and O’Donoghue exchanged frees to end the half with eleven points between the sides.

Cleary began the second half how he ended the first with a converted free. Mathew Ruane replied with a point before his opposite number found the net at the other end of the pitch. Tubridy’s free kick dropped in the Mayo goal mouth and Darren O’Neill bet Mayo goalie Rob Hennelly to the ball and found the net in doing so. The away side replied through points from Conroy and a free from Paul Towey. Tubridy and Rory Brickenden exchanged points before Clare found the net again. O’Neill, this time playing provider, claimed another high ball in the Mayo square before laying the ball off to Gavin Cooney and the corner forward punched the ball into the back of the Mayo net to leave seven between the teams.

Paddy Durcan slotted the ball over the bar following a trademark run through the heart of the Clare defence as Clare ended the quarter with three unanswered points. Two of the three points came from the boot of Cleary and Emmet McMahon provided the final point of the quarter.

Entering the final quarter of the contest, Clare had all the momentum but still trailed by five. Towey extended this out to six with a fine solo score for Mayo. Padraic Collins and McMahon raised white flags for Clare while Darren McHale came off the bench for Mayo to add another single. As the game entered the final ten minutes, Towey extended Mayo’s lead to six again with another converted free. Three unanswered Clare points from McMahon, Tubridy and Cleary left a goal between the teams entering injury time but Durcan’s second point of the contest in the 74th minute guaranteed the four point victory for Mayo booking their place in Division 1 for the 2022 season.

Clare: Stephen Ryan, Ciarán Russell, Cillian Brennan, Eoghan Collins, Cian O’Dea, Seán Collins, Daniel Walsh, Darren O’Neill, Cathal O’Connor, Pearse Lillis, Eoin Cleary, Darragh Bohannan, Gavin Cooney, Joe McGann, David Tubridy. Subs Used: Conal Ó Hainfein for Walsh, Padraic Collins for McGann, Conor Jordan for E. Collins, Aaron Griffin for O’Connor, Emmet McMahon for Cooney, Keelan Sexton for Lillis, Cillian Rouine for Ó Hainfein

Mayo: Rob Hennelly, Enda Hession, Oisín Mullin, Lee Keegan, Rory Brickenden, Paddy Durcan, Stephen Coen, Mathew Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor, Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea, Bryan Walsh, Tommy Conroy, Cillian O’Connor, Ryan O’Donoghue. Subs Used: Jordan Flynn for D. O’Connor, Paul Towey for C. O’Connor, Darren McHale for O’Donoghue, Eoghan O’ Donoghue for Hession, Eoghan McLaughlin for Brickenden, Conor Loftus for Conroy.

Clare: Cleary 0-8(0-6f), Cooney 1-1, O’Neil 1-0, Tubridy, McMahon 0-3 each, O’Connor, Lillis, Collins 0-1 each

Mayo: C. O’Connor 1-4 (1-2f), Mullin 1-0, Conroy, Towey (0-2f), 0-3 each, Durcan, Ruane, O’Donoghue (0-2f) 0-2 each, Keegan, Brickenden, Coen, McLoughlin, Walsh, McHale 0-1 each.

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