Allianz NFL Division 1 – Mayo 0-16 Cork 0-11

Mayo defeated Cork by 0-16 to 0-11 in the last round of the Allianz GAA Football National League Division 1 at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday.

Mayo stroll through to league decider

From the GAA.ie web site

Mayo clinched their place in the Division 1 final following a 0-16 to 0-11 defeat of Cork at Páirc Úi Chaoimh on Sunday afternoon. Indeed, the game proved to be a dress rehearsal for the league decider as the Westerners only required a point to pip Dublin to the second place in the league final against the Rebels, who had guaranteed their place with a game to spare. Cork’s defensive options were limited prior to throw-in when Anthony Lynch and Michael Shields cried off with injuries, while Mayo’s top scorer in the league, Enda Varley, failed a fitness test on Saturday. Mayo made a lively start, with Alan Dillon slotting over three early points to help the Westerners to a 0-4 to 0-2 lead. Fintan Goold got both of Cork’s points in the opening ten minutes.

Cork boss Conor Counihan had vowed that his side would not allow their standards to slip despite having nothing to play for and he was true to his word. The Rebels levelled the game at 0-5 apiece, with Donncha O’Connor getting his name on the scoresheet after a four-week layoff through suspension. John Hayes added two more points and the Rebels led by two points in the bright sunshine on Leeside. However, Mayo finished the half with a bit more urgency and Chris Barrett, their corner back, showed the way with a fine point after a buccaneering run. Seamus O’Shea clipped over the equaliser from midfield just before the break.

Mayo kept up that momentum at the start of the second half, kicking three points without reply to take control of the game for the first time. Mark Ronaldson, Andy Moran and Conor Mortimer were all on target as Mayo upped the tempo having, no doubt, been made aware of Dublin’s dominance in Omagh at half-time. Cork had lost their team captain and talisman Graham Canty to an injury just before the break and the Rebels began to crumble at the back in the second half. Moran and Dillon added further scores before Aidan O’Shea gave the visitors a six points advantage as the competitive element of the game increasingly diminished going into the final quarter. Indeed, the game, played before a little more than 1,600 patrons in glorious sunshine, lost its competitive edge in the final minutes as Mayo eased to a comfortable win. Mayo are unlikely to have it so easy in two weeks’ time

Match Preview

Páirc Úi Chaoimh: Cork v Mayo, 2.30pm

Cork have little to play for on Sunday – they guaranteed their place in the final with a game to spare – so you would forgive the Rebels if they rolled over and allowed Mayo to sneak away from Leeside with the win or the draw they need to reach the Division 1 decider. However, such an attitude was never going to be allowed to develop amongst a group of Cork players which has become accustomed to winning over the last two years.

Their manager, Conor Counihan, has stressed the importance of maintaining the momentum gathered over the course of a successful league campaign and he has stressed that he will not accept a lowering of standards on Sunday. Counihan has made nine changes from the side that beat Derry in Round 6, but such is the strength in depth of the Cork squad, many would argue that their side is even more intimidating due to the return of some of their most experienced players after lengthy injury absences.

Team captain Graham Canty and veteran defender Anthony Lynch will make their first appearances since last year’s All-Ireland final defeat to Kerry, while first choice goalkeeper Alan Quirke is back between the posts. Donncha O’Connor and Colm O’Neill return from suspension and injury respectively to bolster the attack. Daniel Goulding, Paul Kerrigan and Pearse O’Neill are rested after terrorising defences for much of the year.

Mayo’s failures in recent years have been well documented and John O’Mahony will be very anxious for his side to progress to the league final. A win or a draw will suffice, although a defeat would not be the endgame if Dublin were to lose against Tyrone. The Westerners have enjoyed a superb campaign, tripping up just the once, against Dublin in Castlebar, on a day when their attack misfired badly.

O’Mahony has delayed naming his side until Sunday because Enday Varley, their top scorer in the league to date, and Ronan McGarrity are struggling with injuries and will need late fitness tests. Keith Higgins is also ruled out with a knee ligament problem. On the plus side, Alan Dillon should be available after missing the win over Monaghan last time out. Aidan Kilcoyne, Barry Moran and Tom Cunniffe are all back in the frame but are not expected to start due to a lack of match practise.

Traditionally, Mayo have fared well against Cork in league competition, although the same cannot be said for the Championship. The last time the sides met in the Allianz GAA National League, on Leeside in 2007, the Connacht men emerged with a one-point win. How they would love a repeat of that scoreline on Sunday!

Despite the slew of changes Cork have made, they have a massive squad of players all battling for starting places for next summer’s Championship, which will guarantee that they will be competitive even though there is nothing riding on the result. For Mayo, a win over the Rebels, and more importantly a place in the league final, could be the sort of boost football in the county needs after years of heartache.

Team News

CORK (SF v Mayo): A Quirke; E Cotter, M Shields, A Lynch; K O’Connor, G Spillane, G Canty; A Walsh, D Kavanagh; F Goold, D O’Connor, K McMahon; C O’Neill, C Sheehan, J Hayes.