By Mike Fitzpatrick
Mayo 1-12, Rangers 0-9
This Junior Football semifinal at Gaelic Park on Sunday started off at an explosive pace, but as the minutes wore on the eruption transformed into a trickle with little scoring and many minor confrontations between players that at one point almost became a 20-man melee.
Rangers started well, scoring three points early through David Phelan (0-2) and guest player Mike Byrne, who flew in from Ireland. But after that, having threatened to hammer home the points, they not only took their foot off the pedal, they almost reversed the proverbial car into a ditch.
Mayo’s Anthony McDermott, also over from intercounty football, punched a certain goal off his line and out of danger. This gave the Mayo lads the inspiration they needed. Maurice Sheridan stepped up a couple of gears and with help from the excellent midfield pairing of James Prenty and Mali Coogan, proceeded to score two points, following up Denis Curtin’s earlier effort.
Midway through the first half the game became a scrappy affair, with mistimed tackles aplenty resulting in various minor conflicts between opposing sides. Coogan’s storming performance in midfield caused much frustration among his opposite numbers and he showed his mettle by ignoring the many brutal fouls committed against him. John Browne for Mayo, continuing his recent good form, finished off the scoring for the first half after Phelan had snatched another for Rangers against the run of play to give Rangers a 1-point lead.
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Mayo took command after the break thanks to Ollie Flynn’s opportunist goal, outfoxing the tiring Rangers backs. Flynn jinxed through and fired home to give Mayo a 2-point lead. Colm McMenaman scored for Mayo and Phelan and Mike Bishop replied for Rangers, dragging themselves off the ground in order to stay in the game.
Rangers rarely ventured forward after that, and when they did, poor finishing made their efforts fruitless. Only once did they threaten Mayo, with Joe and Terry Maloney involved in a move where Dermot Fleming proved his worth in the Mayo goal by diving low and left to prevent a certain goal. The Mayo bench were seething when Marshall McAdoo was fouled with the goal at his mercy, only to be denied a penalty by the referee.
The best point of the stifling afternoon was scored by Mayo’s Colm McMenaman. Having slid through the Rangers halfback line, McMenaman seemed to slow down, take his time and glide the ball effortlessly over the bar. David Phelan scored his fifth and sixth points of the afternoon but they were not enough.
Mayo are a strong team who played every minute as if it were the last. Colin Burke scored the last point of the afternoon. They have hit form at exactly the right time and if it continues then surely the title is theirs for the taking.
Mayo: Dermot Fleming, Denis Curtin (0-1), Tom Maher, David Hyland, Anthony McDermott, Tom Burke (0-1), Willie Dempsey, James Prenty, Niall Coogan, John Browne (0-1), Colin Burke (0-1), Ollie Flynn (1-0), David Slevin, Maurice Sheridan (0-6), Colm McMenaman (0-2).
Rangers: Paddy Smith, Malachy McHugh, Mike Rennicks, Mike Byrne (0-1), John Creegan, Tom Bermingham, Seamus Kiernan, Michael Bishop (0-1), Peadar Andrews, Joe Fortune (0-1), David Phelan (0-6), Michael Sheridan, Joe Maloney, Terry Maloney, John Murphy.