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O'Shea pushes Mayo over line

MAYO manager James Horan admitted his relief at pipping Sligo to the Connacht championship at Dr Hyde Park, on a scoreline of 0-12 to 0-10.

"A dogfight and a horrible match to watch on the sideline," he admitted afterwards. "But we showed a lot of fighting character and showed what a strong team we are with the subs that came on; they made a huge difference to us and probably swung the game.

"Aidan O'Shea at the beginning of the year was probably the best player in the country and he has worked unbelievably hard to get back.

"Thankfully, he did -- you saw the difference he made when he came on. We needed a bit of a dig-out in the middle, and he was the guy that provided it."

After the week that was, the destination for Mayo was always going to be of far greater importance than the journey. Conor Mortimer's abrupt departure from the squad after failing to reclaim his place on the starting team placed a difficult spotlight on Mayo's preparations. A statement on the matter from the Mortimer family "didn't merit a response" in Horan's eyes.

It wasn't until O'Shea came off the bench in the 41st minute, however, that Mayo carried an air of authority.

Pitched in for Danny Geraghty, O'Shea's impact was immediate, telling and complementary to the fielding skills and all-round abrasiveness of eventual Man of the Match Barry Moran, whose season has taken off again.

Struggled

Sligo's Enda Varley and Jason Doherty struggled and were off by the 60th minute without a score from play between them, while Michael Conroy and Alan Freeman fared little better in their place.

At the other end, Mayo created three clear goal opportunities in the opening half, but Donal Vaughan took a poor option on 30 minutes as Paul McGovern scrambled off his own line before Jason Doherty's quick hands put Moran in two minutes later, drawing a great block from Johnny Martyn.

Early on, referee Cormac Reilly underlined how he was going to police the handpass when he adjudged Cillian O'Connor's transfer to Andy Moran, who subsequently goaled, to be illegal.

Sligo's 0-5 to 0-3 interval lead was never likely to be enough, given the wind advantage, but they had defended resolutely in the first half, with captain Ross Donovan a commanding presence.

They stayed in touch for much of the second half and even after Mayo had levelled, 0-6 each on 46 minutes, they led on three more occasions.

The lead score for Mayo on 64 minutes was controversial, however, with a doubt over the flight path of Colm Boyle's shot for a 0-10 to 0-9 lead. An O'Connor '45' and a Mark Breheny point from a free set up a grandstand finish but Keegan's burst and finish pushed it beyond Sligo's grasp.