Mayo bounced back from their surprise Connacht SFC semi-final loss to Roscommon with a hard-earned victory over a battling Down side at Pairc Esler this evening.
James Horan's men will be in the hat for Monday morning's All-Ireland SFC Qualifier Round 3 draw after recovering from the concession of an early goal to win at the heaving Newry venue. A Conor Loftus goal seven minutes after the restart proved decisive as the Westerners justified their favouritism.
The visitors opened brightly with points from Loftus (free) and veteran Andy Moran before Caolan Mooney scored a superb individual goal in the eighth minute which sent the home supporters into raptures. But with Aidan O'Shea taking a grip in midfield, Mayo outscored the hosts by 0-8 to 0-3 in the remainder of the half to take a 0-10 to 1-3 lead into the break.
The lively Loftus slotted three more points (two frees), while Fionn McDonagh (two), Kevin McLoughlin, O'Shea and Chris Barrett were also on target for the winners, with Pat Havern, Owen McCabe and Donal O'Hare (free) replying for the Mournemen.
Lee Keegan and Mooney swapped points on the restart before Loftus rattled the net after being set up by Moran to extend the Allianz League champions' lead to six points, 1-11 to 1-5.
But Down refused to accept defeat and had halved the deficit before late points from Diarmuid O'Connor, the excellent Keegan and substitute Ciaran Treacy sealed Mayo's victory.
Mayo - D Clarke; C Barrett (0-1), B Harrison, K Higgins; L Keegan (0-3), C Boyle, P Durcan; D O'Connor (0-1), A O’Shea (0-1); F McDonagh (0-2), C Loftus (1-4, 0-3f), J Doherty; K McLoughlin (0-1), D Coen, A Moran (0-2). Subs: E Regan for D Coen (BC), F Boland for J Doherty, M Murray for F McDonagh, C Treacy (0-1) for K McLoughlin, M Plunkett for A Moran, J McCormack for D O’Connor.
Down - R Burns; D O'Hagan, B McArdle, G Collins; R McAleenan, K Kernan, D Guinness; O McCabe (0-1), C Poland; C Francis, C Mooney (1-1), P Laverty; P Havern (0-1), D O’Hare (0-3, 2f), C Harrison (0-2). Subs: J Guinness for P Laverty, J Johnston (0-1) for D Guinness, C Quinn (0-2) for P Havern, B O’Hagan for O McCabe.
Referee - F Kelly.Tweet