Mayo 0-12 Monaghan 1-11

Monaghan got their league campaign off to a flying start when they edged out All-Ireland runners-up Mayo in a cracking contest at MacHale Park.

Conor McManus was the hero for Monaghan kicking six points in another masterful display as they held off a spirited Mayo revival.

Mayo were on the back foot for long periods of the opening half but still managed to lead by 0-06 to 0-05 at the interval.

They finished the half strongly with five of their forwards finding the range before the interval, while at the other end, Monaghan were guilty of eight wides.

Malachy O’Rourke’s men struggled to turn good possession into scores, although they still managed to open up a 0-05 to 0-01 lead after 20 minutes.

Conor McManus, as usual, was the main threat but all of his four points came from placed balls.

He kicked three frees and a 45, with Darren Hughes going forward from midfield to land their first point from play after 20 minutes.

Mayo, having failed to build on an early boost when Fergal Boland crowned his debut with a point after just three minutes, lacked direction going forward.

But they got their act together and struck five points without reply in the closing eleven minutes of the first-half.

Evan Regan got them moving when landing a superb point from the right.

Cillian O’Connor pointed a free in front of the posts to cut the gap to two.

Kevin McLoughlin then held off challenges to kick a fine point and shortly afterwards he set up Alan Freeman for the equaliser.

And Mayo, with five of their forwards finding the range, edged in front just before the interval when Regan pointed a free from 40 metres on the right to leave it 0-06 to 0-05 at the interval.

Monaghan came out of the blocks in stunning fashion after the break with McManus setting up midfielder Darren Hughes for a fisted goal.

And then captain Colin Walshe pointed to put them 1-06 to 0-06 in front after 38 minutes.

The sides twice exchanged points before a massive effort from McManus put four between them with 15 minutes left.

O’Connor ignited another Mayo revival and he cut the gap to two when he pointed a free after Monaghan wing-forward Karl O’Connell was dismissed for a foul on Tom Parsons.

But Gavin Doogan responded for Monaghan to restore their goal lead with seven minutes of regular time remaining.

And while O’Connor reduced the margin to just a point as the game slipped into five minutes of stoppage time, McManus sealed the win with a point from an acute angle on the left.

Monaghan: R Beggan (0-01, 0-01f); D Wylie, F Kelly, R Wylie; N McAdam, C Walshe (0-01), K O’Connell; D Hughes (1-01), K Hughes; G Doogan (0-01), S Carey, K Duffy; C McCarthy, T Kerr (0-01), C McManus (0-06, 0-03f, 0-01 45).
Subs: D Malone for McCarthy (35), R McAnespie for Carey (51), O Duffy for Kerr (58), J Mealiff for McAdam (66).

Mayo: D Clarke; K Higgins, D Newcombe, P Durcan; C Boyle, S Coen, D Drake; D Vaughan, D Kirby; F Boland (0-01), K McLoughlin (0-01), J Doherty; E Regan (0-02, 0-01f), A Freeman (0-01), C O’Connor (0-07, 0-05f).
Subs: D O’Connor for Regan (48), T Parsons for Kirby (52), A Moran for Freeman (55), C O’Shea for Doherty (66).

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).

NEXT WEEK: Mayo travel to Tralee to take on Kerry next Saturday evening, Monaghan host Cavan in a round-two local derby in Castleblayney on Sunday afternoon.