Darren McHale scored 1-05 as reigning Connacht champions Mayo got their campaign up and running with a 3-23 to 0-12 victory over Sligo at Markievicz Park.

Having secured promotion to Division 1 of the Allianz Football League already this year, Mayo will now face Leitrim in the provincial semi-final.

James Horan's side were unstoppable in the first half, and two goals from Aidan O’Shea coupled with a McHale effort helped them into an unassailable 3-13 to 0-08 half-time lead.

Mayo didn’t have to go through the gears in the second half and wrapped it up long before the full-time whistle.

Mayo suffered another agonising All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin before Christmas but, six retired stalwarts later, this team has a more youthful look to it.

Sligo had not played a championship game in two years and it showed in the early stages when Mayo cut through their defence at will.

McHale scored three points in the opening five minutes to give Mayo an early 0-03 to 0-01 lead. McHale and Niall Murphy traded points inside two minutes but then Mayo opened up and a further point from Tommy Conroy created a gap.

Sligo manager Tony McEntee had made five late changes to his side with big Barry Gorman coming into the starting 15. They tried to isolate him in the full-forward line where he battled with Oisín Mullen but it was the Young Footballer of the Year that won that tussle.

Mayo were in the process of hitting 1-04 without reply, Ryan O'Donoghue assumed the free-taking responsibilities in the absence of the injured Cillian O’Connor and he scored next.

Aidan O'Shea drills home his first goal

O’Shea lashed home his first goal in the 12th minute when the Sligo defence got turned over and he surged through the centre before blasting past Eamonn Kilgallon and into the net.

Murphy ended a 12-minute drought to score his and Sligo’s second point but the pressure was building all the time and Paddy Durcan pushed Mayo’s lead out to 1-06 to 0-02 in the 16th minute.

Murphy almost struck a tonic goal moments later but his powerful shot collided with the crossbar and bounced out. And before the water-break Conroy doubled up on his efforts as Mayo took a seven-point lead into the break.

Seán Carrabine found his range on the resumption but Mayo blitzed again to score an unanswered 1-04 in a devastating four-minute spell. The goal came courtesy of O’Shea once again when O’Donoghue made the hard yards and the Breaffy clubman finished.

Liam Gaughan and Murphy both scored for the hosts but Mayo came right back up the field with Kilgallon saving Conroy’s goalbound effort only for McHale to follow up and score the third goal.

Mayo were 14 points in front at half-time but Mikey Gordon scored after just 25 seconds of the second half. O’Donoghue’s third free quickly cancelled that out.

McHale brought his personal tally to 1-05 while Fergal Boland scored moments after his introduction.
And Eoghan McLoughlin became Mayo’s eighth different scorer on the day when he got forward to score.

Mayo’s lead stood at 17 points going into the final water-break and they excelled in the final quarter to ease their way into the final four.

Mayo: Rob Hennelly; Enda Hession, Oisín Mullin, Lee Keegan; Paddy Durcan (0-01), Michael Plunkett, Eoghan McLaughlin (0-02); Matthew Ruane, Conor Loftus (0-02); Kevin McLoughlin, Darren McHale (1-05), Jordan Flynn (0-01); Tommy Conroy (0-02), Aidan O’Shea (2-02), Ryan O’Donoghue (0-05, 0-04f).

Substitutes: Fergal Boland (0-01) for Flynn (47), Padraig O’Hora for Keegan (54), Stephen Coen (0-01) for Durcan (59), Paul Towey for O’Donoghue (62), James Carr (0-01) for K McLoughlin (70).

Sligo: Eamonn Kilgallon; Rryan Feehily, Eddie McGuinness, Karl McKenna; Nathan Mullen, Peter Laffey, Paul McNamara; David Quinn, Paul Kilcoyne; Paddy O’Connor (0-01), Seán Carrabine (0-02), Mikey Gordon (0-1); Barry Gorman, Niall Murphy (0-06, 0-01f), Liam Gaughan (0-01).

Substitutes: Evan Lyons for McKenna (31), Keelan Cawley (0-01) for Gaughan (31), Red Óg Murphy for Gorman (37), Conor Griffin for Gordon (54), Cian Lally for Cawley (60).

Referee: Paul Faloon (Down).