Defending champions Mayo cruised into another Connacht Final with a landslide victory over an outclassed Leitrim at MacHale Park in Castlebar.
On an overcast day, with rain falling steadily throughout the opening half, Mayo crushed the underdogs' challenge ruthlessly to set up a final clash with Galway in a fortnight’s time.
Despite only lining out with eight of the team that started last December’s All-Ireland Final defeat to Dublin, due to a combination of injuries and Covid-related issues, Mayo put this one-sided semi-final to bed in the opening half.
By that stage James Horan’s largely makeshift side were 16 points ahead after shooting 3-10 from play with seven different players getting on the scoresheet.
Leitrim looked rusty early on in their first game for six weeks, and their confidence was also understandably low after losing all three of their Division 4 league matches this season.
As a result the second half was essentially a victory lap for the rampant winners as Leitrim, who haven’t beaten Mayo in the championship since their last historic Connacht Final triumph in 1994, faded out of contention.
In front of a crowd of approximately 2,500 people, the homeside had raced into an 0-8 to 0-1 lead by the water-break and the writing was already on the wall for Leitrim.
Mayo's lead was out to nine points by the 28th minute when a handling error in the visitor’s defence presented Darren Coen with the simple task of rounding goalkeeper, Brendan Flynn, and slotting the ball into an empty net.
The rout continued in the following two minutes when Mayo’s Darren McHale netted twice in quick succession to leave Leitrim trailing by 3-11 to 0-2.
It had taken Terry Hyland’s charges 18 minutes to open their account through a Keith Beirne free and the Mohill forward tagged on two further place-kicks before half-time. Leitrim’s only score from play in the opening half came from Conor Dolan on 27 minutes.
Mayo’s preparations had been hampered by Covid issues in their camp in the days leading up to the game, but the reserves that were drafted in stepped up to the plate in style.
The winners continued to turn the screw during the third quarter and they hit 2-3 in a blistering eleven-minute spell to pile further misery on their struggling opponents.Ryan O'Donoghue and Tommy Conroy scored the goals and Mayo were 25 points clear by the time the dust settled.
Leitrim, to their credit, kept plugging away and a string of scores from Keith Beirne (two frees), Paddy Maguire and Riordan O’Rourke was just reward for their honest efforts before the second half water-break.
The last quarter was largely uneventful with Mayo topping up their advantage through some eye-catching points from Darren Coen (2), Aidan O’Shea and Darren McHale to seal a second facile victory of this campaign.
Leitrim did have the last word with a point from Conor Dolan deep in additional time, but Mayo’s fifth successive championship win over their neighbours, since they were famously ambushed 27 years ago, had been wrapped up long before then.
They will now begin their preparations for a rematch with Galway on Sunday, 25 July.
Mayo: R Byrne; E Hession, P O’Hora, M Plunkett; P Durcan, O Mullin, S Coen (0-1); M Ruane (0-2), A O’Shea (0-1); J Flynn, D McHale (2-2), C Loftus (0-2); T Conroy (1-3), D Coen (1-3), R O’Donoghue (1-5, 2fs).
Subs used: J Carr (0-1) for Conroy (45); C Boyle for Durcan (52); F McDonagh for Ruane (58); A Orme for D Coen (61); J McCormack for Flynn (blood sub, 61); J Coyne for Mullin (65).
Leitrim: B Flynn; C Reynolds, D Wrynn, M Diffley; C McGloin, P Maguire (0-1), D Bruen; J Gilheany, M Plunkett; C Dolan (0-2), S Moran, T Prior; D Rooney, K Beirne (0-5, 5fs), S Quinn.
Subs used: E Sweeney (0-1) for Rooney (HT); R O’Rourke (0-2) for McGloin (HT); K Keegan for Diffley (45); A Hoare for Wrynn (50); J Mitchell for Bruen (52); Referee: F Kelly (Longford)