By Damian Dolan
Mayo set up a Connacht SFC semi-final date with Galway with a comfortable 2-14 to 0-11 victory over Sligo at Elverys MacHale Park, but manager Stephen Rochford has issued a warning to his players.
Mayo, whose bid for six Connacht titles in a row last year was ended by the Tribesmen in the semi-finals, will need to raise their game and be far more clinical if they are to overcome Galway at Pearse Stadium on 11 June and reach the final.
“I’m pleased with the result. There’s certainly plenty of scope for improvement in the performance,” said Rochford.
“Sligo are a difficult team. They came with a lot of discipline and doggedness in their play and we found it hard to shake them off.
“It was a mixed performance. The first game back after a seven-week, maybe there’s a bit of rustiness and looking to get out of the blocks but it doesn’t just click.
“We had one or two opportunities in the first half that we didn’t convert.
“The second half probably petered a little bit. We were good value for the seven or eight-point win but we have a lot to do over the next three weeks.
“We created six goal chances today and only converted two. We’re certainly creating the chances. We’re moving in the right way but it’s an area we look to continue to improve on.
“We’ll continue to work on those because we know we’re going to need to go up another couple of gears for Galway in three weeks.
“They’re Connacht champions and division 2 champions so there’s a lot of work to do.”
Cillian O’Connor ended with 1-6 to his name but it was Diarmuid O’Connor’s 35th minute goal which effectively put the game to bed, but this was a disjointed Mayo performance in which they flattered to deceive at times.
Sligo had acquitted themselves admirably up until then, but on the stroke of half-time Diarmuid O’Connor broke through two tackles before powering the ball low past Sligo goalkeeper Aidan Devaney in the Sligo goal to see Mayo lead 1-6 to 0-5 at the break.
Mayo kept that gap for most of the second half with Sligo unable to get back on parity, as Rochford’s men kept the scoreboard ticking over. They edged four ahead before Cillian O’Connor put the result beyond any doubt by palming to the net from close range on 70 minutes.
Sligo now face the qualifiers with manager Niall Carew happy that his players acquitted themselves well and believing that an All Ireland quarter final is not beyond the Yeats County.
“I thought we performed well. We played within ourselves in the first 20 minutes, we were very apprehensive on the ball,” he said.
“When you’re playing a team like Mayo and we’re operating out of Division 3, that was always going to happen.
“But in the second half we regrouped. We said ‘lads we need to go for this’ and in fairness they did.
“We conceded the two goals at the wrong time in each half but other than that I’d be happy with the performance.
“We don’t do moral victories but at the same time it gives us something to work on for the qualifiers.
“Last eight is still very realistic for Sligo and that’s our goal this year. If we get into the last eight we’ve achieved something then and hopefully trophies will come after that.
“Our lads have strong belief in themselves and the management team have so in them also. It’s small stepping stones.”
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