Defiant Mayo not letting go

Allianz FL Division 1
Tyrone 0-12 Mayo 1-10
It’s two decades since Mayo last dropped out of gaelic football’s top tier, and the defiance they brought to Healy Park goes some way to defining those years of consistency.

Mayo's Lee Keegan and Paddy Durcan leap for the ball against Tyrone's Ronan McNamee in their clash at Healy Park.

They haven’t won a league title since 2001, but it’s all about the the quality of opposition they encounter each springtime.

Yesterday they travelled north with the threat of relegation looming large. 

They faced the challenge head-on and came out on the right side of a niggly, tense encounter that wasn’t decided until Kevin McLoughlin arrowed over a winning point in stoppage time.

True, Tyrone paid the price for wastefulness and a lack of potency, kicking 15 wides to Mayo’s six, but when the game was in the melting pot, it was Stephen Rochford’s side that seized the moment. 

A draw against Donegal at Castlebar on Sunday keeps them in Division One.

Rochford felt this was as close to championship pitch as his team has been this year. 

“Other teams have probably been a pitch ahead of us in some of the battles. But, we are edging towards them. but we won’t be reflecting too much on this game as our focus is on the Donegal match,” he said.

While Tyrone drew blanks from their spells of sustained pressure in the second half, Mayo garnered four scores from five shots.

“We don’t’ have necessarily that level of economy into the breeze but we showed is a willingness to be patient,” said Rochford.

“We didn’t always make the right decision. Sometimes we got caught and got turned over. We will continue to work on that but I am not going to delve too much into it.”

Tyrone can still reach the league final, despite a second defeat on the spin, but they must beat Kerry in Killarney and hope that other results go their way, and manager Mickey Harte feels they can take the trip to Munster with a solid performance under their belts “I can’t fault the effort of the boys, they worked hard, particularly in the second half against the breeze. There’s no doubt we created enough chances to get something out of the game but if the ball doesn’t go between the posts, it doesn’t work,” he said.

“So there’s learning in that for us. But I can’t fault the endeavour whatsoever. It was a really good game in terms of what they players are asked to give and I think they gave it. The thing they didn’t get out of it was a favourable result.”

The sides were level on eight occasions in front of 7,850 spectators on a glorious summer’s day in Omagh. 

The signs weren’t bad for Tyrone early on when livewire corner forwards Mark Bradley and Darren McCurry arrowed scores, but Mayo were able to find a way past the defensive cordon to shoot points through Patrick Durcan, McLoughlin and Shane Nally.

Moments after he had brought his side level, Tyrone lost Niall Sludden to a black card for a challenge on Lee Keegan, who was then black-carded ten minutes later for hauling down Ronan McNabb. 

With Mattie Donnelly restored to his favourite midfield role after a brief experiment up front, the Red Hands were going well in the third quarter, easing into a two points lead through Sean Cavanagh.

But in the 28th minute, the westerners struck for a goal. Cillian O’Connor’s precision pass gave Andy Moran the opportunity to pick out Tom Parsons, and the midfielder picked his shot in the bottom corner. 

Mayo led by 1-6 to 0-8 at the break and had to soak up constant pressure for much of the second half. Solid defending, Tyrone profligacy and the effectiveness of David Clarke’s short kick-outs helped them survive with minimal damage. 

McGeary and Tiernan McCann both shot equalisers as they traded scores with O’Connor from placed balls. After Bradley made it a tied game for the eighth time, the remaining 19 minutes of action produced just one score, as both sides battled out in a defensive slug-fest which showed just how desperate they were to avoid defeat.

Scorers for Tyrone:

M Bradley 0-3, S Cavanagh 0-2 (1f), D McCurry, K McGeary 0-2 each, N Sludden, T McCann, N Morgan (f) 0-1 each.

Scorers for Mayo:

T Parsons 1-0, C O’Connor 0-5 (3f, 1 ’45), K McLoughlin, P Durcan 0-2 each, S Nally 0-1.

TYRONE:

N Morgan; P Hampsey, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McvNabb, A McCrory, T McCann; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly, K McGeary, N Sludden, P Harte; M Bradley, S Cavanagh, D McCurry.

Subs:

C Meyler for Sludden (BC 15), C McShane for McNamee (52), H Loughran for McNabb (55), J Munroe for McCrory (68)

MAYO:

D Clarke; B Harrison, K Higgins, C Barrett; C Boyle, L Keegan, P Durcan; T Parsons, D Kirby; F Boland, C O’Connor, S Nally, K McLoughlin, A Moran, D Drake.

Subs:

S Coen for Higgins (BC 26), D O’Connor for Boland (44), D Vaughan for Kirby (BC 50), A O’Shea for Moran (54), J Doherty for Drake (62), C O’Shea for Nally (68).

Referee:

C Lane (Cork).

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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