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From a trudge to a sublime stride

Mayo 1-16 Tyrone 0-13
Different means, same end.

Mayo’s march to an All-Ireland final yesterday slowed to a trudge in the first half before transforming into a stride towards the end.

Their recovery wasn’t exactly all their own making. They were helped here by injuries to key Tyrone personnel and benefited from some kind calls by Maurice Deegan but once again showed their worth with a resilient effort.

They didn’t lead in this game until the fifth minute of the second half thanks to a decidedly iffy penalty goal awarded for a Dermot Carlin foul on Colm Boyle. Alan Freeman’s shot packed too much of a punch for Pascal McConnell to defend and Mayo, having drawn level just three minutes earlier, never lost the advantage it brought.

Their supporters made up the majority of the 65,345 crowd and had seen an awkward-looking Mayo side in the first half, one that went four points behind in the 32nd minute and resembling little of the assured team coming into the game.

However, having finally gained the upper hand in midfield towards the end of the half and forcing Tyrone into short kick-outs, they rediscovered the confident streak that had characterised their four previous SFC victories.

They go into a second successive final likely without Cillian O’Connor, a man who is responsible for over 25% of their total scores this summer and almost half their goal tally for the championship.

But the scoring burden is a shared one with this Mayo crew. Yesterday, goalkeeper Rob Hennelly with his 48th minute free became his county’s 18th scorer this summer.

Substitute Mickey Conroy, back after a long-standing injury, could have been the 19th but kicked two of Mayo’s 10 wides. He wasn’t the most biggest offender, though. Enda Varley was inaccurate with four attempts and Kevin McLoughlin inexplicably missed a close-range free in the 25th minute after a Freeman goal has been disallowed when Deegan called back the play for a free.

It wasn’t until the 46th minute that one of Mayo’s starting forwards, Alan Dillon, found his range from play. For an attack that had beating everyone up a stick beforehand and had prompted the plaudits of manager James Horan, it was a yawning barren spell.

Tyrone, pushing Conor Clarke up into the half-back line and bringing Stephen O’Neill out, looked to have snatched the early tactical advantage.

Their first four points came from play. Indeed all but one of their seven in the first half did as they beat Mayo for intensity and picked holes in their defence.

Darren McCurry and Conor McAliskey were benefiting greatly from quality ball put their way and it was the former who pushed them three ahead in the 21st minute.

By that stage, Peter Harte and O’Connor had retired with injuries and worse followed for Tyrone just shy of the half hour mark when Stephen O’Neill left with an ankle problem. His replacement and namesake Ronan made an instant impact to put Tyrone four up but the remainder of the half belonged to Mayo as Chris Barrett, first in the 32nd minute and then in first half injury-time, punted over a point either side of a Lee Keegan strike.

In-form Sean Cavanagh and Aidan O’Shea were muted compared to O’Shea’s older brother Seamus who was integral to Tyrone losing their way around the middle.

Keegan and Boyle were finding space to make their trademark bursts and when Boyle was brought down in the 38th minute Deegan pointed to the penalty spot when Carlin pleaded for him to look at the big screen and realise the foul had in fact been committed outside of the danger area.

Tyrone supporters may claim Deegan’s head was turned by the amount of media coverage attached to Sean Cavanagh’s rugby tackle in the quarter-final.

Ironically, that upending of Ciaran McManus came at the Davin Stand goal in the 49th minute as did Lee Keegan’s denial of Ryan McKenna’s shot in the parallelogram, which looked suspiciously like a foot-block. However, the referee saw nothing to give a second penalty although McCurry balmed some of the pain by hooking over a point almost immediately after the incident.

That score, Tyrone’s second on the bounce after going 20 minutes without a score in which Mayo amassed 1-7, sliced the margin to four. But Mayo responded with a quick brace of their own via Freeman, one coming from a placed ball.

A Sean Cavanagh free, after a cynical Donal Vaughan foul which should have merited a yellow card, brought the deficit back to five. But if Tyrone didn’t already know it wasn’t going to be their day, they realised it shortly after the score when Colm Cavanagh was cautioned for an offence that would have ranked lower on the scale than Vaughan’s infringement.

Tyrone, regardless of the dubious calls going against them, were always going to finish second best without men that lined their spine.

McMahon’s exit with a hip problem in the 44th minute put the tin hat on it for Tyrone and their finish was set up for a struggle.

Three points on the trot pushed Mayo eight ahead with nine minutes to go before substitute Kyle Coney and Alan Dillon exchanged scores.

Cavanagh and McCurry from a free were scant consolation when they were in search of goals but Mayo wouldn’t yield.

Scorers for Mayo: A Freeman (1-4, 1-0 pen, three frees), C Barrett, L Keegan, A Dillon (0-2 each), C O’Connor (f), K McLoughlin (f), E Varley, R Hennelly (f), C Carolan, A O’Shea (0-1 each).

Scorers for Tyrone: D McCurry (0-4, two frees), C McAliskey, S Cavanagh (1f) 0-2 each, C McGinley, S O’Neill, R O’Neill, A Cassidy, K Coney 0-1 each.

MAYO: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; D Vaughan, C Boyle, L Keegan; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; K McLoughlin, A Dillon, K Higgins; C O’Connor, A Freeman, A Moran. Subs for Mayo: E Varley for C O’Connor (inj 11), M Conroy for A Moran (56), C Carolan for T Cunniffe (inj 58), R Fenney for D Vaughan (64), B Moran for A O’Shea (68).

TYRONE: P McConnell; C McCarron, C Gormley, R McKenna; C McGinley, P Harte, C Clarke; S Cavanagh, C Cavanagh; Matthew Donnelly, S O’Neill, Mark Donnelly; D McCurry, C McAliskey, J McMahon. Subs for Tyrone: D Carlin for P Harte (inj 7), R O’Neill for S O’Neill (inj 26), R McNabb for J McMahon (inj 44), A Cassidy for Matthew Donnelly (48), K Coney for R O’Neill (58).

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).