by John Fogarty
In a green and red-dominated Gaelic Grounds, Mayo lived ever so dangerously, but Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor were in inspirational form to help guide them to tomorrow week’s All-Ireland quarter-final.
On their second visit to Limerick in less than three years, Mayo were once again forced into extra-time by a gutsy Cork team that defied the odds and the lack of support they received from the 13,545 crowd.
Cork, despite several injuries including one to the immense Seán Powter, had led 2-19 to 0-24 at the turnaround of extra-time, a brace from Paul Kerrigan and one from both Michael Hurley and Colm O’Neill bettering the contributions of Conor Loftus, Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor (free).
Cork’s lead was cancelled out by a Keith Higgins fisted point two minutes into the new half, and Mayo seized on the resultant kick-out, the move ending with a Diarmuid O’Connor point. Loftus could have goaled but for a deflection soon after although captain O’Connor fired over the subsequent 45.
Michael Hurley brought Cork to within one but then struck a wide to level it up in additional time and Seán White was also inaccurate with a shot from distance and Mayo could breathe easier although it appeared less than the announced additional time was played by referee Ciarán Branagan.
A Luke Connolly long-range free, brought up for dissent, had forced extra-time and sealed a stunning fightback from Cork who in truth came back at their opponents on three occasions in the final quarter.
Mayo led by seven points in the 46th minute (0-14 to 0-7) and, despite seeing it cut to three by four Cork points on the spin, grew their advantage to five only for Powter to find the net with a virtuoso contribution in the 55th minute.
Mayo were rattled and a second goal was beckoning a minute later only for John O’Rourke, who kicked three second-half points, to put wide a shot with only David Clarke to beat. The Mayo goalkeeper then had to be athletic to push a Tomás Clancy effort over the bar after a Ruairi Deane run and O’Rourke makes amends of sorts with a point to cut the difference to the bare minimum in the 55th minute.
Mayo were sorely missing substituted Colm Boyle, who had been excellent, and Lee Keegan’s black card didn’t make life easier for the defence, but they did find their feet again with O’Connor pointing twice, one from a free.
O’Neill punished a foul on Michael Hurley, but a Loftus score stretched Mayo’s lead to three only for Connolly to finish a Deane pass beyond Clarke’s range in the first minute of additional time. And just when substitute Patrick Durcan appeared to have sealed it for Mayo four minutes later, up stepped Connolly to capitalise on a foul on Mark Collins to float over the equalising free.
With Donncha O’Connor as the sole inside forward for long periods, Cork were marginally the better team in the opening period of normal time, happy to let Mayo have the ball and catch them on the counter. They led by two points on three occasions, O’Connor Cork’s only scorer until Barry O’Driscoll’s 24th-minute point.
That score pushed Cork ahead after Lee Keegan, and Tom Parsons’ score cancelled out the Munster runners-ups’ advantage. Before they managed their next point through Paul Kerrigan, Mayo had tagged on three in a row, Aidan O’Shea linking well with Andy Moran for his first, Cillian O’Connor opening his account from play, and then O’Shea turning provider for Moran.
Kerrigan and an O’Connor free levelled matters for a third time prior to O’Connor punishing a black card third man foul by Jamie O’Sullivan on O’Shea and Mayo powered through to the end of the half with Jason Doherty and Cillian O’Connor scores to lead 0-10 to 0-7 at the break.
Scorers for Mayo: C. O’Connor (0-11, 4 frees, 1 45), A. Moran (0-4); A. O’Shea (0-3); P. Durcan, C. Loftus (0-2 each); L. Keegan, T. Parsons, J. Doherty, K. Higgins, D. O’Connor (0-1 each).
Scorers for Cork: D. O’Connor (0-6, 4 frees); L. Connolly (1-1, 0-1 free); S. Powter (1-0 each); J. O’Rourke, P. Kerrigan, C. O’Neill (1 free) (0-3 each); M. Hurley (0-2); B. O’Driscoll, T. Clancy (0-1 each).
MAYO: D. Clarke; B. Harrison, G. Cafferkey; C. Barrett; L. Keegan, K. Higgins, C. Boyle; A. O’Shea, T. Parsons; K. McLoughlin, S. O’Shea, D. O’Connor; J. Doherty, C. O’Connor (c), A. Moran.
Subs for Mayo: P. Durcan for C. Barrett (44); S. Coen for S. O’Shea (49); D. Vaughan for C. Boyle (53); D. Drake for L. Keegan (black, 58); C. Crowe for G. Cafferkey (83); E. Regan for K. McLoughlin, C. Boyle for J. Doherty (e-t h-t); A. Dillon for D. O’Connor (87).
CORK: R. Price; J. Loughrey, J. O’Sullivan, M. Shields; T. Clancy, E. Cadogan, C. O’Driscoll; A. Walsh, I. Maguire; M. Collins, S. Powter, J. O’Rourke; B. O’Driscoll; P. Kerrigan (c), D. O’Connor.
Subs for Cork: K. Crowley for J. Loughrey (inj 20); S. Cronin for J. O’Sullivan (black, 35+1); R. Deane for A. Walsh (inj, 39); C. O’Neill for M. Shields (46); L. Connolly for B. O’Driscoll (57); M. Hurley for D. O’Connor (62); A. O’Connor for I. Maguire, S. White for J. O’Rourke (e-t); C. Dorman for K. Crowley (inj 75); K. O’Driscoll for S. Powter (inj, 83).
Referee: C. Branagan (Down).