Both Mayo and Roscommon’s All-Ireland ambitions will survive for another week after the Connacht neighbours failed to find any degree of separation in a flawed but captivating quarter-final at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon, .
Roscommon ran out at Croke Park seeking a first championship win at the iconic stadium since the 1980 All-Ireland semi-final and the odds on that barren run stretching another year seemed short indeed after just a dozen minutes.
By then, Kevin McStay’s side had bagged 2-2 to Mayo’s single point, the goals coming from a delightful chip over the keeper’s head by Fintan Cregg and a more forceful but equally effective shot from Ciaran Murtagh.
Whether Cregg meant for his to drop under the bar is another matter.
Both goals owed their origins to the type of long, diagonal balls that Kerry had utilised to such effectiveness earlier in the day when targeting Kieran Donaghy at the edge of the square and Mayo’s travails were equally pronounced at the far end where a succession of wides racked up.
And then, everything changed.
Within seconds of Murtagh’s three-pointer Mayo had responded in kind through Lee Keegan who sped uncontested through the middle of the Rossie rearguard before unleashing a shot that was deflected to the net by the hand of Niall McInerney.
And with that, Roscommon’s cough was softened. Where before they had been direct and purposeful, now they looked uncertain and directionless. The eight wayward shots on goal they recorded by half-time spoke volumes for that.
In all, 22 minutes would pass from the time of their second goal before the Connacht champions bothered the scoreboard again - via a free. Mayo’s performance graph pointed in the opposite direction, with Keegan very much to the fore.
The Westport defender had 1-3 bagged by the break and his opening goal prompted a run that delivered seven of the next eight points, including a free from Cillian O’Connor after 18 minutes that was the game’s first score not sourced from open play.
Roscommon rediscovered themselves in the dressing-room. To a point anyway.
Two points in the opening exchanges of the second-half took them level before they again lost their way.
This time at least Mayo entered the fugue state with them. Neither side ever managed to shake the stutters completely but the noise levels among a crowd recorded at 65,746 rose inevitably as full-time approached and little to choose between them.
Mayo did most of the chasing in the last quarter, drawing level after 53 and 65 minutes, although a Paddy Durcan point left them the one in front as the first of six additional minutes to the 70 began to count down.
The drama was only just beginning.
A Donal Smith free returned matters to parity and, though Cillian O’Connor had two chances to win it towards the end, his efforts fell wide and short to leave the sides facing a replay next week at a date and a venue to be announced tomorrow.
L Keegan (1-3); C O’Connor (0-3, 2 frees); A Moran and P Durcan (both 0-2); C Boyle, J Doherty (all 0-1).
C Murtagh (1-2, 0-2 frees); F Cregg (1-1); D Murtagh and D Smith (0-2, 0-1 free); E Smith, C Devaney (both 0-1).
D Clarke; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Barrett, C Boyle; S O’Shea, P Durcan; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, D O’Connor; J Doherty, C O’Connor, A Moran. Subs: D Vaughan for Boyle (52); C Loftus for Moran (58); T Parsons for S O’Shea (62); S Coen for D O’Connor (65); D Drake for Doherty (71).
C Lavin; S McDermott, J McManus, D Murray; N McInerney, S Mullooly, B Stack; F Cregg, E Smith; T O’Rourke, C Connolly, C Devaney; C Murtagh, D Murtagh, N Kilroy. Subs: I Kilbride for O’Rourke (18-23) and for McDermott (64); D Smith for Connolly (51); Colin Compton for C Murtagh (58); Cathal Compton for D Murtagh (62); R Stack for Devaney (70).
J McQuillan (Cavan).