Tyrone snatch Castlebar cracker

Mayo 1-11 Tyrone 1-12

Tyrone snatch Castlebar cracker

Leading by four points (0-12 to 0-8) with 67 minutes on the clock, Tyrone looked set to close the game out and take two fully-deserved points from their first visit to Mayo for four years.

Large clusters of the home support had given up the ghost by that stage, heading for the exits as they resigned themselves to a defeat after a day when Mayo had failed to break down Tyrone’s well-organised defensive system.

However, Keith Higgins had other ideas and the All Star defender joined the attack to crack in a brilliant goal to turn the game on its head.

Incredibly, another Mayo defender, substitute Donal Vaughan, then raced through to fire over the equaliser a minute later.

Tyrone, who had been rocked back on their heels, then watched in amazement as Mayo sub Alan Dillon and Jason Doherty engineered a couple of frees which Doherty converted to nudge the home side ahead deep in stoppage time.

The large home crowd roared their approval as James Horan’s side looked set to maintain their 100% record against the odds, and the run of play.

But there was one last twist in the tale, and it originated from one of Tyrone’s most enduring stalwarts, Stephen O’Neill, who had gone to midfield during the final quarter in an effort to curb the influence of the marauding Aidan O’Shea.

O’Neill’s booming delivery was hit towards the Mayo square more in hope than confidence, but, in the scramble that followed, Mark Donnelly was held back as he pulled on the loose ball.

Referee Maurice Deegan awarded the penalty and we were in the 40th minute of the half when Stephen O’Neill stepped up to drill the kick past Mayo captain David Clarke.

Remarkably, there was still time for Donal Vaughan to almost land an equaliser at the other end but his shot tailed wide, and Tyrone had got what they came for.

“I suppose it’s heartbreaking on Mayo, after the effort they put in at a vital time in the game,” mused Mickey Harte afterwards.

“When they got to grips with the game, and went from four [points] down to two up, they probably thought they had the winning post in sight.

“But it just tells you the story, the game is never over until the final whistle. [It was] a speculative ball that Stephen [O’Neill] put in there and the two young boys fought for it and we got the break.

“We hadn’t got a lot of breaks just before that, but no better man than Stephen to put away a pressure kick like that.”

Down the corridor, James Horan was making no excuses.

“We didn’t play smart today at all, in the entire game,” he said. “We were too slow moving the ball from midfield, Tyrone were dropping guys back, and we played right into their hands for a large part of that game.

“You can’t play for ten minutes and expect to win a National League game. We didn’t deserve to win the game. We could have snatched it, but didn’t.

“We came up a Tyrone team that are going well. Usually we figure it out during a game but we didn’t at all today.”

Tyrone set out their stall from the off, and with wing-forward Peter McNiece operating as a sweeper, they held Mayo to just one point between the 14th minute and half-time.

As a consequence they led by 0-6 to 0-4 at the break as Peter Harte (2), goalkeeper Niall Morgan (2 frees), Sean Cavanagh (free) and Stephen O’Neill picked off scores at the other end.

Mayo did draw level early in the second half as top scorer Jason Doherty (who finished with six points) and Kevin McLoughlin tagged on frees, but the All-Ireland finalists never looked comfortable.

Tyrone got their second wind to kick six of the next eight points to put themselves in the driving seat, before all hell broke loose in the closing stages.

Mayo scorers: J Doherty (0-6, 5fs), K McLoughlin (0-3, 3fs), K Higgins (1-0), L Keegan (0-1), D Vaughan (0-1).

Tyrone scorers: S O’Neill (1-1, 1-0 pen), N Morgan (0-2, 2fs), S Cavanagh (0-2, 1f), P Harte (0-2), C McAliskey (0-1), C McCarron (0-1), R McNamee (0-1), M Penrose (0-1), D McCurry (0-1).

Mayo subs: B Moran for S O’Shea; E Varley for C Barrett; A Dillon for C Freeman; D Vaughan for Boyle.

Tyrone subs: C McCarron for Gormley (inj); M Penrose (0-1) for Kane; D McCurry for Harte; J Lafferty for McNiece; R O’Neill for Clarke.

Referee: M Deegan (Laois).

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