Mayo’s stubbornness was rewarded with victory and a place in the Division 1 semi-finals, and though Cork will rue the late chances they missed to draw, or even win, the visitors deserved the points on the balance of play.
Still, despite the driving wind and rain, the home support in the 2,012 crowd may have seen flashes of the 2013 championship approach in Cork’s first-half display. The men in red were direct, kicking the ball long to good effect and opening Mayo up at will. A lapse in concentration towards the end of that half left Mayo rattle off three quick points to give them hope for the second half, though, a period cited by both sides afterwards as crucial to the result.
Cork had the wind as they attacked the City End in the first half, but Kevin McLoughlin opened the scoring with a fine Mayo score. The hosts dominated for the next quarter-hour, however, with said direct approach. Aidan Walsh responded with an interception, run and point from distance, and Fintan Goold hit the lead score soon afterwards. Five minutes later Daniel Goulding clocked a neat point, and when Goold pointed from 40 metres after 16 minutes it was 0-4 to 0-1.
The pressure began to tell on Mayo, as they conceded free after free: Goulding, Mark Collins and Goulding again punished the visitors’ indiscretions from placed balls before Mayo broke their 25-minute scoring drought with a McLoughlin free. Paudie Kissane and Michael Conroy exchanged scores before the visitors enjoyed a period of dominance in the minutes before half-time. Aidan O’Shea had a point and Alan Freeman might have had a goal, but blazed over from close range: Cork led at the break, 0-8 to 0-5.
Cork resumed with Mark Collins sweeping behind his half-back line but again Mayo started brightly with a good point from Donal Vaughan.
Goold and Cillian O’Connor (free) swapped points before Kevin McLoughlin made it a one-point game with another free on 50 minutes: just before that Goold had a good goal chance, but Mayo ‘keeper David Clarke spread himself well and saved comfortably.
McLoughlin levelled the game as it entered the third quarter, 0-9 each, setting up an entertaining finish. Goulding nudged Cork ahead with a free before Cillian O’Connor lofted over a superb equaliser with a sideline kick. Moving into the final 10 minutes O’Connor hit an even better sideline over the bar from the opposite wing to give them the lead.
Cork came knocking on the door in that closing 10 minutes but couldn’t manufacture an equaliser. There was a good deal of championship-level niggling going on in that period, and Cork unhappy to be whistled back late on when referee Maurice Deegan might have left play continue, but there were at least two other good scoring chances that went awry for the Leesiders. In truth they could have no complaints about the final result.
“We were very sluggish in the first half and let Cork waltz through,” said Mayo manager James Horan.
“But for the last eight minutes of the first half, that’s probably where we won the game. We got a couple of scores and went in just three points down, and that’s what helped turn it around. We weren’t working hard enough early on, were missing tackles and that, but you have to say there was an unbelievable breeze. To have played as badly as we did for 20 minutes of that first half and still go in three points down, we were happy.”
Cork selector Ronan McCarthy made much the same point: “We went from six points up to three points up and they got the first score of the second half, so a comfortable lead was whittled away to two points very quickly.
“It was a key time — we did well in the first 20 minutes, we had a cutting edge up front, and you’d have to ask the question, why didn’t we keep doing that?”
Mayo were clapped off the field by their loyal supporters after they completed their warm-down. For Cork, the question raised by McCarthy is one they’ll have to find an answer for soon.
Scorers for Cork: D. Goulding (0-2 fs), F. Goold 0-3 each; M. Collins 0-2 (0-1 f); A. Walsh and P. Kissane 0-1 each.
Scorers for Mayo: K. McLoughlin 0-4 (0-1 f); C. O’Connor 0-3 (0-2 sidelines); À. O’Shea, A. Freeman, D. Vaughan, M. Conroy 0-1 each.
Subs for Cork: J. Loughrey for O’Leary (blood) 27-29; P. O’Neill for A. O’Sullivan, 52; J. Loughrey for J. McLoughlin, 53; B. Shanahan for O’Leary (blood), 64-66; L. Shorten for P. Kerrigan 66; D. Crowley for B. O’Driscoll, 67.
Subs for Mayo: E. Varley for M. Conroy, 42; R. Feeney for C. Carolan, 46; J. Doherty for Freeman 54; D. Coen for Varley 58-61 (blood); C. Barrett for S. McHale, 62; E. Regan for C. O’Connor, 70.
Referee: Maurice Deegan.