This was a Mayo performance we’ve seen several times, the one which has their fanatical supporters falling over themselves in exasperation for most of the afternoon. The closing act, however, sees a different script produced and it’s all smiles, selfies and signed jerseys thereafter.
At times, particularly in the closing quarter of an hour, the visitors were electric, slicing through the opposition defence with incredible ease - 1-8 to 0-0 they outscored Tipp in the closing 18 minutes.
At others, they sat punch-drunk on the ropes, inviting their hosts to land that one, decisive knockout blow.
As early as 11am, Mayo supporters, who made up the majority of the 11,267 crowd, congregated outside Semple Stadium. Over an hour before throw-in, those clad in green and red afforded Tom Parsons another standing ovation. They’ll have to give one to Seamie O’Shea the next day, his season almost certainly over after sustaining a shoulder injury on the half-hour mark.
With their first-choice partnership now sidelined, it leaves management with a significant headache to construct a midfield that will take them into the Super 8s and beyond. Options appear thin on the ground as some of the bodies who operated around the middle on Saturday failed to impress.
Bill Maher, Brian Fox, and Robbie Kiely took full advantage of this, tearing through the centre at every opportunity. Steven O’Brien, meanwhile, held the upper hand in his duel with O’Shea before the latter’s injury.
The Mayo full-back line, too, was anything but assured.
Paddy Durcan was detailed to man-mark Michael Quinlivan with Ger Cafferkey shadowing Conor Sweeney. The latter kicked two points, while Quinlivan posted 1-2. The 2016 All-Star forward, but for two outstanding David Clarke saves, could have finished with a hat-trick.
Tipperary’s two most dangerous forwards also thrived on the high ball pumped into them and so it was a surprise to hear Stephen Rochford describe Durcan and Cafferkey as two of Mayo’s “best performers”.
“It was clear Tipperary were trying to pull 10 or 12 guys back and leave a lot of space in front of Quinlivan and Sweeney. In a fast and open pitch like Semple Stadium, that is not easy. Ger Cafferkey and Paddy Durcan were like two bouncers at the end, they really closed out the game.
“Paddy, for a guy thrown into the full-back position, really revelled in it and that on the back of a fine defensive performance against Galway.”
Despite surging four clear inside the opening six minutes, the 2016 and 2017 All-Ireland finalists were a shell of themselves for the remainder of the half. Quinlivan touched a Josh Keane delivery to the net on nine minutes to settle the Premier men.
That familiar ‘Tipp, Tipp, Tipp’ chant was heard for most of the half, giving way to ‘Slievenamon’ at the break as points from Liam McGrath, Philip Austin, Jack Kennedy, Sweeney and Quinlivan had the underdogs 1-7 to 0-8 in front.
O’Shea had departed by this juncture. So too had Colm Boyle after his 100th appearance was marred by a needless black card. Lee Keegan, meanwhile wasn’t a central figure as he attempted to get up to championship pace in his first start in over three months.
Tipperary manager Liam Kearns, who will remain on for 2019, was right to surmise that his side should have been further ahead turning around for the second-half.
“We did have them in a lot of trouble. If we had have been five or six up, it would have been a better reflection of the first-half. But we weren’t. We had a chance to go four up just before their goal. That was a killer.
“There was another time when Bill [Maher] was through and we got a point, but it could have been a goal.
“We opened them up a lot and had serious chances. We just didn’t put it on the board. You can’t give an experienced team like them breathing space like that. Our progress at championship is stagnant. This is the first time in three years that we haven’t progressed.”
The goal he references is the one which decided this fixture. Trailing by 1-11 to 0-11 after 52 minutes, a speculative James Durcan point attempt curled in over the head of Evan Comerford. Tipperary were floored, Mayo revitalised.
Kevin McLoughlin, Jason Doherty, Cian Hanley, Paddy Durcan, Andy Moran, Lee Keegan and Conor Loftus (free) all kicked points to secure Mayo an eight consecutive qualifier win and book them another day out.
“In the first-half, we were a bit narrow in attack. We congested it and it allowed them get bodies in and make life difficult,” said Mayo forward Jason Doherty.
“We were passing the ball to lads standing static in the first-half and looking to kill ourselves.”
“The second-half, there was better width. We were cleverer with the ball.
“This opens our eyes that we can do a lot of things right, but if we are not really clinical with our final pass, as was the case in the first-half, we can put ourselves under pressure. This sets us up brilliantly for the next game.”
On they trundle.
Their hand weakened, but still fighting, still alive.
J Durcan (1-2); C O’Connor (0-5, 0-5 frees); K McLoughlin, J Doherty (0-3 each); P Durcan, S O’Shea, L Keegan, A O’Shea, C Loftus (free), A Moran (0-1 each).
M Quinlivan (1-2); L McGrath (0-4, 0-2 frees); C Sweeney, P Austin (0-2 each); J Kennedy (0-1).
D Clarke; P Durcan, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; C Barrett, C Boyle, L Keegan; S Coen, S O’Shea; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, J Doherty; J Durcan, C O’Connor, A Moran.
D O’Connor for O’Shea (29, inj); C Hanley for Boyle (HT, bc); E O’Donoghue for Barrett (56); E Regan for C O’Connor (68); C Loftus for Moran (69); D Kirby for D O’Connor (70).
E Comerford; S O’Connell, A Campbell, J Meagher; J Feehan, R Kiely, B Maher; S O’Brien, J Kennedy; J Keane, P Austin, L McGrath; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, B Fox.
L Boland for Austin (59); L Casey for Kennedy (60); K O’Halloran for McGrath (65); K Fahey for Feehan (65); J Lonergan for Keane (68); G Hannigan for O’Brien (72).
M Deegan (Laois).
Jack Kennedy’s point attempt to put Tipperary four up early in the second-half. The ball sailed right and wide. It could have even been a goal had he spotted Robbie Kiely inside him. As it was, Tipperary were outscored by 1-9 to 0-1 from there to the finish.
Michael Quinlivan’s outrageous point in first-half stoppage time.
Rose above Paddy Durcan to field Robbie Kiely’s delivery and with his back to goal, curled over a near-impossible effort with his left boot.
Tipperary. Yes, their championship is over, but after their disaster of a showing against Cork, Liam Kearns’ charges needed to show some bottle here. And they did.
The Mayo midfield. Another soldier down.
The sight of Seamie O’Shea writhing in pain on the ground and subsequently, a member of the Mayo medical team holding up his left arm as he walked off the field would suggest his summer is over. Said Stephen Rochford: “Doesn’t particularly look good. Minimum dislocation.”
The Mayo management did very little to address the significant amount of space in front of Tipperary’s inside line of Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney. Had they instructed Keith Higgins, the spare man in the Mayo defence, to stop his forward runs and stand sentry in front of this pair, it would have put an end to Tipperary’s hugely successful ploy of pumping long ball in over the top.
Kevin McLoughlin was the sole Mayo player doing the business before James Durcan’s goal turned the game. On the Tipperary side, Bill Maher, Brian Fox, Robbie Kiely and Steven O’Brien were excellent for the opening 55 minutes.
A handful of soft frees doled out by Maurice Deegan, while, in other instances, textbook fouls were overlooked.
Mayo are in the bowl for this morning’s third-round qualifier draw. The Tipperary footballers, similar to the county’s hurlers, have the remainder of summer to themselves.