Derry 2-15 Mayo 1-16
Fourteen-man Derry produced a heroic performance at Croke Park to qualify for the NFL final.
Led by their inspirational captain Mark Lynch, the Oak Leafers refused to surrender and Lynch’s nine points tally led them to a massive victory at Croke Park.
Midfielder Fergal Doherty was sent off for a second booking after 23 minutes, but the Ulster men regrouped and put in a rousing display of hard work to get the better of the westerners.
Aidan O’Shea and Jason Gibbons plucked a series of high balls out of the air to set Mayo on the attack in the closing stages, with Alan Freeman knocking over a couple of frees and O’Shea claiming a tidy point.
But Derry stayed in touch with scores from Mark Lynch and Ciaran McFaul, before Emmet McGuckin brought them level in the 12th minute.
They struck for a goal a minute later, the ball worked cleverly through several pairs of hands before Cailean O’Boyle gathered to drive a low shot past Robert Hennelly from 10 yards.
But the Ulster men suffered a double blow in the 23rd minute, conceding a goal and losing a man.
Andy Moran picked his spot in the bottom corner of Thomas Mallon’s net as he finished off a move involving Kevin McLoughlin and Mickey Sweeney.
Referee Padraig Hughes the revisited an incident earlier in the sequence, showing a second yellow card to Derry midfielder Fergal Doherty, who had made a late challenge on O’Shea as he delivered from halfway.
However, the Oak Leafers lifted their game, led by their inspirational captain Mark Lynch, who hammered over a couple of superb scores from play, having already converted three frees.
Sean Leo McGoldrick was also on target as Derry moved a point in front, going in at the break with a 1-8 to 1-7 advantage.
Freeman stroked over his third free before Jason Doherty rifled over the lead point, a fiercely struck shot just clearing the crossbar.
Just moments after executing an excellent block in his own full back line, Jason Gibbons popped up to fist the point that eased his side three clear, and the westerners could have had a second goal, but Thomas Mallon produced a fine save to deny Donal Vaughan.
Derry got themselves level again in the 50th minute with a wonderfully crafted goal, McGoldrick wrong-footing the Mayo defence before off-loading to his half back partner Kevin Johnston to punch home.
Mayo responded with points from Freeman and Jason Doherty, but once again Derry hit back going level for the eighth time through Lynch.
Colm Boyle, an assured figure at the heart of the Mayo defence, made a couple of vital interventions, and they went back in front when Fereman converted a ’45, after Mallon had saved from Lee Keegan.
Derry delved deep into their reserves of energy to give it one last effort, with Chrissy McKaigue in inspired form at full back and they somehow summoned the strength to boot the last four points of the game, including another Lynch special.
Derry: T Mallon, O Duffy, C McKaigue, D McBride, K Johnston (1-0), G O’Kane, SL McGoldrick (0-1), F Doherty, P Bradley, C McFaul (0-1), M Lynch (0-9, 5f), E Lynn (0-1), B Heron, E McGuckin (0-1), C O’Boyle (1-1).
Subs: N Holly for O’Boyle, A Devlin for Heron, E Bradley (0-1) for P Bradley, A McAlynn for McGuckin, C Keilt for Johnston, C McWilliams for McFaul.
Mayo: R Hennelly, B Harrison, G Cafferkey, S McHale, L Keegan (0-1), C Boyle, D Vaughan, A O’Shea (0-1), J Gibbons (0-1), K Higgins (0-1), A Moran (1-1, 0-1f), J Doherty (0-2), K McLoughlin, A Freeman (0-6, 5f, 1 ’45), M Sweeney (0-2).
Subs: K Keane for Cafferkey, E Varley (0-1) for McLoughlin, T Parsons for Higgins, S O’Shea for Gibbons, R Feeney for Doherty
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).