Mayo 1-12 Donegal 0-13
A late surge saw Mayo claim a win which looked unlikely for long stages in Castlebar.
It meant they were not relying on their neighbours Roscommon to do them a favour in order to remain in the top flight for another season
As it happens, Roscommon obliged with a surprise win in Cavan but Mayo took care of their own business in MacHale Park against 14-man Donegal who fell away in the second half.
Rory Gallagher’s men looked to be in control of this game when they took a three point lead in at half-time, having played into a strong wind.
Cian Mulligan stretched that lead to four points on 40 minutes but, incredibly, that would be Donegal’s last score of the game.
Mayo, for their part, were very poor for long spells.
They led by 1-4 to 0-3 after 13 minutes but saw Donegal outscore them 0-8 to 0-1 for the rest of the half.
Cillian O’Connor did not have his best day with dead balls and was wide with three kickable scores before he landed his first free on 59 minutes.
Mayo still trailed at that stage but they were starting to turn the screw. Old stagers like Keith Higgins, O’Connor, Lee Keegan and substitute Aidan O’Shea led the charge.
Higgins had started the comeback with a point before O’Connor’s free and, in between those scores, Donegal were reduced to 14 men when Eamonn Doherty was shown a straight red card after an altercation with O’Shea.
The Breaffy man was at the centre of plenty of incidents after his 45th minute introduction and he was one of four players booked after a mass brawl.
Four converted frees from O’Connor, a pair either side of a Keegan equaliser, saw Mayo over the line in front of a passionate home support.
Mayo manager Stephen Rochford admitted his team really had to go at Donegal in the second half to get a result.
“Donegal played the majority of the good football in the first half and we ended up being three points down at half-time so we needed to play a lot more on the front foot and we needed to hunt Donegal down because they owned the ball.”
Mayo had an ideal start with a penalty after five minutes after Cormac Reilly adjudged Donegal ‘keeper Mark Anthony McGinley fouled Cillian O’Connor. There were debates over whether it was inside the large parallelogram but O’Connor converted with aplomb.
Some great long range scores from Shane Nally and Danny Kirby helped Mayo to that 1-4 to 0-3 lead.
Then Donegal took over. Their running game and more incisive attacking movement had Mayo in bother and from the 13th minute to the 31st minute they kicked seven points without reply.
It looked a damning statistic for Mayo but, as it turned out, it was they who had the last six points to once again find a way to step up and save their Division 1 status on the last day of the league.
Scorers for Mayo: C O’Connor (1-5, 1-0 pen, 4fs), L Keegan (0-2), S Nally, D Kirby, A Moran, C Boyle, K Higgins (0-1 each).
Scorers for Donegal: M Murphy (0-4, 3fs, 1 ‘45), C Mulligan (0-3), C Thompson (0-2), M O’Reilly, EB Gallagher, J Brennan, F McGlynn (0-1 each).
MAYO: D Clarke, B Harrison, K Higgins, C Barrett, C Boyle, L Keegan, P Durcan, T Parsons, D Kirby, S Nally, F Boland, D Drake, K McLoughlin, C O’Connor, A Moran.
Subs: D O’Connor for Boland (h/t), S Coen for Boyle (h/t), A O’Shea for Kirby (45), J Doherty for Moran (59), D Vaughan for Drake (65), C O’Shea for Nally (70).
DONEGAL: MA McGinley, P McGrath, N McGee, E Doherty, EB Gallagher, K Lacey, F McGlynn, J McGee, M Murphy, C Mulligan, M Carroll, C Thompson, J Brennan , H McFadden, M O’Reilly.
Subs: E McHugh for McFadden (49), P McBrearty for Lacey (59), M McHugh for McGlynn (65), M McElhinney for McGrath (68), M Langan for J McGee (68).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved