Mayo pay the penalty
GAA: NFL Division 1
By Colm Gannon, Mchale Park
Sunday's game against Tyrone wasn't ever going to be season defining, but it did give Mayo plenty food for thought as they head into a three-week break before their next outing against Dublin in Croke Park. In the space of eight minutes on Sunday, Mayo looked to have salvaged a win from a very ordinary and at often times poor performance, only to have it snatched away from them at the death thanks to a last gasp penalty.
It was a confusing performance from Mayo on Sunday, they dominated possession for long periods of the game and Aidan O'Shea lorded the midfield battle, yet they couldn't turn those major advantages into scores on the board. Tyrone's defensive strategy worked from the get go and they choked off the Mayo attack whenever the ball came into the danger zone. Jason Doherty for the second week in a row kicked six points for Mayo, but once again only one of them was from play. Of Mayo's eleven points, only three of them came from play Lee Keegan and sub Donal Vaughan chipping in with the other two from play. While only two more players contributed to the scores Keith Higgins with a goal and Kevin McLoughlin who kicked three second half frees. It's going to be tough to win any game with only two points from play coming from your forward six, as Mayo learned in this game.
Yet despite those deficiencies two minutes into injury time in McHale Park, Mayo found themselves surprisingly leading by two points. With three minutes left in normal time, the Ulster men were in a commanding four point lead or so they thought. Having not threatened to bag a goal all afternoon, Mayo found that little gap they needed to get in behind the choking Tyrone defence when Jason Doherty picked up a ball from Barry Moran on the stand side of the field. The Burrishoole man looked like he had held onto the ball for to long, but he saw Keith Higgins making a break from deep and flicked a looping hand pass into the Ballyhaunis mans path. Higgins was clear through on goal and showed the instincts of an forward and lashed a powerful strike past Niall Morgan at his near post. The goal brought the home crowd to their feet and put and put a pep in the step of the Mayo team. A minute later the game was all tied up. Lee Keegan and Michael Conroy combined to play in Donal Vaughan who could have taken on a goal but he drove the ball over the par to restore parity. The game ticked into the first minute of injury time and Alan Dillon who made a welcome return to action for the first time this year won a free out on the McHale Road side of the ground, which Doherty converted, putting Mayo into the lead for the first time since the 17th minute. That lead was pushed out to two points within a minute after Conroy and Doherty combined to engineer another free which the Burrishoole man slotted over the bar with ease. But the drama was far from over, Stephen O'Neill had been pulled out to the middle of park by Mickey Harte during the second half of the game. He won the ball out near the middle of the park and pushed his was past Aidan O'Shea before launching the ball in on top of his full forward line. The initial ball wasn't claimed by either side and fell to Mark Donnelly. The Tyrone number 15 shaped to shoot and got a helping hand on his back from Keith Higgins, how much contact that Higgins made is hard to know, but Donnelly went down as he pulled the trigger. Maurice Deegan signaled for a penalty almost instantly and despite the protesting of the Mayo defenders and even after speaking to his umpires, the Laois man wasn't for turning.
Up stepped Stephen O'Neill who calmly dispatched the ball to the back of the net, placing it low to the right hand corner, leaving David Clarke with no chance. There was still a chance for Mayo to level it up again after they work the ball downfield from the kick off, but Donal Vaughan's effort sailed wide of the target.
The game started off with Mayo going into a 0-2 to 0-0 win inside the opening ten minutes, Doherty kicked his first score of the day from a free after Aidan O'Shea was fouled five minutes in. The lead was doubled five minutes later when Lee Keegan, swept over a stunning strike with his left foot from the stand side of the pitch. Tyrone pulled a point back 12 minutes in when Peter Harte who finished off a move started by Mark Donnelly from deep in his own half after Mayo turned over possession. Doherty responded for Mayo with a point from play after Michael Conroy won a long ball in from Aidan O'Shea to set him up, a minute later. Sean Cavanagh kicked a point from the McHale Road side sideline to cut the gap to one and Peter Harte pulled the game level on 17 minutes. Two minutes later Tyrone went into the lead for the first time when Stephen O'Neill pointed. Mayo pulled level once again thanks to another Doherty free on 22 minutes, but that was to be their last score of the half, while Tyrone tacked on two more points from frees by goalkeeper Niall Mallon who was called on to take the long range efforts to send in his side leading 0-6 to 0-4 at the turn around.
Two early points after the start of the second half from Doherty and Kevin McLoughlin frees had the game level, but Tyrone responded well and added on two more points in the opening ten minutes of the half and went on to build up the four point lead they had, before the hectic final few minutes that had everyone in the ground on their feet.
Mayo: J Doherty (0-6, 5f), K McLoughlin (0-3, 3f), K Higgins (1-0), L Keegan (0-1), D Vaughan (0-1)
Tyrone: S O'Neill (1-1, 1 Pen), P Harte (0-2), N Morgan (0-2, 2f), R McNamee (0-1), C McCarron (0-1), D McCurry (0-1, 1f), M Penrose (0-1), C McAlliskey (0-1)
Mayo: D Clarke; K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; C Boyle, T Cunniffe, C Barrett; A O'Shea, S O'Shea; L Keegan, R Feeney, C Freeman; K McLoughlin, J Doherty, M Conroy. Subs: B Moran for S O'Shea(HT), A Dillon for C Barrett (54), E Varley for C Freeman (54), D Vaughan for C Boyle (61)
Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCroy, J McMahon, C Gormley; R Mckenna, J McMahon, R McNamee; C Clarke, S Cavanagh; P McNiece, P Harte, P Keane; C McAlliskey, S O'Neill, M Donnelly. Subs: C McCarron (12), M Penrose for P Keane (HT), D McCurry for P Harte (44), J Lafferty for P McNiece, R O'Neill for C Clarke (53),
Ref: M Deegan (Laois)