A cursory glance at the final score of this one would give those who weren’t paying attention to the action the impression that this was just another regulation win for a division one team against a lower ranked side in the qualifiers.
But that is far, far from the truth, with the sun shining and the heat stifling on the field, Mayo were put to the pin of their collar right until a lucky punch knocked the stuffing out of a brave and hard battling Tipperary outfit.
The Mayo cavalcade made their way to the home of hurling in their thousands once again on St John’s Eve and were at least 70 per cent of the 11,257 of the population of the ground that labels itself as the Field of Legends and they were worried it would be the last adventure of this summer for long periods of this game.
Mayo did run away with it in the end and they will take plenty from the way they kept their foot down over the final 20 odd minutes when they were shown a gap that they didn’t just slink through, but barged through with the power and ferocity that has been the hallmark of this team over the last eight seasons.
They did hit the ground running and looked to have the game well under control in the early exchanges. Cillian O’Connor got things moving inside the opening minute with a neatly taken free after Keith Higgins was fouled after a probing run.
The Mayo captain doubled their lead two minutes later from another placed ball after Andy Moran was the one impeded this time.
But in between those two scores Mayo were shown exactly what Tipperary’s tactic was going to be. A ball was horsed in on top of Michael Quinlivan by Philip Austin but Ger Cafferkey got across and got a palm to the ball to beat it away.
The bombardment of balls into Qunilivan - who was picked up by Paddy Durcan for the day and Conor Sweeney who had Cafferkey for company was a running theme for the evening and one that gave plenty of heart in mouth moments for the Mayo faithful as they awaited the outcome of each one.
Mayo did drop Higgins back into a nominal sweeping role - but the Ballyhaunis man was often stationed a good 20 meters away from the Tipperary twin towers and their Mayo markers.
Aidan O'Shea barges Jimmy Feehan out of the way. Photo: Sportsfile
With four minutes on the clock, Aidan O’Shea put Mayo three points clear with a neatly clipped over score after some good running play inlacing the likes of Stephen Coen, Andy Moran and James Durcan - who was a late addition to the starting 15 in place of Cian Hanley.
Seams O’Shea had Mayo four points in front on the six minute mark after some good work by James Durcan to keep the ball moving and all looked to be rosey in the garden for Mayo.
But things rarely work out that simply for this Mayo team and the game was about to get turned on its head.
Philip Austin - who himself was a late addition to the starting 15 for the hosts got their scoreboard ticking with fine score after Mayo coughed up the ball in a promising attacking position eight minutes in.
A minute later the game was level. As Mayo once again turned over the ball in the Tipperary half of the field unnecessarily and the ball was fed to Josh Keane who had just one thing on his mind when he looked at what was ahead of him.
He could see Qunlivan making a darting run across the goal with just Durcan for company and Higgins a good 15 meters away from being able to offer cover.
He directed a beautifully tempting ball that dropped half-way-between the 14m line and the goal. It was all a matter of who got their first, David Clarke came for the ball and Durcan wan’t able to off the ground and the big Clonmel Commricals man got their first to flick it to the net.
Now it was game on.
Michael Quinlivan fists it into the back of the net! pic.twitter.com/cCQf6YSRmA— The GAA (@officialgaa ) June 23, 2018
Philip Austin pushed his side ahead of the first time two minutes later with a neat score, Mayo had a chance to level it up not long after but Cillian O’Connor skewed his effort wide of the post.
Mayo did return the game to parity just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark when Kevin McLoughlin’s effort scraped inside the near post - the umpires were in no doubt, despite the questioning of some of the Tipperary defence.
The hosts edged their way back into the lead on 18 minutes when Liam McGrath slipped over a regulation free after Austin was fouled by Lee Keegan on the edge of the 14 meter line.
They pushed that lead out to two points on the 20 minute mark when Conor Sweeney swept over a point, that had its DNA in Tipperary’s long ball tactic. Initially Ger Cafferkey had done really well to break the ball away from Sweeney.
But the ball broke to Colm Boyle and off him back into the arms of Sweeney who slotted it over the black spot.
James Durcan kicked his first point of the day to cut the gap back to one on 22 minutes and Cillian O’Connor levelled it up with 11 minutes to go before the break from another placed ball after Jason Doherty had done brilliantly to engineer a free after chasing down a lost cause on the endline.
Tipperary almost got in for another goal, nine minutes before the break when Quinlivan once again got the ball ahead of Durcan and was able to shape and have a shot at goal - which was well saved by David Clarke.
But referee Maurice Deegan called the play back for a foul in the build up and McGrath put the ball over the bar from the resulting free to edge Tipperary back in front again.
Mayo were dealt a major blow for not only this game, but what could have a major impact on their hopes for the rest of the season when Seamus O’Shea had to leave the field with a shoulder injury - leaving Mayo now without their two first choice starting midfielders after Tom Parsons was ruled out for the rest of the season.
Jack Kennedy tagged on Tipperary’s sixth point of the day on 31 minutes after a scything run through the middle of the park - which was responded too by O’Connor’s fourth free of the half not long after.
As the half edged into injury time, Hawkeye was called into action as the umpires could not decide for sure if Quinlivan’s brilliant effort had scraped inside the posts.
Technology came to the aid of officiating crew and the homeside as it showed that the home fans favourite had indeed gone between the sticks, to put his side into a 1-7 to 0-8 lead at the break.
On his way: Colm Boyle was shown a black card just before the break. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo’s cause was further hindered when just before the half-time whistle went Colm Boyle on the occasion of his 100th appearance for the county in league and championship action was shown a black card and had to leave the fray - to be replaced by Cian Hanley after the resumption of the contest.
Mayo rejigged their midfield at the start of the second half with Diramuid O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea manning the middle third at the start.
They managed to cut the gap to just one point inside the opening exchanges with Jason Doherty - who put in an excellent shift for the county putt the ball over the bar after some good link up play involving O’Shea and Andy Moran.
The game was levelled up three minutes in when Cillian O’Connor slotted over another free after Kevin McLoughlin was fouled after he effected a good turnover of the ball on the Tipperary 45 meter line.
In winning the free McLoughlin was forced out of the action temporarily after and was replaced by Evan Regan as a blood sub for seven minutes.
Mayo had chances to push themselves in front, but Barrett and then Regan pulled efforts wide and Cillian O’Connor then dropped one short into the keepers arms.
Tipperary then hit three in three minutes as they looked to have regained control of the game with Quinlivan, McGrath and Sweeney all hit excellent scores to put their side into a 1-10 to 0-10 lead with 23 minutes to go and it looked like Mayo were taking on serious water.
But one thing we have learned over the years is that this Mayo team do not wilt that easily in the heat of championship action.
James Durcan got his second point of the day when the was put through after solid link up work by Aidan O’Shea and Stephen Coen - he could have rattle the net from his effort, but he pulled it over the bar.
McGrath stretched his sides lead back out to three points on 51 minutes and amazingly that was the last time that Tipperary registered a score for the rest of the game as Mayo took control of the contest.
The direction of the game fortuitously changed in Mayo’s favour more so than down to any real change in pace of the contest.
Keegan picked out Durcan tight to the old stand side of the field and he took an effort for a point that he undercooked.
But undercooked in the most delicious of ways for Mayo, as the ball arched into the only square foot of real estate in the Tipperary goal that Evan Comerford could not cover and landed in the back of the net.
Game on again.
Or so we thought.
James Durcan lobs it in and finds the net! pic.twitter.com/BJ5nhUwMBD— The GAA (@officialgaa ) June 23, 2018
But it was in fact game over as that levelling score knocked the stuffing out of the Tipperary stomach and Mayo smelling blood went for the kill and never let up against their dazed opponent.
McLoughlin launched over a long ranger, then Doherty hit two sweet ones in a row, followed by a driving effort from Paddy Durcan and Mayo were now four clear nine minutes after drawing level.
Andy Moran got his only score of the day from close range nine minutes from time, followed by a Lee Keegan point. The Westport man returned to the starting line up today and his strike running especially in the second half, showed exactly what Mayo had been missing during is long injury lay off.
The scoring was wrapped up through points from Conor Loftus and Kevin McLoughlin as Mayo eased their way through the final few minutes and put themselves in the bowl for the round three draw on Monday morning.
Job done for now, but another major job will have to be done again next weekend.
The journey continues and the dream still lives.
Mayo: J Durcan (1-2 ); C O’Connor (0-5, 0-5 frees ); K McLoughlin (0-4 ); J Doherty (0-2 ); P Durcan, S O’Shea, L Keegan, A O’Shea, C Hanley, A Moran (0-1 each ).
Tipperary: M Quinlivan (1-2 ); L McGrath (0-4, 0-2 frees ); C Sweeney, P Austin (0-2 each; J Kennedy (0-1 ).
Mayo: 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.
Subs: D O’Connor for O’Shea (29, inj ); C Hanley for Boyle (HT, bc ); E O’Donoghue for Barrett (56 ); C Loftus for Moran (69 ); D Kirby for D O’Connor (70 )
Tipperary: 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.
Subs: 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 ).
Subs: M Deegan (Laois ).