Football is only a game, and after recent events in Sligo, the game gave that county a massive lift last Wednesday night when they claimed their first ever u20 (or u21 as the age grade used to be ) provincial title, in dramatic circumstances.
Mayo will be left wondering how they let this one slip away from them. They were the better side on the field for the majority of the game, but the concession of four goals, two each half, leaves them looking in from the outside as the competition moves on to the All Ireland series.
Maurice Sheridan's side looked to have the hard work done as the game moved into its final minutes. Paddy Heneghan had just netted a somewhat fortuitous goal with 50 minutes gone on the clock to put Mayo into a 1-10 to 2-3 lead. Two minutes later Sligo were reduced to 14 men when Shane Molloy was shown a straight red card for a rash challenge on Tom O'Flaherty, Frank Irwin kicked the resulting free over the bar and Mayo were five points clear and with a man advantage and less than eight minutes of normal time left.
But, this game was far from done and there was plenty of drama still left to unfold as the Yeats County men drove back into this game with desire and belief, despite their disadvantage on the scoreboard and numerically on the field.
Eoghan Smith reacted quickest after a long ball from a sideline was driven into the Mayo danger area and broke on the deck. That goal brought the gap back to two points. With five minutes left on the clock the same man hammered over a pointed free from long range and it was back to a single point game and the home faithful were in full-throated support of their side.
Mayo looked to have settled their nerves when Dylan Thornton drove through and laid the ball off to Niall Tracey who hammered it over the bar and Mayo were two clear once again - three minutes left in normal time at this stage.
But Sligo kept coming and Jack Lavin gained control of the ball on the stand side of the field out on the 45m line, he looked up and aimed the ball in on top of his attackers. The ball dropped and Mayo goalkeeper Brian O'Flaherty came to claim but misjudged the flight of the ball and it ended up in the back of the net and Sligo were two clear and in dreamland.
Mayo prodded and poked and tried to create an opening in the three minutes of injury time, but the Sligo defence remained resolute right until the final whistle and the crowd were in delirium as they soaked in what had just happened.
Sligo had led this one by a single point at the half time break, thanks to two goals from Jack Davitt.
His strikes in the 12th and 22nd minute and a number of wides for Mayo, saw the Yeats men hold a narrow advantage on a score of 2-3 to 0-8 at the turnaround.
Sligo were two to the good early doors thanks to points from Lee Duignan and James Donlon. Mayo levelled it up through points off the boot of Jack Fallon and Rory Morrin - before Davitt got his first goal 12 minutes in, he finished brilliantly to the net after being found by Duignan and then swapping passes with Matt Henry.
Mayo managed to reel off three points to level it up before Davitt got in for his second eight minutes form the break, he was picked out by a fine Duignan pass, broke for goal, threw a dummy and finished calmly to raise the green flag.
The visitors did find some form in front of the pots and some long range points from Paddy Heneghan, Frank Irwin and Tom Flaherty had them level as half time approached. But a late James Donlon point had Sligo in front at the short whistle. But the game was only about to get really interesting as the second half progressed.
Sligo: Jack Davitt (2-0 ), Eoghan Smith (1-1, 1f ), Jack Lavin (1-0 ), James Donlon (0-2 ), Lee Duignan (0-1 )
Mayo: Paddy Heneghan (1-3, 1f ), Frank Irwin (0-4, 3f ), Rory Morrin (0-2 ), Jack Fallon (0-1 ), Tom O’Flaherty (0-1 ), Niall Tracey (0-1 )
Sligo: Kyle Davey, Shane Molloy, Mark McGowan, Feidhlim O’Donnell; James Donlon, Jack Lavin, Conor Johnston; Canice Mulligan, Joseph Keaney; Matt Henry, Eoghan Smith, Dylan Walsh; Luke Marren, Lee Duignan, Jack Davitt. Subs: Ciaran O’Reilly for O’Donnell (BS ), Brian Byrne for Donlon, Oisin Flynn for Henry, Oisin Gorman for Duignan, Gavin Duffy for Marren, Luke Casserly for O’Donnell.
Mayo: Brian O’Flaherty; Alife Morrison, Ruairi Keane, Conal Dawson; Fenton Kelly, Donnacha McHugh, Aiden Cosgrove; Frank Irwin, Jack Fallon; Tom O’Flaherty, Dylan Thornton, Sean Morahan; Rory Morrin, Paddy Heneghan, Cian O’Connell. Subs: Cian McHale for O’Connell, Conor Reid for Morrin, Bob Tuohy for Dawson, Niall Tracey for Fallon.
Ref: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon )