Shane Boland played the captains role in leading Mayo to the Christy Ring Cup final after a hard fought 2-23 to 2-18 win over Derry in Hastings Insurance MacHale Park on Saturday.
Mayo looked to be home and dry in this game as time ticked down but a goal from Odhran McKeever put just just two between the sides on 66 minutes and when John Mullan pointed not long after there was just one point between the teams - with a draw sending Derry through and Mayo out.
But a relieving score from Joe Mooney followed three on the spin from Boland, who finished the day with 12 points to his name saw Mayo home and into their third Croke Park final in as many years.
Mayo had led by four at the break and when Kenny Feeney netted their second goal of the day on 56 minutes they established a six point cushion that looked like was going to see them home until Derry’s late fight back.
Boland’s dozen points was a stand out performance, with four them coming from play and all four of them exceptional scores under pressure in tight spots.
But the work rate of the team all over the field from front to back was phenomenal, the defence worked like demons to hassle and harry the Derry attack - goalkeeper Bobby Douglas pulled off a number of good saves and the attackers worked as hard as the defence.
Mayo will march on to take on Kildare in the final and after turning their season around in dramatic fashion in recent weeks, they’ll back themselves against the Leinster men.
Mayo headed to the dressing room leading by four points, but could have been even further ahead had Eoin Delaney been able to net a second goal for Mayo after he got in behind the Derry full back line in injury time - but his effort was well saved by Oisin Doherty in the Derry goal.
The first half was a free flowing affair with both sides putting together plenty of good passages of play and hitting a number of fine points.
Mayo went into a three point lead early doors thanks to a brace of scores from Shane Boland and one from Joseph McManus. The visitors had it all tied up on the scoreboard six minutes in thanks to a trio of points from Paddy Kelly, Odhran McKever and Cormac O’Doherty.
Boland and O’Doherty then traded pointed frees to leave it at four points each nine minutes in. Joe Mooney edged Mayo back in front with a long range point and then just before the quarter of the hour mark he needed for Mayo.
Shane Boland did well to win the ball tight to the end line and he found Mooney, who slipped and was able to get back off his knees before making his way towards he goal and hammering it home to put Mayo four clear.
O’Doherty cut the gap back to three before Mayo hit Derry for three points on the spin from Daniel Huane, Keith Higgins and David Kenny. Derry weren’t going away though and the hit Mayo for 1-2 in quick succession.
Richie Mullan drove over a long range free then John Mullan broke through the heart of the Mayo defence and drove the ball low to the net - that was quickly followed a Gerald Bradly score and there was just one point in it, with Mayo leading 1-8 to 1-7.
Sean Kenny pushed Mayo two clear from a free out on the left before Mayo landed another trio of scores on the spin through Eoin Delaney, Boland and Mooney. The final score of the half came deep into injury time from a O’Doherty free to leave four between them at the break.
Mayo: Shane Boland (0-12, 8f ), Joe Mooney (1-3 ), Kenny Feeny (1-1 ), Joe McManus (0-2 ), David Kenny (0-1 ), Keith Higgins (0-1 ), Sean Kenny (0-1, 1f ), Eoin Delaney (0-1 ), Daniel Huane (0-1 )
Derry: John Mullan (1-3 ), Cormac O’Doherty (0-6, 5f ), Odhran McKeever (1-2 ), Darragh McGilligan (0-2 ), Deghlan Foley(0-2 ), Richie Mullan (0-1 ), Paddy Kelly (0-1 ), Gerald Bradley (0-1 )
Mayo: Bobby Douglas; Gary Nolan, Stephen Coyne, Paul Kirwin; Mark Phillips, Ger McManus, David Kenny; Keith Higgins, Daniel Huane; Sean Kenny, Joe Mooney, Adrian Phillips; Eoin Delaney, Joe McManus, Shane Boland. Subs: Kenny Feeney for Mark Phillips, Patrick Lyons for Adrian Phillips, Brian Hunt for Kenny Feeney
Derry: Oisin O’Doherty; Ciaran Hendry, Mark Craig, Darragh McCloskey; Conor Kelly, Richie Mullan, Paddy Kelly; Cormac O’Doherty, Darragh McGilligan; Fintan Bradley, John Mullan, Brian McGilligan; Tiernan McHugh, Odhran McKever, Gerald Bradley. Subs: Deghlan Foley for Fintan Bradley, Gabriel Farren for Ciaran Hendry
Ref: Brian McKeown (Galway )