Mayo ensured that when the league throws in next Spring they will be competing in division one with a hard fought win over the All Ireland champions in McHale Park on Sunday. The two points which they had worked hard to secure all day, could quite easily have been zero points at the death all the same. With Mayo leading by two points a minute into injury time the rebels could have grabbed a game winning goal. Eoin Cadogan sauntered down the stand side of the field unmarked and unnoticed by the Mayo defence, the ball was eventually worked into his hands ten yards out from goal. He went for it, but Ger Cafferkey managed to get his body in the way and block the ball at the last second. While a victory over the All Ireland champions is always something to savor, it was Mayo who let Cork back into the game, without the men from Leeside ever really having to up their performance substantially from the pace they had gone through the opening 55 minutes in.
When Alan Freeman landed a splendid point with 53 minutes gone, he put Mayo 1-13 to 0-9 up and in a good position to close out the game, but they took their foot off the gas and Cork dragged themselves back within touching distance of going home with what looked like it would be an unlikely victory after Freeman's point. The decisive score in the contest came from the boot of Burrishoole's Jason Doherty on 45 minutes when he bagged his sixth goal of the league campaign. The move was started by Aidan O'Shea who looked much more comfortable in the middle of the park than in the full forward line. He pirouetted around a wood-be Cork challenge, before he laid the ball off to Ger Cafferkey. The Ballina man had a shot for a point which he badly miscued to the right of the posts. Doherty didn't give up on the ball and he won it under pressure, then cut inside his marker and arrowed a shot for goal. His effort was well saved by Ken O'Halloran, but Doherty managed to pick himself up off the deck and toe poke the rebound to the back of the net. It was a case of third time lucky for Doherty on the goal front. In the first half he was in with a sniff of a three pointer, but was blown up for over carrying. Just two minutes into the second half, he flicked a long ball in from Andy Moran into the arms of Alan Freeman who slipped a pass back into Doherty behind the cover. The Burrishoole man pulled the trigger, only to see Michael Shields get back to pull off a goal saving block at the last moment.
Cork drew first blood on the scoreboard in the opening half when Paul Kerrigan opened the scoring less than a minute into the encounter, the visitors doubled their advantage on six minutes when Daniel Goulding landed the first of his seven points for the day. Andy Moran hit back for Mayo shortly afterwards with a point from distance and a minute later Alan Dillon had the tie level after he fisted the ball over the bar. James Kilcullen pushed Mayo into the lead in the first time after 12 minutes. The game was leveled up by a point from Fiachra Lynch shortly afterwards when the Cork full forward found himself unmarked in acres of space in front of the Mayo goal. The game fell into a pattern of point for point action, and with ten minutes left in the opening half the game was tied at five points each. Jason Doherty put Mayo into the lead once again on 27 minutes which was followed a couple of minutes later by another fine score from James Killcullen. Goulding had the gap back to the minimum at the break when he landed another free just before the median whistle.
After the turnaround Cork were once again first to get on the scoreboard when Pearse O'Neill arced the ball over the bar from the left hand side. Mayo's first point came from a free from Alan Dillon, who put in a superb display before he had to come off near the end. Mayo went on to hit 1-3 without reply in the next ten minutes, the pick of the points was a score from Aidan O'Shea who with the outside of left boot cut the ball over the bar with a bending effort from the left hand side of the field. Mayo were in control of the game at this stage and looked to be cruising to victory. Goulding hit his sides first point in 13 minutes from a free to leave the score 1-11 to 0-8. Cillian O'Connor and Freeman added the final two points for Mayo, before the rebells started eating into the lead that Mayo had built up before the final whistle. The win ensured Mayo's safety in division one for another year and gives Mayo manager James Horan a chance to have a look at a few other fringe players in next weeks game with Monaghan, safe in the knowledge that a win isn't an essential.
Mayo: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, A Feeney, K Higgins; R Feeney, G Cafferkey, L Keegan; A O'Shea (0-1 ), J Killcullen (0-2 ); K McLoughlin, A Dillon (0-5,1f ), A Moran (0-2 ); C O'Connor (0-1,1f ), A Freeman (0-1 ), J Doherty (1-1 ). Subs E Reilly, J Gibbons, E Varley, P Gardiner, A Campbell
Cork: K O'Halloran, R Carey, J O'Sullivan, M Shields; S Kiely (0-1 ), N O'Leary, E Caddigan; A O'Connor, J Fitzpatrick; F Goold, K O'Driscoll, P O'Neill(0-2 ); D Goulding (0-7 ), F Lynch (0-1 ), P Kerrigan (0-1 ). Subs: J Miskella (0-2 ), D O'Sullivan, P O'Flynn
Ref: R Hickey