“It could have ended a few of our careers if it didn't go according to plan” were the first words from Andy Moran after Mayo had just got over the line against a heroic London team in Ruislip on Sunday. Moran and Mayo had been given the fright of their lives by the exiles. Last years limp exit form the championship after defeats at the hands of Sligo and Longford, were seen by many as the lowest ebb for Mayo football for a number of years. But defeat against London, no matter how well London had played couldn't have been dressed up in any other way than a disaster. London left everything they had on the field and to a man could do no more. Full back Michael Maloney, centre half forward Paul Geraghty along with Tony Gaughan were the star men on display and gave their side leadership and drive that was all to often lacking from Mayo's performance.
Mayo had plenty of the ball and numerous scoring chances, but they were far to often driven wide of the posts or those in possession refused to take on the shot and preferred to pass the buck to the next man. Mayo never led the game at any stage during the regulation seventy minutes, Andy Moran's point two minutes after the start of extra time was the first time they had managed to pull ahead against the exiles. With 68 minutes gone on the clock, London went two points into the lead thanks to a point from Killian Phair and Mayo were staring down the barrel of a gun at that point. While the return of Trevor Mortimer to the panel may have been questioned by many, the Shurle Glencorrib man's huge point from way out the field closed the gap back to one and gave Mayo a chance to pull the game level, which Kevin McLoughlin did to break London hearts. Mayo still had two chances in injury time to win the game, but both Andy Moran and Jason Doherty pulled very kickable frees wide of the target. In reality if Mayo had won the game at the death it would have been a massive injustice to Paul Coggins team, whatever perceived lack of ability they had compared to Mayo was more than made up for by massive work-rate, hunger and drive from every man on the field.
Galway will be chomping at the bit to have a go at Mayo in the Connacht semi-final following this result and any Galway spies that were in the crowd will have plenty information to pass on. Trevor Howley was deployed as a sweeper between the midfield and his half back line. The result of this tactic was that London corner back Barry Comer followed Howley up the field and contributed two points for London over the course the afternoon.
London's first goal came 19 minutes into the first half when Paul Geraghty broke through the defence and played in John Scanlon whose shot was saved by Robert Hennelly, but Geraghty was
following up and drove the ball to the back of the net from the ground to to roars of approval from the home faithful. That goal saw London go in at half time leading by 1-4 to 0-4. Mayo were playing with the aid of a very strong breeze in the second half and most expected it along with the notice they had been served in the opening 35 minutes enough to kick them into life and over the line. But it was case of more of the same, as London hassled and harried while Mayo turned over possession or took the wrong option.
The introduction of Aidan O'Shea into the middle of the park went someway to redressing the failure of James Kilcullen and Jason Gibbons to get the better of their opponents. Until McLoughlin' equaliser the harsh and hard to believe reality of Mayo exiting the Connacht championship at the hands of London was a very real possibility. Mayo finally hit the ground running in the first period of extra time with Andy Moran leading the charge, landing three points on the trot with Cillian O'Connor adding another. But London weren't done yet, Sean Kelly dropped a free in front of the Mayo goal and Cathal O'Sullivan punched it to the net to close the gap to one point at the break, But that was the last real kick the exiles had in them as Mayo ground out the win over the final ten minutes in the second half of extra time.
Mayo: R Hennelly (0-1, 45 ); T Cunniffe, A Feeney, D Geraghty; R Feeney, D Vaughan, C Barrett; J Kilcullen (0-1 ), J Gibbons; A Campbell, A Moran (0-7, 2fs ), A Dillon (0-4 ); T Howley, A Freeman (0-1 ), J Doherty (0-1 ).
Subs: A O’Shea for Gibbons; K McLoughlin (0-2 ) for Campbell (both 43mins ); C O’Connor (0-1 ) for Howley; P Gardiner for Dillon (60 mins ); T Mortimer (0-1 ) for Barrett (67 mins ); A Dillon for Doherty (83 mins ).
London: E Byrne; B Comer (0-2 ), M Moloney, D McGreevy; S Doolan, T Gaughan, J Scanlon; D Hagan, S McVeigh (0-1 ); C McCallion, P Geraghty (1-1 ), M Gottsche (0-1 ); K O’Leary, P McGoldrick, E O’Neill (0-2, both 2 fs ).
Subs: S Kelly for McCallion (31 mins ); K Phair (0-2, one free ) for McGoldrick (53 mins ); J Collins (0-1 ) for O’Neill (55 mins ); C O’Sullivan (1-0 ) for Hagan (59 mins ); N Tuohy for Scanlon (60 mins ); C Conneely for Comer (76 mins ); M McCoy for Comer (80 mins ); L Gavaghan for Kelly (83 mins ).
Ref: M Collins (Cork )