Mayo fell to their third defeat in as many weeks when Cork, snatched victory right at the death in McHale Park on Sunday. The defeat leaves Mayo third last in the division one table with both of last years All Ireland finalists left for James Horan's side in the final two games. For the second week in a row Mayo went in leading at the break and with a man advantage, but once again they weren't able to make it count at the final whistle. Asked after the game did Mayo throw it away James Horan responded by saying “We should have won it, if that equates to what you’re saying. We had a couple of chances. We gave away a couple of hand-passes near the end and that’s what killed us – simple skills execution at key teams. When we needed to hold onto the ball we panicked a little bit. That costs you, which it probably should at this level. We’ll just have to get at it next week.”
With 19 minutes left on the clock Mayo were leading by five points and looked to have the outcome of the game in their own hands. However, Cork outscored them by 0-8 to 0-2 from that moment on.
Alan Freeman got things going four minutes into the game when he pointed after Michael Conroy won a long ball in from Barry Moran, Cork equalised through Donnacha O'Connor six minutes later and went into the lead on 17 minutes when Colm O'Neill kicked a free from the left hand side. It was the only time that they led right up until the final score of the game. Mayo kicked back with a fine score from Donal Vaughan who charged up the right wing with the ball and it was followed by a great point from Michael Conroy out on the left after the ball was worked down the field at pace by Keith Higgins, Shane McHale and Barry Moran. McHale who was making his debut put in a very impressive performance for his first start in a national league game for Mayo. Alan Dillon doubled Mayo's lead when he was given time a space to slot over from a central position on 22 minutes, but Mayo were coming under pressure in the middle of the park and if it wasn't for Cork's poor final ball, Mayo could have been in trouble. A Patrick Kelly free cut the gap to a single point with ten minutes left before the break and a minute later Mayo were forced into a change when Lee Keegan who picked up an injury last week was forced from the action to be replaced by Peadar Gardiner. He was quickly followed to the bench by Cillian O'Connor who was replaced by Conor Mortimer who had been dropped from the starting 15.
Conroy extended Mayo's lead to two points with a well taken score on 31 minutes and three minutes later Conor Mortimer pointed after Andy Moran had battled hard to win possession. With normal time just up in the half, Cork were reduced to 14 men when Mark Collins was shown the line by referee Joe McQuillian for an off the ball incident involving Donal Vaughan, which left the Ballinrobe man on the ground. Alan Dillon extended the gap to four points deep into injury time in the half.
The second half started well for Mayo with Andy Moran kicking a point to finish off a move started by himself and involving Donal Vaughan and Alan Dillon in the build up. Cork tagged on two points in reply through O'Connor and Sean Kiely. Seamus O'Shea was forced out of the game injured on 42 minutes with Danny Geraghty replacing him. Shortly afterwards Conor Mortimer kicked two points in a row to push the lead out to double figures. Michael Conroy became the next in the line of walking wounded for Mayo to be forced from the action and he was replaced by Jason Doherty on 49 minutes. Donnacha O'Connor cut the gap back to four points with a shot from 21 yards out, before Kevin McLoughlin drove at the heart of the Cork defence with a powerful run before slotting the ball over the bar.
Cork began to eat into Mayo's lead from this point on, O'Connor pointed from a 45' after Ger Cafferkey had pulled off an amazing last ditch block on goal bound shot from the same player after it had been flicked into his hands by Aidan Walsh. Paul Kerrigan cracked a huge point from distance to cut the gap to three points with 15 minutes left. Mayo did respond through Andy Moran who landed a booming effort from out on the right, which was responded too by points from Barry O'Driscoll and Patrick Kelly to put three between the sides with nine minutes on the watch. Aidan Walsh kicked cut the gap to two points with six to go. Then Alan Dillon got his second yellow card of the game for a foul in the build up to a free pointed by O'Connor which had the gap at only one point. Paul Kerrigan leveled the contest up on 70 minutes and there were two minutes of injury time to go and the wind was with the rebels. The won the ball in the middle of the park and it was worked out to the stand side of the field, Paudie Kissane took aim and drove an effort towards the goal. It looked to be drifting wide, but clipped the post and bounced back into the arms of O'Connor who held off the challenge of Keith Higgins and slotted it over the bar.
Asked after the game should his side have closed it out, Horan admitted his side should have “Yeah, and we didn’t. There were a couple of things we didn’t do like we should have – we should have kicked on a little bit more, we gave the ball away at key times in absolutely crazy situations. That cost us ultimately.” Next up for Mayo is the visit of the All Ireland champions, next Saturday evening at 7pm.
Cork: D O'Connor (0-6, 2f, 1 45' ), P Keily (0-2 ), P Kerrigan (0-2 ), F Gould (0-1 ), S Keily (0-1 ), , B O'Driscoll (0-1 ), A Walsh (0-1 ), C O'Neill (0-1, 1f )
Mayo: C Mortimer (0-3, 1f ), A Moran (0-2 ), M Conroy (0-2 ), A Dillon (0-2 ), A Freeman (0-1 ), D Vaughan (0-1 ), K McLoughlin (0-1 ), J Doherty (0-1 )
Mayo: D Clarke; C Boyle, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, D Vaughan, S McHale; S O'Shea, B Moran; K McLoughlin, C O'Connor, A Dillon; A Freeman, A Moran, M Conroy. P Gardiner for L Keegan (26 mins ), C Mortimer for C O'Connor (28 mins ), D Geraghty for S O'Shea (42 mins ), J Doherty for M Conroy (49 mins ), A Campbell for C Boyle (64 mins )
Cork: A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, E Cotter; N O'Leary, S Kiely, P Kissane; P O'Neill, A O'Connor; F Gould, M Collins, P Kelly; C O'Neill, A Walsh, D O'Connor. Subs: P Kerrigan for C O'Neill (HT ), Barry O'Driscoll for F Gould (57 mins )
Ref: J McQuillian (Cavan )