At full time James Horan could breath a sigh of relief, the controversy and media storm sparked by Conor Mortimer's decision to leave the Mayo panel was put on the back-burner and he could enjoy having guided Mayo to back-to-back Connacht football titles for the first time since 1997.
Sunday's win didn't come easy for Mayo, who showed signs of ring rustiness which could be expected as Sunday's game was only Mayo's second competitive outing since the National League Final on the last weekend in April almost three months ago. Even their semi-final win over Leitrim wasn't ideal preparation as the men from Shannonside wilted as soon as Mayo crashed home their first goal of the game.
Danny Geraghty kicked Mayo into the lead in the third minute, but from when Mark Breheny kicked Sligo's second point until Colm Boyle's somewhat controversial point six minutes before time Mayo didn't lead. Sligo leveled the game through Balla native Alan Costello on the six minute mark. Costello caught a free from distance perfectly and it flew over the bar from 55m out. Mayo were having plenty of the ball in the opening stages, but their decision making at times was shocking, be it making an extra pass that wasn't need or poor finishing, they coughed up the ball on far to many occasions. Sligo extended their lead to two points from David Kelly's boot on the 15 minute mark. Five minutes later that lead was pushed out to three points when Paul McGovern waltzed down the stand side of the filed unchecked to create an overlap which allowed space to be made for Adrian Marren to score.
Andy Moran did have a goal disallowed in between all those Sligo scores, for an illegal hand pass in the build up, but Mayo were the architects of their own misfortune on too many occasions. Jason Doherty missed a decent chance, Keith Higgins was broke through, but fisted the ball wide, then Andy Moran wasted a similar chance. Mayo's second point came from Enda Varley who pointed a free from close range. Five minutes before the break, Donal Vaughan broke though the Sligo defence with ease and ended up 13 meters out from goal, but he seemed to panic and tried to lay the ball off rather and finish it himself and Mayo turned over the ball. Sligo broke from deep and and worked the ball up the field which ended up with them winning a free close to goal which Marren dispatched with ease.
Next up to fail to finish a glorious chance was Barry Moran (who was top class in the middle of the park and picked up the official man of the match award ). Moran was played in after some good link up play by Jason Doherty and Alan Dillon, the Castlebar man seemed to get caught in two minds between shooting for goal or for point and his shot was blocked by the Sligo defence. Mayo did close the gap to two points at the break thanks to Alan Dillon, who scored a trade mark point, looping around from behind the man in possession to collect the space he needed to put the ball over the bar.
The second half was a tit for tat affair with Mayo pegging Sligo back on a number of occasions, only for the Yeats County men to go back down the field and push their noses just back in front. Andy Moran opened the scoring for Mayo with a point on 37 minutes, Mark Breheny responded two minutes later. Six minutes into the half, Mayo played their ace card. Barry Moran and Danny Geraghty had been winning a fair amount of ball between them in the middle of the park, but the introduction of Aidan O'Shea for Mayo turned the game in their favour. Moran continued to win a lot of clean ball in the air, while O'Shea contributed the physical momenutum and go forward drive that Mayo needed over the final stretch of the contest. Cillian O'Connor pointed from a free to leave Mayo trailing by 0-6 to 0-5 after 42 minutes. One minute later, O'Shea flicked down and throw ball out on the stand side of the park, the ball went to the industrious Kevin McLoughlin who found Barry Moran way out the far side of the field. Moran charged at goal before he sent it over the bar to bring Mayo level for the first time since the 13th minute. But Sligo weren't going to bend the knee just yet and Marren pushed his side back into the lead on 46 mintues. Three more times in the next 11 minutes Mayo would pull themselves level, only for Sligo to go back down the pitch and put themselves back into the lead. Kevin Walsh's side showed plenty of mental resolve not to capitulate under massive pressure from Mayo at times in the second half. Alan Dillon, O'Connor and Aidan O'Shea got the three leveling points for Mayo with sub David Maye kicking a free and a 45' to go with Marren's point to leave the score at 0-9 to 0-9 coming around the final bend.
With six minutes or so left on the clock, Colm Boyle kicked what proved to be a pivotal and controversial score. Vaughan picked out Andy Moran who did really well to hold onto the ball, Moran played it into Aidan O'Shea whose hand pass played in Boyle on the break. The Davitts man let fly with a shot that just about made it inside the post according to the umpires, while others would disagree with their assement. No matter what, it put Mayo back into the lead for the first time in 59 minutes. Cillian O'Connor drove over a 45 a minute later to put Mayo into a two point lead. But Sligo weren't done yet, Mark Breheny pointed a free to close the gap to the minimum with three minutes left on the clock and it all still to play for. The final score of the day came from the most unlikely of sources, Aidan O'Shea drove with purpose at the Sligo rearguard, but was forced to the left. He played the ball back to teak-tough Mayo wing back Lee Keegan who drove over a huge point to send Mayo back into a two point lead. There was still time for more drama as, man of the match Barry Moran was given his marching orders a minute into injury time for a second yellow card, but even that couldn't stop Mayo from making it a record equalling 44th Connacht Senior Football Champions, and keep the Mayo bandwagon rolling on to the August Bank Holiday weekend and the All Ireland quarter finals in Croke Park.
Mayo: C O’Connor 0-03 (2f, 1 ’45 ), A Dillon 0-02, A Moran, B Moran, L Keegan, C Boyle, A O’Shea, D Geraghty, E Varley (0-01f ) 0-01 each.
Sligo: A Marren 0-03 (0-02f ), D Maye (0-01f, 0-01 ’45 ), A Costello (0-02f ), M Breheny (0-01f ) 0-02 each, D Kelly 0-01.
Mayo: D Clarke, K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins, L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle, B Moran, D Geraghty, L Mc Loughlin, C O’Connor, A Dillon, E Varley, A Moran, J Doherty.
Subs used: A O’Shea for Geraghty, M Conroy for Varley, A Freeman for Doherty.
Sligo: P Greene, N Ewing, J Martyn, R Donovan, C Harrison, M Quinn, P McGovern, S McManus, T Taylor, A Costello, D Maye, B Egan, M Breheny, A Marren, D Kelly.
Subs used: E O’Hara for McManus, E Mullen for Taylor, S Coen for Costello, J Davey for McGovern, D Rooney for Quinn.
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath ).