Mayo booked their place in the All Ireland final for the second time in as many years, with a six point win over Tyrone. However, the performance itself was nowhere near what Mayo are capable of and that they have delivered this year. James Horan will be happy with the way his side dug in near the end of the first half and closed the gap to a point and drove home the win in the second half, but he and his players will also know there's plenty of more work to be done on the training ground in the coming weeks.
The dark cloud that hangs over this Mayo win is the shoulder injury picked up by Cillian O'Connor after only ten minutes, which forced him out of the game and by all probabilities, next months final. When O'Connor went of injured it rattled Mayo and it took them a good 15 minutes to sort themselves out and by that stage Tyrone were 0-6 to 0-3 in front and putting Mayo under serious pressure. When Mayo needed a player to stand up and be counted they found a few, with Chris Barrett leading from the back and kicking two first half points, while Alan Freeman took on the role of leader in the forward line and finished with a personal tally of 1-4. He won countless balls that were pumped into the Mayo forward line and drove the team on. While all the talk of the 'battle of the brothers' in the middle of the park in the build up to the game centered on Aidan O'Shea and Sean Cavanagh, it was Seamus O'Shea who drove on Mayo from the middle especially in the early stages of the second half. While Aidan's contributions were still top class his ability to get tough and physical was limited after he picked up a yellow card six minutes before the break and if he picked up a second and was sent off, he'd have been suspended for the final.
O'Connor's loss, while keenly felt from play was most prevalent from placed balls as both Kevin McLoughlin and Enda Varley missed 14 yard frees, that the Ballintubber man would have nailed in his sleep. The game was tied at 0-2 to 0-2 each when the double young footballer of the year left the fray, his loss combined with Tyrone's tough tackling and style of play left Mayo rattled for the next few minutes. By the 32 minute Tyrone were 0-7 to 0-3 in front with Darren McCurry and Conor McAliskey scoring two each, Conor Gormley, Ronan O'Neill and Stephen O'Neill chipping in with one each. Stephen O'Neill was also forced out of the contest around the half-hour mark after picking up a knock. Alan Freeman had a goal disallowed after 25 minutes when Maurice Deegan failed to allow Mayo to continue the play after he had spotted a marginal foul. The resulting free was pulled wide by McLoughlin to double Mayo's woes.
But Mayo dug in and were starting to find themselves and Chris Barrett powered up the field to kick Mayo's fourth point, three minutes before the break, his defensive colleague Lee Keegan also chipped in with a score not long after and Mayo had Tyrone in their sights. The Belmullet corner back closed the gap to a point just before the median whistle after he picked up a pass following a storming Aidan O'Shea run.
The game was there for the taking for Mayo and they hit the ground running right from the off after the restart. Enda Varley kicked a point after bull-run of a break by Seamus O'Shea a minute into the half and then three minutes later Mayo got the break they were looking for. Colm Boyle drove through the heart of the Tyrone defence and was upended as he shot. The foul may have been marginally outside the large rectangle, but Deegan awarded the penalty. Freeman stepped up and drove the spot kick past Pascal McConnell with the ball bouncing back out off the rigging of the goal. Freeman kicked Mayo's next point three minutes later after Seamus O'Shea was fouled and you could sense that Mayo weren't going to be denied this victory. Mayo kept the foot down and points from Alan Dillon, a free from well beyond the 45' by Robert Hennelly and another Freeman pointed free, had Mayo 1-12 to 0-9 in the lead after 50 minutes, with Tyrone's two scores coming from Aidan Cassidy and Darren McCurry.
It was a matter of seeing the game out for Mayo from that stage on and at one point they pushed themselves into an eight point lead with ten minutes left thanks to points from Keegan, Cathal Carolan and Aidan O'Shea, with Sean Cavanagh responding with one score for Tyrone in the same period. Alan Dillon kicked Mayo's final point with seven minutes left on the clock and in the final stages they kicked a few loose wides, but the game was well won at the stage.
Another All Ireland final awaits for Mayo, but they'll know they'll have to up their performance by another few good per cent before September 22.
Mayo: R Hennelly (0-1, f ), T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, C Barrett (0-2 ), L Keegan (0-2 ), D Vaughan, C Boyle, A O’Shea (0-1 ), S O’Shea, K McLoughlin (0-1, f ), K Higgins, A Dillon (0-2 ), C O’Connor (0-1, f ), A Freeman (1-4, 1-0 pen, 0-3f ), A Moran.
Subs: E Varley (0-1 ) for O’Connor, M Conroy for Moran, C Carolan (0-1 ) for Cunniffe, R Feeney for Vaughan, B Moran for A O’Shea
Tyrone: P McConnell, R McKenna, C Clarke, C McCarron, C McGinley (0-1 ), P Harte, C Gormley, C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh (0-2, 1f ), Mattie Donnelly, Mark Donnelly, Joe McMahon, D McCurry (0-4, 2f ), S O’Neill (0-1 ), C McAliskey (0-2 ).
Subs: D Carlin for Harte, R O’Neill (0-1 ) for S O’Neill, R McNabb for McMahon, A Cassidy (0-1 ) for Mattie Donnelly, K Coney (0-1 ) for R O’Neill
Referee: M Deegan (Laois ).