Mayo saw off Cork in an entertaining, but also infuriating encounter in Elvery's MacHale Park on Sunday. Come the height of summer, Mayo won't get the opportunity to let a side push themselves 0-5 to 0-0 in front of them early on and still be able to haul in their opponents lead and run out easy winners at the end of strange 70 minutes. Cork had five points on the board and were looking like they were going to steamroll Mayo, before anyone had got comfortable in their seats. But after Donnacha O'Connor tapped over a free 12 minutes in, the Cork challenge evaporated and over the next 23 minutes Mayo outscored them 1-9 to 0-1.
Brian Hurley opened the scoring for the visitors with a powerful shot from distance three-minutes in, he followed that up not long after with another effort from out the park to double his sides advantage. The Cork full-forward put his side three points in front on the six-minute mark and Mayo looked to be in trouble early on. Ger Cafferkey took over marking duties on the Castlehaven man shortly afterwards in an effort to curb his influence. However the Cork machine kept rolling on and Donnacha O'Connor kicked two points in three minutes and the home faithful were sweating and not because of the weather in Castlebar .
Mayo should have had the first score of the game as Alan Freeman was presented with a great goalscoring chance inside the first minute. Mikie Sweeney played in the Aghamore man in oceans of space in front of the goal, he side-stepped Ken O'Halloran in the Cork goal but saw his effort stopped on the line by Michael Shields and put out for a 45', the resulting effort was pulled wide of the posts by Cillian O'Connor. Mayo opened their scoring account not long after O'Connor's score through the boot of the impressive Jason Gibbons who is beginning to put together a highly effective partnership with Aidan O'Shea in the middle of the field. Cillian O'Connor and Mikie Sweeney both had goal chances on the quarter-of-an-hour mark, with the Kiltane man seeing his effort blocked on the line by Shields after he'd collected the rebound after O'Connor's initial effort was blocked. O'Connor put three between the sides a minute later from a free and right after that Mayo's fourth goal chance of the half also failed to find the back of the net, after Keith Higgins combined well with Donal Vaughan to create the chance, but the Ballyhaunis man saw his effort crash back off the post after O'Halloran had got a strong hand to the ball.
The gap was cut to two points by a Kevin McLoughlin score and Mayo got their momentum going well and true at this stage. Lee Keegan (captaining the side for the second week in a row, in the absence of Andy Moran ) got his customary score to leave only the minimum between the sides and within seconds of that score it was level through Aidan O'Shea who powered through the Cork defence before putting the ball over the bar.
Ten minutes before the turn around Mayo spurned their fifth goal chance when Alan Freeman shot off balance and sent the ball skywards after O'Shea had played him in. McLoughlin and O'Connor (2 ) slotted over points with Colm O'Neill responding for the shell-shocked Rebels from a 45. O'Connor put Mayo three points to the good, two minutes before the break and just before half-time Mayo finally found the back of the net. Shane McHale played in a long ball which was contested for by Alan Freeman and Kevin Crowley, the Cork defender was able to reach the ball, but in doing so he deflected it into the path of Jason Doherty who made no mistake with his finish and sent a Mayo side that were trailing by five points at one stage, in leading by six points at the break.
The second half started brightly and Mayo pushed their lead out to 1-12 to 0-8 by the 41st minute with two McLoughlin points and a Doherty effort getting them moving right from the off. Amazingly McLoughlin's neat point under pressure was the last time that Mayo would raise a white flag in the rest of the contest, as they went from the the 41st to 71st minute not registering a single point. They did though add on three more goals, the first of was finished in some style by Alan Freeman who lashed the ball to the net with conviction after he was played in by Cillian O'Connor. Three minutes later Jason Gibbons broke through from the 45 metre line after he was slipped the ball by Kevin McLoughlin who intercepted a Cork pass. The Ballintubber man kept his nerve and slammed the ball home from the edge of the penalty area and sent Mayo into a 3-12 to 0-9 lead and for all intents and purposes seal the two points. Mayo began to run the bench and Cork kept chipping away on the scoreboard and with 14 minutes to go John O'Rourke scored their first goal, after a sloppy kick-out by Mayo went straight over the sideline and Cork quickly got the ball going again and worked the goal chance. Mayo responded to O'Rourke's goal with their fourth and final one of the day. Lee Keegan and Mikie Sweeney were involved in the build-up before the ball was played to Kevin McLoughlin who drew a few defenders before picking out Cillian O'Connor who finished with aplomb to the back of the net.
The visitors added on a few more points before Brian Hurley put the the final punctuation mark on the day with a well finished goal after being played in by a quick Paul Kerrigan free.
It's two points for Mayo, but conceding another two goals and failing to keep up their intensity over the closing 20 minutes is something that James Horan will be looking to see his side work on over the next 13 days, before the meet Dublin in Croke Park.
Mayo: J Doherty (1-3 ), C O'Connor (1-2, 2F ) J Gibbons (1-1 ), K McLoughlin (0-4 ), A Freeman (1-0 ), L Keegan (0-1 ), A O'Shea (0-1 )
Cork: B Hurley (1-5 ), D O'Connor (0-3, 2f ), A Walsh (0-3 ), J O'Rourke (1-0 ), C O'Neill (0-1,1 45' ), B O'Driscoll (0-1 ), J Hayes (0-1, 1f )
Mayo: R Hennelly; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, S McHale; L Keegan, C Boyle, D Vaughan A O'Shea, J Gibbons; K McLoughlin, K Higgins, J Doherty; M Sweeney, A Freeman, C O'Connor. Subs: D Drake for C Boyle (BS, 7 ), C Boyle for D Drake (BS, 14 ), T Parsons for A O'Shea (48 ), B Gallagher (49 ), D Drake for S McHale (50 ), D Coen for A Freeman (55 ), T Parsons for J Gibbons (59 ), E Varley for M Sweeney (65 )
Cork: K O'Halloran; M Shields, E Cadogan, K Crowley; C Dorman, T Clancy, A Cronin; A O'Sullivan, A Walsh; C O'Driscoll, P Kerrigan, T Clancy; C O'Neill, B Hurley, D O'Connor. Subs: J Hayes for T Clancy (35 ), M Collins for Colm O'Neil (35 ), J Loughrey for K Crowley (39 ), F Goold for D O'Connor (43 ), B O'Driscoll for E Cadogan (44 ), J Hayes for F Goold (BC 58 )