A thick blanket of fog covered Castlebar right until half-an-hour or so before throw-in on Sunday, but not long after that natural blanket had cleared Elverys MacHale Park, a man made blanket dressed from head-to-toe in white descended on the playing field.
Tyrone came to Castlebar smarting after their defeat at home to Monaghan the previous week and came armed with a plan. One they followed to the letter of the law from the first minute until the final whistle. While Tyrone opted to try and choke the life of the Mayo attack, by having at times all their players inside their own half of the field, but Mayo played their own major part in the losing of this game. They kicked 15 wides over the 70 minutes, ten of those coming in the second half. They also went 22 minutes without a score in the first half and 15 minutes in the second half , similarly without hitting the target. The also only managed to score three points from play in the entire contest. You're not going to win games with those kinds of numbers.
Mayo were dealt a rough hand when Aidan O'Shea was shown a black card in the 48th minute, his attempted block on Niall Morgan's pass may have been clumsy, but it wasn't anywhere near the cynical type of tackle that the black card was brought into stamp out.
The recording of the game will make tough viewing for the Mayo management over the next few weeks, but they will be scouring over it and looking for lessons to be learned, before the league returns after it's min-break over the next three weeks. Tyrone's dedication and willingness to all sing of the same hymn sheet, has to be admired. It may not have been the most aesthetic of spectacles to watch, but the way Tyrone went about their business was impressive to see.
Tyrone hit the front early with Darren McCurry and Cathal McShane both pointing inside the opening two minutes. Mayo nearly grabbed a goal three minutes in when Michael Conroy, picked the ball from the air in front of the advancing Niall Morgan and got a shot away. However it didn't have the power to cross the line and Cathal McCarron cleared it off the white-wash.
Mayo's first point came from a Jason Doherty free five minutes in, but Tyrone responded quickly with Mattie Donnelly and Sean Cavanagh slotting over points to put their side into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after 11 minutes. Mayo did cut the gap back to just a single point with Mark Ronaldson and Michael Conroy kicking points. Ronaldson's effort could have ended up with a goal, after Conroy blocked down a pass from Morgan who had wandered out as good as to half-way with the ball in hand. Conroy fed the ball to Lee Keegan who found the Shrule-Glencorrib man who found that there were too many Tyrone defenders back to take a crack at goal so he took the sensible option and put it over the bar. Tyrone went on to kick the next four points on the trot over the final 20 minutes of the half with Morgan kicking two frees, one from well out behind the 45 meter line and the other just on the 45m line. Darren McCurry also added a point when Kevin Keane was harshly judged to have fouled Sean Cavanagh, with Tiernan McCann also getting in on the scoring action. Mayo finally broke a 22 minute scoring drought when Kevin McLoughlin slotted over a free just before the half-time whistle after Diarmuid O'Connor had been fouled.
Mayo drew first blood after the interval with Jason Doherty pointing from a placed ball after Donal Vaughan was fouled on the run inside the first minute. But this was not to be a precursor to a high scoring 35 minutes of action, with both sides combining for just 2-6 between them in the second half. Mattie Donnelly pointed for Tyrone on the 39 minute mark and two minutes later McCurry added another to put five between the sides. Mayo were dominating possession, but they were being forced to take on shots from wild angles as Tyrone closed them down and choked off avenues off attack from every direction. The wides, just kept piling up for Mayo and it cost them in the end.
Cillian O'Connor was introduced to the action after 45 minutes and within in five minutes he'd the ball in the back of the Tyrone net. Alan Freeman dropped in a ball, O'Connor challenged for with Morgan and a Tyrone defender. The ball broke to another Peter Hughes who was disposessed by a challenge from Kevin McLoughlin, the Knockmore man drew on the ball on the ground, but it hit the post and rebounded to O'Connor who slotted it home from close range. There was a question mark over the goal, as O'Connor was in the small square challenging for the initial ball in from Freeman, he remained in the square after the ball had come back out of it to McLoughlin whose shot hit the post. However the referee consulted with his umpires before awarding it and Mayo looked to be back in the running.
The Mayo fight back didn't last long and 14 minutes from time Peter Harte was on hand to finish off a flowing Tyrone break to the back of the net. Sean Cavanagh picked out PJ Lavery who could have taken on the goal chance himself, but he switched it to the unmarked Harte who fired low under David Clarke. That really killed off the game, as Mayo continued to pile on the wides, with just two more points from O'Connor to show for their efforts over the closing stages with McCurry rounding off the scoring for Tyrone eight minutes from time.
Mayo will be disappointed with their performance in this game, but they'll much rather have a game like this in February, than July.
Mayo: C O'Connor (1-2, 1f, 1 45' ) J Doherty (0-2, 2f ), K McLoughlin (0-1, 1f ), M Ronaldson (0-1 ), M Conroy (0-1 )
Tyrone: D McCurry (0-4, 3f ), P Harte (1-0 ), M Donnelly (0-2 ), N Morgan (0-2, 2f ), T McCann (0-1 ), S Cavanagh (0-1, 1f ), C McShane (0-1 )
Mayo: D Clarke; M Hall, K Keane, K Higgins; L Keegan, S Coen, C Boyle; S O'Shea, D Vaughan; D O'Connor, K McLoughlin, J Doherty ; M Conroy, A Freeman, M Ronaldson. Subs: C O'Connor for Ronaldson (46 mins ), P Durcan for Boyle (46 ), B Moran for A O'Shea (50 BC ), M Sweeney for Freeman (57 ), G Cafferkey for Keegan (60 ), A Dillon for D O'Connor (67 ).
Tyrone: N Morgan; J McMahon,R McNamee, C McCarron; P Hughes, R McNabb, A McCrory; C Cavanagh, P McNulty; T McCann, M Donnelly, P Harte; D McCurry , S Cavanagh, C McShane. Subs: PJ Lavery for McShane (46 mins ), C McCann for McNulty (56 ), B Tierney for McNamee (59 ), N McKenna for McCurry (64 ).
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois ).