Stephen Griffen’s injury time point stole a draw for his side and sent them into the semi-finals next weekend, while Mayo have nine weeks to get things right before they start the championship in summer time.
While some calls went against Mayo, most notably when Diarmuid O’Connor looked to have been fouled in the lead up to Patrick McBreaty’s point in the 51st minute, Mayo had no-one else to blame for not winning the game but themselves. They kicked nine wides in the second half and Patrick Durcan’s scuffed effort into the arms of Michael Boyle from close range when Mayo were leading by a point late in the day all contributed to letting Donegal get out of jail and missing out on the last four.
Survival in division one was the main object for Mayo this year, but they will be kicking themselves for missing out on the chance to get some extra games in ahead of the start of the championship which is long way away at this stage.
Mayo were dealt a trio of blows before the game with Alan Dillon and Tom Parsons having to miss out through injury and then in the warm-up, Ger Cafferkey pulled his hamstring forcing Mayo into a late change with Brendan Harrison coming into replace him.
Mayo even tried to play it a bit cynical at the end with both Donal Vaughan and Diarmuid O’Connor getting black cards for dragging down Donegal men as they tried to break down field.Vaughan’s black card saw a red also flashed as he’s been booked earlier on again, reducing Mayo to 14 players for the final frantic few moments, but it wasn’t to be as Donegal worked the ball into Griffen’s arms and the sub calmly slotted it between the posts to tie up the game.
The visitors were first out of the blocks with Odhrán MacNiallais and Martin McElhinney blasting the ball over the bar from distance inside the opening 60 seconds.
Jason Doherty got Mayo going with a point from a free two minutes in and Barry Moran hooked an effort over the bar with the aid of Michael Boyle’s finger tips five minutes in. The Castlebar Mitchels midfielder had a storming game for Mayo and finished up with three points over the 70 minutes.
Just after the quarter-of-an-hour mark a Doherty free put Mayo into the lead and two minutes later Kevin McLoughlin doubled their advantage with a point from play after Danny Kirby switched the direction of attack with a pin-point cross-field pass.
The visitors went back into the lead on 19 minutes when McBrearty flashed the ball past Kenneth O’Malley at his near post after a powerful driving move through the heart of the Mayo defence by Donegal which saw Frank McGlynn and Martin O’Reilly involved a few times in the build up. They followed that up with another MacNiallis point to go into a two point lead. McBrearty and MacNiallai’s third point put Donegal 1-5 to 0-4 ahead with ten minutes left in the half.
Barry Moran found room to swing his leg and cut the gap to three points not long after and a Donal Vaughan effort had the gap at two six minutes from the interval. Mayo kept up the pressure and Aidan O’Shea pointed to leave the gap at just one as the median whistle approached. Mayo had the chance to level the game up before the break, but Kevin McLoughlin’s effort from a free out on the right dropped to the left and into the arms of a Donegal defender.
The second half saw Mayo take control of the contest, Barry Moran scored his third point to level the game up four minutes in and five minutes later Diarmuid O’Connor put Mayo in front with a good effort from play. But they were failing to make their dominance count on the scoreboard as the wide count began to creep up, Jason Doherty, Lee Keegan, Kevin McLoughlin and Michael Conroy all missed the target with efforts which they would back themselves to score.
Colm McFadden levelled the game up 18 minutes into the second half, but Mayo responded straight away with Conroy and McLoughlin kicking a point each within a minute of the Donegal score.
But the guests weren’t going to wilt that easy and McBrearty kicked two points on the spin to leave it at 0-11 to 1-8 as the game entered its final ten minutes. Mayo kept the pressure up, but the wides followed with them, with McLoughlin and Conroy kicking a couple each. With four minutes left on the clock, McLoughlin found his range from a free to put Mayo into the lead by a single point.
Mayo tried to hold out the Donegal attack and one turn over saw Kevin Keane charge out with the ball, he could have taken on a shot himself but found the better placed Durcan. However the Castlebar man’s effort lacked the required power and it fell into the arms of Michael Boyle in the Donegal goal. Mayo were down to 14 men already at this stage after Vaughan had picked up a black card to go with his yellow. But the Mayo rearguard couldn’t hold out as Griffen found the space to slot the ball over the bar and grab the draw. Rarely does a draw feel like a defeat, but this one did for Mayo who’ve a long wait until the get their championship up and running in June.
Mayo: B Moran (0-3 ), K McLoughlin (0-3, 1f ), J Doherty (0-2, 2f ), A O’Shea (0-1 ), D Vaughan (0-1 ), D O’Connor (0-1 ), M Conroy (0-1 )
Donegal: P McBrearty (1-3, 2f ), O Mac Niallais (0-3 ), C McFadden (0-1 ), M McElhinney (0-1 ), S Griffen (0-1 )
Mayo: K O’Malley; G Cafferkey, K Keane, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Boyle, D Vaughan; B Moran, T Parsons; K McLoughlin,J Doherty, D O’Connor; M Ronaldson, A O’Shea, D Kirby. Subs: M Conroy for Ronaldson, S Coen for Harrison, A Moran for Kirby, M Sweeney (BS ) for A Moran, P Durcan for Boyle, N Douglas for McLoughlin, M Hall for O’Connor (BC )
Donegal: M Boyle; E Doherty, N McGee, E McGee; P McGrath, K Lacey, F McGlynn; M McElhinney, C Toye; M O’Reilly, O Mac Niallais, R McHugh; P McBrearty, H McFadden, C McFadden. Subs: C McGinley for Toye, A Thompson for Doherty, M McHugh for H McFadden (BC ), S Griffen for McGinley.
Ref: D Coldrick (Meath )