Now that was more like it. We asked for a performance,we wanted passion,we got them both in abundance. Mayo produced their best display in 12 months to send Ulster champions and hot favourites Tyrone packing out of this year's championship. The game was not the best advertisement for Gaelic football but it was intriguing, intense, and tactical and had everybody on the edge of their seats right until the final whistle.
I along with every other Mayo supporter missed a heartbeat when Aidan O'Shea fired a very risky cross field back pass to David Clarke in injury time which was literally the last kick of the game. Clarke was very smart and alert and got there just in time to prevent Darren McCurry intercepting the pass for an almost certain tap in winning goal, I wonder how O'Shea felt, nervous I'm sure. Had it been intercepted it would have ruined a heroic team effort and cost Mayo a place in the All-Ireland semi final. The relief was evident around Croke Park.
Pot calling the kettle black
I'm a little bemused and confused about Mickey Harte's after match press conference singling out Lee Keegan for intimidating and targeting Tyrone hero Sean Cavanagh, which in his opinion ultimately got his captain red carded. Mickey was obviously watching a different game to me as some of the nonsense his players got up to has absolutely no place in football. The Tyrone players deliberately antagonising and “sledging” whenever a Mayo player made a mistake or was dispossessed was disgusting to say the least. It riled me on the airwaves, I don’t know how the players, especially Aidan O'Shea and Andy Moran, kept their cool when all around were losing their heads including whistle blower David Gough. Gough had a terrible game, completely biased towards Tyrone in that first half, Mayo couldn't buy a free, he obviously realised he had made mistakes and felt the wrath of the Mayo crowd when he gave Kevin McLoughlin a free which Cillian O'Connor pointed when McLoughlin most certainly went to ground untouched. As they say, you take what you get. When he eventually gave Aidan O Shea a free he overturned the decision and hopped the ball as O'Shea fired Niall Sludden out of his way as he tried to take it quickly. Gough also got both barrels from me on the wireless, I wondered at half time had I gone over the top and had I been watching the game with blinkers and only seeing it from a Mayo point of view, so separately I asked Declan Bonner, Donegal's hero from the 1992 All-Ireland final, and Gough's own county man Bernard Flynn for their opinion on his performance, both confirmed what I already thought, he was having a nightmare and was very unfair towards Stephen Rochford's team.
Match ups seemed to be spot on
The way both teams set up from the throw in made it obvious it was going to be low scoring and scoring chances were going to be at a premium. It took a massive 48 metre outside of the boot strike from Aidan O'Shea to get Mayo off the mark. Tyrone play with three banks of defence and it was going to take strikes like that or extreme patience to break them down. It’s a while since we witnessed Mayo so fired up for a game.
Donal Vaughan was given the unenviable task of shackling Mattie Donnelly, Donnelly is a good player and ruled the roost for most of that first half scoring three points from play, Sludden at centre forward also got on plenty of ball, but everywhere else Mayo seemed to be in control and playing the game their way. Lee Keegan had the shackles on Sean Cavanagh and didn't fall for the “Seanie Shuffle” once as many defenders have before. He was ably assisted by Brendan Harrison who had his best game in a Mayo jersey. Seamie O'Shea was having a blinder at midfield while up front Aidan O'Shea, Cillian O'Connor, and Andy Moran were constant thorns in Tyrone’s side. Aidan O'Shea set the tone for the second half when he fetched the throw in before powering his way through the middle before laying the ball off to Cillian O'Connor for an inspiring and uplifting score. Tom Parsons who came on for the second half had a monumental part to play for Mayo handling an enormous amount of ball and scoring a fine point with his left foot (I never saw him doing that before ), but the final say was left to man of the match Lee Keegan who scored a scorcher with five minutes to go which won Mayo the game.
It was nervy at the end and Tyrone had chances to level, Niall Morgan, Cathal McCarron, and Darren McCurry all went close but ultimately their poor strike rate combined with Mayo's efficiency won the day. Tactically, it was a moral victory for Rochford as many have criticised his credentials, his team did their talking on the pitch. It was another great day in Croke Park for Mayo football.