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I am sure many of you felt as deflated as I did last Sunday. After leaving Elverys MacHale Park deflated I went home to watch the game again on TG4, and just in case I missed anything on second viewing I had to watch Sunday Sport later on that evening to see what the pundits said about the game. The reality is Mayo should be playing in Croke Park this Sunday against Cork in the semifinal of the National League. They threw away the game against Donegal or should I say kicked away. Some wayward shooting late on cost us a place in the semifinal.
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.
It was a game that had it all and then some more, bar the desired result for Mayo as a late, late Brian Hurley goal saw Cork steal the two points from this national football league encounter in Pairc Ui Rinn. Mayo looked to be heading back up the road with a valuable win under their belts as the game ticked towards injury time. But the hosts had other ideas, Conor Dorman ghosted in behind the Mayo rear guard and flicked the ball across the face of the goal, where the Castlehaven man was arriving just at the right time to flick the ball to the back of the net and condemn Mayo to their third defeat of this years league.
If one incident defined how much more Dublin were up for this game that Mayo it was when early in the second half, Aidan O’Shea got in behind the Dublin defence. He stumbled but fed the ball to Mark Ronaldson, who pulled the trigger. But out of nowhere Denis Bastick got back to not only block the ball, but gather it and break clear. It was an outstanding feat of athleticism and brilliance by the Ballymun Kickhams man.
If you dropped the needle on a seven inch copy of “Teenage Kicks” by some of Derry’s most famous sons The Undertones in Celtic Park on Sunday, when Barry Moran picked out Mikie Sweeney inside the Derry defence, by the time the track had had belted it’s way through it’s 2.28 running time you would have seen Mayo comfortably win and almost lose the game in a hectic epilogue at the end of normal time.
Live coverage from Celtic Park where Mayo take on Derry in the National Football League
It wasn’t as if we weren’t warned. We expected a Tyrone backlash, we didn’t think it would be so convincing. The scrutiny and criticism directed at Mickey Harte’s Tyrone after their capitulation against Monaghan in the first round more than galvanised the red hand for their trip to Castlebar. Sports writers, commentators, analysts, and even Mickey Harte’s most loyal supporters questioned his credentials and his team; they’re as good as dead it was declared.
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.
In what was a battle of black and blue in Killarney, Mayo started their national league campaign by showing their respect for Kerry by forming a guard of honor for the All Ireland champions when they entered the field.
Mayo's interest in the FBD League ended in Elverys MacHale Park on Sunday when an hungry and slicker Roscommon team went home with the points and the provincial bragging rights thanks to a five point win over the Connacht champions.