Mayo come up just short
RECENT, painful history has taught the Mayo GAA fraternity that few results are as hard to reconcile as a one-point defeat. They leave countless questions to be answered.
Thankfully, perspective to last Sunday’s last-gasp loss in Newbridge is in plentiful supply; the absence of more than a dozen members of the squad, and the lack of meaningful training and preparation time being the most noteworthy and obvious.
We will also know more about the value of this experience when the final whistle sounds in Omagh next Sunday.
What is certain though is that this free-flowing, free-styling affair captured the imagination of the 6,015 patrons who turned out on a crisp, clear day at the compact St Conleth’s Park.
The irony won’t be lost on Mayo fans that they were ultimately left disappointed by a son of a Mayo mother; Kildare’s Paddy Brophy had the game of his young life, shooting six points from play and tormenting both Ger Cafferkey and Colm Boyle, before he landed a spectacular winner two minutes into injury-time.
A wonderful game had been level on seven occasions and looked set to end in a draw, but the rangy number thirteen popped up on the right wing to steal the headlines.
Mayo had spent every last drop of energy in an effort to take something from their day-trip, so were understandably disappointed to leave empty-handed, but there were plenty of positives for them to take from the rigorous exercise.
Lining out with only eight of the side that started against Dublin last September, James Horan’s charges gave as good as they got for long spells.
The new-look visitors also hauled themselves back into the match impressively after falling six points behind early in the second half.
Two stunning goals from Darren Coen and Jason Gibbons levelled the match after 42 minutes, and the last half-an-hour was helter-skelter as both sides threw caution to the wind.
Kildare’s greater fitness and conditioning looked set to be decisive after Eoghan O’Flaherty hit the net and late scores from the marauding Tomas O’Connor, O’Flaherty and sub’ Hugh McGrillen left the Lilywhites ahead by 2-18 to 2-16 five minutes from time.
However, Mayo refused to throw in the towel and with subs’ Diarmuid O’Connor and David Drake shaking things up, two frees from Kevin McLoughlin tied the game up with the finish line in sight.
There was still time though for one last attack and Kildare showed great composure to work the ball to their in-form striker, and Brophy lofted over a magnificent winner.
For the record, referee Rory Hickey brandished two ‘black cards’ in the first half here, dismissing Kildare’s Paul Cribbin for a deliberate hand trip while Mayo midfielder Aidan O’Shea was also sent for an early shower just before half-time.
His departure compounded the loss of Tom Parsons to a freak injury after a heavy fall inside the first ten minutes.
It became obvious from an early stage that this was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill league match.
It started at a blistering pace that never relented, and the sides were level by the end of the first quarter, 0-6 apiece.
Mayo threw down the gauntlet early on and went ahead on three occasions with some eye-catching scores from impressive debutant Adam Gallagher, Aidan O’Shea and three precision 45m strikes from goalkeeper Robbie Hennelly.
However, they were reeled back in each time by Kildare’s lively attack as they picked off some inspirational scores.
After thirty minutes Mayo were still setting the pace, leading by 0-10 to 0-7, but Kildare finished the half with a flourish.
The Lilywhites rattled off 1-4 without reply before the break, Tomás O’Connor’s goal helping them to lead by 1-11 to 0-10 at the short whistle.
Mayo were left with a mountain to climb when Paddy Brophy and Cathal McNally edged the homeside further ahead after the restart, but they rolled their sleeves up and very nearly got what they deserved.
S Connolly; M O’Grady, M Foley, O Lyons; K Murnaghan, E Bolton, P Cribbin (0-1); T Moolick, G White; C McNally (0-3), E O’Flaherty (1-2), S Hurley (0-1); P Brophy (0-6), D Mulhall (0-3, 2fs), T O’Connor (1-2).
Subs used: D Hyland for Cribbin (black card); F Conway for Lyons (inj); H McGrillen (0-1) for Bolton; D Flynn for Moolick; J Gately for McNally; M Conway for White.
R Hennelly (0-3, 3’45s); K Keane, G Cafferkey, C Boyle; L Keegan (0-1), S McHale (0-1), B Harrison; T Parsons, A O’Shea (0-1); C Carolan, K Higgins, A Gallagher (0-3, 1f); K McLoughlin (0-7, 6fs), A Moran, D Coen (1-0).
Subs used: J Gibbons (0-1) for Parsons (inj); B Gallagher for A O’Shea (black card); D Drake for Harrison; D O’Connor (0-1) for Coen; A Freeman for Higgins; E Varley for Gallagher; M Conroy for Carolan.
Referee: R Hickey (Clare)