MAKING A BURST Mayo’s Tom Parsons takes on Cork’s Tomás Clancy during Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier in Limerick. Pic: Sportsfile
ANOTHER high-wire act, another safe landing. Just about.
Their solutions for an exhausting evening’s football may have differed – ice-baths for the players, pints for at least some supporters. But all Mayo people in Limerick last Saturday were united in one emotion: relief.
This team keep finding new ways to put their followers through the wringer. After the squandermania of the Derry game and the slow start against Clare, the 2016 All-Ireland finalists had Cork beaten – twice – only to watch the dead arise and appear to many.
So is the glass half-full or half-empty? Well, on the plus side, Mayo are back in the quarter-finals, and now face an eminently winnable game against Roscommon. On the other side of the ledger, there’s a hell of a lot more to do as the business end of the championship approaches.
Positives? Well, Mayo’s conversion rate has surely never been higher than last Saturday. They chalked up only seven wides in a game that was officially 90 minutes but lasted over 100. They were economy personified, scoring 27 points. Cillian O’Connor registered 11 of them, and Jason Doherty put in a huge shift, winning one outrageous turnover before O’Connor set up a point for Aidan O’Shea.
But the Mayo defence, for so long the best boy in the class, coughed up two goals. They looked vulnerable when Cork belatedly got what former Rebels hurler Seánie McGrath might have called ‘the Corkness’ back in their play, and getting joy whenever they ran at Mayo, who abandoned a permanent sweeper system that seemed to have been working well.
The sorrowful mystery of our last visit to Limerick in 2014 appeared to have been laid to rest when Mayo scored seven times on the trot to lead by double scores, 14-7. They were still 17-11 ahead with 15 minutes left. But they’d forgotten to lock the door.
Seán Powter, always a threat on the front foot, found the net with a low shot, and what once was lost – Cork – hope – had again been found. John O’Rourke fired wide when in a one-on-one situation with David Clarke, who also did superbly to tip Tomás Clancy’s flick over the bar. In between, Lee Keegan was black-carded for an off-the-ball trip.
Points from Cillian O’Connor (two) and substitute Conor Loftus left Mayo three up entering injury time. Then Cork sub Luke Connolly played a one-two with Ruairí Deane before netting their second goal. The huge crowd erupted when another sub, Paddy Durcan, nudged Mayo back in front, but there was still time for another twist, and Connolly converted a moved-in Cork free. That left the score 0-21 to 2-15, and 20 more minutes were required.
Mayo played second fiddle to Cork for the first additional period. Peadar Healy made three changes before we restarted, and the Munster finalists led by one (2-19 to 0-24) at the turnaround. Paul Kerrigan, increasingly dangerous, landed two points, while substitutes Michael Hurley and Colm O’Neill got one apiece. Conor Loftus, Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor scored for Mayo, but Tom Parsons’ goal chance went wide.
The fourth in this game of four halves saw Mayo regain the ascendancy. Keith Higgins fisted a point, Diarmuid O’Connor arrowed over a beauty from the right, and Cillian O’Connor converted a 45’ after Loftus’s goal chance. But Hurley’s point left one between them, and the closing stages – involving two Cork wides and multiple Mayo mistakes – had some hairy moments as Mayo flirted with disaster.
After a tit-for-tat opening 35 minutes, first-half injury time had produced one black card (for Cork’s Jamie O’Sullivan) and three Mayo points – two from Cillian O’Connor and one from Jason Doherty, reward for his Trojan work. Before that, Donncha O’Connor led the Cork charge, while the Mayo scores were shared between Cillian O’Connor, Andy Moran (who got four from play overall), Lee Keegan, Tom Parsons and Aidan O’Shea.
Further points from play on the resumption by Andy Moran, Cillian O’Connor (two) and Paddy Durcan had them ahead by double scores. Cork seemed as dead as Bobby Ewing in ‘Dallas’.
Then Pam awoke from her dream, opened the shower door, and Bobby was alive again.
D Clarke; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, K Higgins (0-1); L Keegan (0-1), C Barrett, C Boyle; S O’Shea, T Parsons (0-1); K McLoughlin, A O’Shea (0-3), D O’Connor (0-1); J Doherty (0-1), C O’Connor (0-11, 4f, 1 45’), A Moran (0-4).
Subs used: P Durcan (0-2) for C Barrett (44 mins); S Coen for S O’Shea (49 mins); D Vaughan for C Boyle (53 mins); D Drake for L Keegan (58 mins, black card); C Loftus (0-2) for A Moran (63 mins); C Barrett for J Doherty (70 mins); C Crowe for G Cafferkey (80 mins + 2); E Regan for K McLoughlin (h-t, e-t); A Dillon for D O’Connor (87 mins).
R Price; J Loughrey, J O’Sullivan, M Shields; T Clancy (0-1), E Cadogan, C O’Driscoll; A Walsh, I Maguire; M Collins, S Powter (1-0), J O’Rourke (0-3); B O’Driscoll (0-1), D O’Connor (0-6, 4f), P Kerrigan (0-3).
Subs used: K Crowley for J Loughrey (20 mins, inj); S Cronin for J O’Sullivan (35 mins + 1, black card); R Deane for A Walsh (37 mins, inj); C O’Neill (0-3, 1f) for M Shields (47 mins); L Connolly (1-1) for B O’Driscoll (54 mins); M Hurley (0-2) for D O’Connor (62 mins); A O’Connor for I Maguire (70 mins); S White for C O’Driscoll (70 mins); K O’Driscoll for J O’Rourke (70 mins); C Dorman for K Crowley (76 mins, inj); C O’Driscoll for S Powter (80 mins + 2, inj); M Shields for S Cronin (87 mins).
Referee: C Branagan (Down)