TAKING HIS SHOT Mayo’s Andy Moran gets his shot away despite the best efforts of Tipperary’s Brian Fox in Thurles last Saturday. Pic: Sportsfile
THERE have been several bumpy rides in the Qualifiers for Mayo these past three seasons, and this looked set to be the most uncomfortable of them all before James Durcan intervened.
Mayo trailed by 0-11 to 1-11 with 52 minutes played. Tipp’ were full value for that lead —indeed it could have been more.
Mayo’s display were error-strewn and minus the services of Seamie O’Shea (suspected dislocated shoulder) and Colm Boyle (black card).
Tipp’ were playing with confidence and abandon and it looked, at best, like Mayo were going right to the wire.
But when they needed it most, Mayo got a stroke of luck. James Durcan went for a point from an acute angle on the right but it dipped past a helpless Evan Comerford and into the net.
The transformative effect of the goal was simply incredible.
Tipp’ would not score again as they physically and mentally wilted. Mayo were like a team reborn.
They scored five points in a six-minute spell after the goal and the mistakes that characterised much of their play before Durcan’s ‘dipper’ disappeared.
Players like Paddy Durcan, Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea, Kevin McLoughlin, Diarmuid O’Connor, Jason Doherty and James Durcan led the charge and others followed.
They kept the foot to the floor, using attack as the best form of defence, and Mayo fans were able to enjoy what looked scarcely possible at the three-quarter mark — a freewheel to the final whistle.
Mayo started as they finished, in breathtaking form. They scored four points in the first six minutes and looked to be pitch perfect.
But in what felt like the blink of an eye, Tipp’ were in front. They struck a goal after ten minutes that sparked a sense of deja vu among Mayo fans. It was yet another goal conceded at a crucial juncture and came again from a struggle under a high ball.
Josh Keane floated in a dangerous ball. Paddy Durcan, stationed at full-back for the day, failed to protect the square. David Clarke came for the ball too but Michael Quinlivan rose highest and flicked the ball to the net.
Tipp’ played Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney inside and Durcan and Ger Cafferkey were handed the man-marking duties with Keith Higgins sweeping. Tipp’ pulled everyone else deep and there was a lot of space left in front of Quinlivan and Sweeney.
They looked dangerous and Quinlivan could have had a second goal after 26 minutes only for Clarke to save well. Durcan looked in real bother but Stephen Rochford, bravely, persisted and Durcan won the battle in the second stanza. Tipp took a 1-7 to 0-8 lead in at the break and were full value for it.
Too many turnovers in the final third hindered Mayo but they were smarter in the second half. Two points from Doherty and Cillian O’Connor (free) had Mayo level, but Tipp were always threatening on the front foot and three points in a row had them in good shape.
Despite this, Mayo were moving well with Diarmuid O’Connor very impressive off the bench and Lee Keegan making several line breaks. But some poor shooting (four misses in a row) was undoing their good work.
It’s hard to say how the game would have went without Durcan’s goal but Mayo made the most of the good fortune.
They put Evan Comerford’s kick-out under huge pressure, winning five out of seven Tipp kick-outs at this crucial stage, and really found their shooting boots.
From Durcan’s goal to the final whistle, Mayo scored 1-8 from just ten shots and rather than try to sit back and contain Tipperary, they finished the game playing to their strengths, driving their advantage home.
D Clarke; G Cafferkey, P Durcan (0-1), K Higgins; C Boyle, L Keegan (0-1), C Barrett; S O’Shea (0-1), S Coen; K McLoughlin (0-3), A O’Shea (0-1), J Doherty (0-3); J Durcan (1-2), C O’Connor (0-5, fs), A Moran (0-1).
Subs used: D O’Connor for S O’Shea (inj. 30mins); C Hanley for Boyle (black card h/t); E O’Donoghue for Barrett (55 mins); E Regan for C O’Connor (68 mins); C Loftus (0-1, f) for Moran (69 mins); D Kirby for D O’Connor (71 mins).
E Comerford; S O’Connell, J Meagher, A Campbell; B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; J Kennedy (0-1), S O’Brien; J Keane, P Austin (0-2), B Fox; L McGrath (0-4, 2fs), M Quinlivan (1-2), C Sweeney (0-2).
Subs used: L Boland for Austin (58 mins), L Casey for Kennedy (60 mins); K O’Halloran for McGrath (64 mins); K Fahey for Feehan (65 mins); J Lonergan for Keane (68 mins); G Hannigan for O’Brien (71 mins).
Referee: M Deegan (Laois)