Flat effort comes up short
WHETHER you consider this latest defeat at Croke Park to be a minor setback or something more significant, there was no escaping the sense of disappointment among the Mayo players as they trooped down the tunnel under the Cusack Stand as quickly as they could on Sunday afternoon.
Coming hot on the heels of last month’s missed opportunity to put their nemesis from Dublin in their place, there seems little doubt that this surprise defeat will further dent confidence within the Mayo camp.
Realistically, their championship season will begin in earnest on the August Bank Holiday weekend and it is from there on in that their true worth will be measured.
However, there is no disguising the fact that all does not seem well within their ranks in recent weeks.
Yet again a lead was surrendered due to Mayo’s inability to protect their goal and, once more, the opposition finished far stronger than a superbly conditioned Mayo outfit.
It is probably worth mentioning at this stage that Mayo played with an extra man for approximately 50 minutes of last Sunday’s helter-skelter skirmish.
Derry lost their midfield powerhouse, Fergal Doherty, to a red card for a late challenge on Aidan O’Shea in the build-up to Andy Moran’s 23rd minute goal.
After the calamitous events of a similar scenario last month against Dublin, we assumed Mayo had learnt their lesson.
We assumed wrong; once more they failed to convert numerical supremacy into something more tangible and, instead, Derry got stuck in and wore Mayo down, slowly but surely.
Their captain, Mark Lynch, was the catalyst for this surprising, but fully deserved victory. The powerfully-built centre-forward doubled up as both a battering ram and an ace marksman, eventually overpowering the tenacious Colm Boyle and shooting nine points (four from play).
Lynch’s last couple of scores in the 68th and 71st minutes were the ones that broke Mayo once and for all, and epitomized just why Derry outscored their spent opponents by 0-4 to 0-1 in the last five minutes.
Andy Moran’s late 20m free that fizzed over a packed Derry goalmouth was the last kick of the game and seemed a suitable end to a match where Mayo very rarely seemed to be in control of their own destiny.
The sides were level on nine occasions throughout the seventy minutes but it was Derry’s two goals, especially their second, that did most to throw Mayo out of their stride.
After trailing by 1-7 to 1-8 at half-time, Mayo had retaken the initiative after the restart and gunned five points in eleven minutes to surge ahead.
Sandwiched in between a brace of Alan Freeman frees were two excellent points from Jason Doherty, and when the outstanding Jason Gibbons galloped in to fist over from close-range, the momentum looked to be in Mayo’s favour.
However, not for the first time in this campaign, some hesitant and uncertain defending allowed Seán Leo McGoldrick to advance on Robbie Hennelly’s goal, and Kevin Johnston palmed the ball to an empty net for the equaliser.
That goal meant the last twenty minutes became a battle of wills and Mayo’s initial response was encouraging, as Alan Freeman converted a free and sub’ Enda Varley landed a trademark ‘bomb’ from long-range to restore a two-point cushion.
A lack of cohesion up front though dogged Mayo’s attempts to kick on, and with Kevin McLoughlin, Keith Higgins and Gibbons all withdrawn, things didn’t get any better.
The unflappable Lynch drew Derry level from frees and Brian McIver’s side held their nerve impressively down the home stretch as Emmett Bradley and Enda Lynn picked off the lead scores when the chips were down.
Ger Cafferkey’s departure before half-time with an injury didn’t help Mayo’s cause but neither did a collective lethargy that was as worrying as it was unusual.
The first half was a microcosm of Mayo’s spring in many ways; good things like periods of midfield dominance from Aidan O’Shea and Jason Gibbons, some eyecatching scores from Mikie Sweeney (2), Keith Higgins, and a well-engineered goal by Andy Moran, mixed with spells of mediocrity where Derry pounced for a 13th minute goal from Caoilean O’Boyle and created a plethora of scoring chances.
Little did we think though that Mayo, with an extra man, would ultimately come up short again.
Time will tell if they will learn from their mistakes this time.
T Mallon; D McBride, C McKaigue, O Duffy; K Johnston (1-0), G O'Kane, S L McGoldrick (0-1); F Doherty, P Bradley; C McFaul (0-1), M Lynch (0-9, 5fs), E Lynn (0-1); B Heron, E McGuckin (0-1), C O'Boyle (1-1).
Subs used: N Holly for O'Boyle (45); A Devlin for Heron (51); E Bradley (0-1) for P Bradley (60); A McAlynn for Johnston (65); C Kielt for McGuckin (65).
R Hennelly; S McHale, G Cafferkey, B Harrison; L Keegan (0-1), C Boyle, D Vaughan; A O'Shea (0-1), J Gibbons (0-1); K Higgins (0-1), A Moran (1-1, 1f), J Doherty (0-2); K McLoughlin, A Freeman (0-6, 5fs, ‘45), M Sweeney (0-2).
Subs used: K Keane for Cafferkey (32); E Varley (0-1) for McLoughlin (47); T Parsons for Higgins (58); S O'Shea for Gibbons (62); R Feeney for Doherty (69).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)