Substance and style needed to earn second league victory
THE contrasting moods of Mayo football were in full view on Sunday, but to have doggedly clung to a slender lead in the final minutes was one of the brighter features of their one-point win at Healy Park.
Tyrone had clinically whittled a deficit of four points down to one in the final 12 minutes, and in desperation to claim their first win of the league, piled unrelenting pressure on the Mayo defence.
Just one point separated them as normal time ticked out, and the drama mounted. Mayo fought resolutely to hold on, every player tenaciously denying Tyrone the space to grab an equaliser. Forwards turned defenders; backs strained every sinew to hold on without conceding the vital free.
It was nail-biting stuff, and in that tense atmosphere it was only natural that something would give. The free Tyrone needed was duly awarded when Barry Kelly grounded Aidan Cassidy, rugby style… and tempers flared.
Kelly got away scot-free, but Peadar Gardiner fell to the ground, rather too easily it seemed, from a charge by Joe McMahon. The luckless Tyrone man was sent off. Mark Ronaldson got a yellow card for a foul on another Tyrone man in the same scuffle. The free was neutralised by controversial referee Jimmy White, the ball thrown in, and Mayo held on to the lead for whatever seconds remained.
That’s how it ended at Healy Park, and in those final minutes Mayo showed a side to their game that has been too often missing. Other times their play was poor and patchy. But having fallen seriously into arrears on two occasions in the slippery conditions, they steadily worked their way back to the front and for that alone deserved their victory.
One man who played a leading role in their recovery was Mark Ronaldson who garnered a total of 1-6, some of his points from acute angles, and was the outstanding forward on view.
His goal, from a well-placed penalty, came in the 26th minute when Mayo were trailing by a point. It resulted from a foul on Alan Freeman — who had switched places with Aidan O’Shea — in the rectangle.
It was a boost to Mayo whose morale had been shaken by a fine Tyrone goal in the 13th minute, beautifully worked up field with the help of Ronan McNabb and Tommy McGuigan. Two minutes earlier, Keith Higgins — who along with Donal Vaughan — was patently effective in defence, denied Enda McGinley a certain goal with a timely intervention.
Mayo looked anything but impressive in those opening minutes even though points by Andy Moran and Ronaldson had kept them abreast of those scored by McGuigan and Aidan Cassidy.
The goal and the prodigious work of Moran, in a great battle with Ryan McMenamin, were a fillip Mayo needed. Ronan McGarrity and Tom Parsons, spasmodic against the excellent Aidan Cassidy and Kevin Hughes at midfield, grew more influential as the game progressed, and by half time Mayo held a lead of 1-6 to 1-5.
Four minutes after the restart McGuigan, Cassidy and McCusker had yanked Tyrone back into a lead of two points, and in crowding out Mayo attacks had bustled into serious control, until Enda Varley stopped the rot with a point from a free.
The Mayo selectors replaced the O’Shea brothers with Barry Kelly and Kieran Conroy, and the Shrule man was particularly effective. Good work by McGarrity and Freeman released Parsons for a point.
And after Varley had his second from a free, Ronaldson grabbed two heartbreakers. The indefatigable Moran stole another, and suddenly Mayo were four ahead twelve minutes from the end.
They didn’t score after that, but the manner in which they fought to hold onto the lead was impressive. Gallantly, Tyrone, who had to start without Justin McMahon, Conor Gormley and Martin Penrose, when their yellow card offences against Derry later became red, stormed back with two points by Peter Harte and one by Hughes. The clock denied them an equaliser, however.
D Clarke; D Vaughan, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; P Gardiner, T Howley, K McLoughlin (0-1); T Parsons (0-1), R McGarrity; A Moran (0-2), S O’Shea, A Freeman; E Varley (0-2, 2fs), A O’Shea, M Ronaldson (1-6,pen,2fs).
Subs used: B Kelly for A O’Shea; K Conroy for S O’Shea; N Douglas for McLoughlin; M Sweeney for Freeman.
P McConnell; R McNabb, J McMahon, D Carlin; D Harte, S O’Neill, R McMenamin; A Cassidy (0-2), K Hughes (0-1); C Cavanagh (0-1), B McGuigan, E McGinley; K Coney (0-1), T McGuigan (0-3), E McCusker (1-1).
Subs used: P Harte (0-2) for B McGuigan; C McCullagh for Coney.
Referee: J White (Donegal)