Doherty seals Mayo's status
Crucial goal keeps Rebels waiting on final spot
Allianz football league Div 1
Jason Doherty was the toast of Mayo last night after his golden goal proved the crucial element in the Green and Red saving their top-flight status at McHale Park, Castlebar yesterday.
The 22-year-old has proven a real find for the senior team during this league campaign and has shown himself to be a genuine member of that rare species -- the goal poacher.
Six times he has hit the back of the net to date, making him the division's top goal-scorer and none was more important than the 47th minute strike that lifted the home team in every way.
Leading by a point at half-time, Mayo had eked out a three-point lead by the time Doherty gained possession and jinked forward into the heart of the Cork defence.
His first shot was scrambled away by Cork 'keeper Ray O'Halloran, but the ball broke loose and cool-head Doherty followed up to slot the ball home.
At a stroke the lead was six points and when Andy Moran fired over another score from a free a minute later, Cork were seven points down and wondering what had hit them.
Conor Counihan's men had coped well in a tough, edgy opening 35 minutes against the big wind to go into half-time just a point down on a 0-7 to 0-6 scoreline.
Once Pearse O'Neill smashed over a long-range equalising point almost immediately on the re-start, Mayo manager James Horan could sense the sudden tension afflicting the home fans.
"Pearse O'Neill kicked a huge point at the start of the second half with a strong wind and you could almost hear 'here we go again' emanating from the crowd. But the lads stood up really well and everyone of them worked hard," he said.
That was an understatement. In fact, both sets of players worked their socks off, because the stakes were high.
A win for Cork and they were certain of a final against Dublin; defeat for Mayo virtually assured them of relegation.
No wonder referee Rory Hickey dished out six yellow cards, four to Mayo and two to Cork.
He did raise the ire of the Mayo fans for some of the frees he awarded against the home team, but considering that every so often play would move on, leaving a couple of players rolling and tussling on the ground, he did well to avoid sending anyone off.
In fairness, the occasional grunt 'n' grapple usually ended with the antagonists getting up and getting on with it and the game never descended into nastiness.
Ironically, the team playing against the wind produced the better football in each half, but credit to Mayo because they had more to prove than Cork after gaining just three points from their previous five matches.
Dillon, scorer of five points, four of them frees and three of those coming in a windy second half, deservedly got man of the match, but Mayo had a team of heroes.
You could highlight the non-stop graft of Andy Moran, the threat of Doherty and Alan Freeman up front, the crunching physicality of Aidan O'Shea in midfield, the energy and commitment of Keith Higgins, Richie Feeney, and Kevin McLoughlin, and that would be only half the story.
There was luck, and some bloody-minded stubborn resistance as well, for Mayo gave themselves a torrid last 18 minutes -- 16 of normal time and two added on -- as their last score came in the 54th minute.
That arose when Alan Freeman struck the ball magnificently from 35 metres to make the score 1-13 to 0-9.
Seven points ahead, with John Miskella on and Cork in the mood for rampage -- what a task Mayo set themselves.
Daniel Goulding, with two points from frees and one from a '45 cut the margin, and Miskella's 65th minute point on the run with no challenge from a Mayo defender left Cork three behind -- 1-13 to 0-13.
Every ball was fiercely contested, and Miskella notched up another point with two minutes of normal time left to raise the temperature to fever pitch.
Somehow, Mayo held out, even when a Goulding high, dropping, teasing ball dropped into the heart of their defence and goalie and defenders collided in their desperation to clear.
Luckily the ball ran free and Higgins got it away, to be quickly followed by an Eoin Cadogan close-range blast that hit the upright.
Cork had strong performances from Ray Carey, Michael Shields, Noel O'Leary, Cadogan, Pearse O'Neill and Goulding.
Manager Conor Counihan couldn't fault his team for their blood and thunder approach to try and save the match.
"I suppose fellas did push on a bit at the finish, but we left ourselves too much to do at that stage, but there were some positive performances as well,'' he said.
"We've Armagh next week and that's what we need to focus on now. It's going to be tough. On today's performance, we need to up the ante big time."
Mayo skipper Dillon had to leave the pitch due to a hamstring problem in the 66th minute but by the final whistle he was all smiles.
"We were disappointed at half time that with a stiff breeze we didn't take a few more chances, but the goal midway through the second half was a turning point.
"We always knew Cork would get their spell, but we battled hard and we won some vital breaks down the middle in the last ten or 15 minutes, so we're delighted," he said.
Man of the Match: Alan Dillon (Mayo)
Scorers - Mayo: A Dillon 0-5 (4f), J Doherty 1-1, A Moran 0-2, J Kilcullen 0-2, A Freeman, A O 'Shea, C O'Connor (f) 0-1 each. Cork: D Goulding 0-7 (5f, 1 '45), P O'Neill 0-2, J Miskella 0-2, P Kerrigan, F Lynch, S Kiely 0-1 each.
Mayo: R Hennelly 7; T Cunniffe 7, A Feeney 7, K Higgins 8; R Feeney 8, G Cafferky 7, L Keegan 7; A O 'Shea 8, J Kilcullen 7; K McLoughlin 8, A Dillon 9, A Moran 8; C O'Connor 7, A Freeman 7, J Doherty 8. Subs: E Reilly 7 for T Cunniffe (ht); J Gibbons 7 for J Kilcullen (55); A Campbell 6 for A Dillon (66); P Gardiner for L Keegan (69)
Cork: K O'Halloran 7; R Carey 7 , J O' Sullivan 7, M Shields 7; S Kiely 7, N O'Leary 7 , E Cadogan 7; A O'Connor 7 , J Fitzpatrick 7; F Goold 7, K O'Driscoll 7, P O'Neill 7; D Goulding 7, F Lynch 7, P Kerrigan 7. Subs: J Miskella 7 for K O'Driscoll (ht); D O' Sullivan 6 for S Kiely (57); P O'Flynn 6 for J Fitzpatrick (64)
Ref-- R Hickey (Clare)