'There was certainly contact' - Mayo boss Rochford defends Aidan O'Shea in diving row
Mayo 2-14 Fermanagh 1-12
Published 11/07/2016 | 02:30
Pete McGrath had been in a small concrete room under the stand in Castlebar when he was shown a replay of the penalty decision that had, ultimately, taken the game away from his side.
His initial reaction in real time was that Aidan O'Shea had dived to convince referee Joe McQuillan that Che Cullen had interfered with his progress. What McGrath saw on the monitor only copper-fastened that belief. Cillian O'Connor's goal from the spot kick was, he said, the "defining moment of the game."
"Having seen the penalty, that was not a penalty," McGrath said. "And people are already ridiculing the referee on social media. Aidan O'Shea is a marvellous footballer and I'm not saying others wouldn't have done what Aidan did but he dived. Big time. No doubt about it.
"The referee bought it hook, line and sinker and it was the defining moment of the game. It was the moment of the game that quite possibly 95pc put the game out of our reach. We were leading at that stage with six or seven minutes to go and for a penalty to be awarded as easily as that is highly disappointing."
Fermanagh led by a single point when Mayo were awarded the spot-kick. The home side had been utterly dominant since the restart and, playing with the aid of a strong breeze, may well have kicked on enough to win regardless of the penalty award.
Indeed, they should probably have been awarded a spot-kick shortly before that. Marty O'Brien seemed to haul down O'Connor on the 50-minute mark but McQuillan looked away.
At that stage, Fermanagh still led by four and the natives were getting restless. Those nerves seemed to touch those on the pitch too. Evan Regan should have got something from a half goal chance Mayo fashioned, and O'Shea hit the post with a point attempt.
But with Fermanagh struggling to get out of their own half, Mayo eventually pulled level through an O'Connor '45'.
Fermanagh hit the front again through a Tomas Corrigan free but that would be their second and final point of the second half as Mayo looked to ram home their dominance. They would have another sight of goal late on but David Clarke, who replaced Rob Hennelly in goal, pulled off a good save to ensure Mayo's name went into the hat for this morning's draw.
The aftermath of the game was dominated by the O'Shea penalty row, with Mayo boss Stephen Rochford, unsurprisingly, defending his star player.
"There were a couple of comments there that maybe we were lucky to get the penalty we did. From what I saw I thought there was certainly contact. When Aidan O'Shea gets on the ball from what I have seen this season he usually gets the attention of three or four guys, and if it's a bit of luck he caught it's not before time.
Read More: Diving demeans game and leaves sour taste
"After seeing the attention that he got in the league maybe he caught a break. He got a black card up in Monaghan for a tackle that was just an arm out in the first three minutes on the full-forward. There were fellas jumping on his back here against Dublin here. If he has caught a break it's not before time."
Fermanagh had played with a stiff wind in the first half and took a six-point lead in at the break (1-10 to 1-4). They raced into a three-point lead early on only for Alan Freeman to grab a goal to level things.
Regan fielded a long delivery and he did well to find Keith Higgins. Fermanagh keeper Chris Snow could only parry Higgins' effort and Freeman did the rest to put the sides level. It looked a big score given the conditions but Fermanagh fashioned a goal of their own soon afterwards.
Sean Quigley eased Colm Boyle off the ball after Ryan Lyons' good delivery and he was ultra-calm when rounding Clarke to put his side into a three-point lead.
Mayo deployed Kevin McLoughlin as a sweeper which, given the strength of the wind, seemed prudent but up front, they persisted with trying to carry the ball through the centre of Fermanagh's defence. For the most part, the Ulster men had little problem in dealing with that approach.
McGrath's side would kick the last four points of the first half, which included the impressive Aidan Breen grabbing his third from play from half-back to give his side a fighting chance of holding on for an upset.
But Fermanagh would manage just two points in the second half.
"We knew that test was always going to be there," Rochford said. "Fermanagh are a very good team and were in the last eight last year. It's a win. That's all it was ever going to be."
SCORERS - Mayo: C O'Connor 1-5 (0-3fs, 0-1 '45', 1-0 pen), A Freeman 1-0, D O'Connor, L Keegan, A Dillon 0-2 each, C Boyle, A O'Shea, E Regan (1f) 0-1 each. Fermanagh: S Quigley 1-1 (0-1f), T Corrigan 0-4 (2fs), A Breen 0-3, B Mulrone 0-2, E Donnelly, R Lyons 0-1 each.
Mayo - D Clarke 7; B Harrison 7, K Keane 6, K Higgins 8; L Keegan 6, C Boyle 7, P Durcan 6; S O'Shea 6, S Coen 6; K McLoughlin 6, A O'Shea 7, D O'Connor 8; E Regan 6, A Freeman 6, C O'Connor 7. Subs: D Vaughan 7 for Durcan (34), A Dillon 8 for Freeman (47), B Moran 7 for Coen (53), A Moran 6 for Regan (61),
Fermanagh - C Snow 7; M Jones 7, C Cullen 7, M O'Brien 6; D MCCusker 7, D Kelly 7, A Breen 8; E Donnelly 8, R O'Callaghan 7; B Mulrone 7, R Jones 6, R Lyons 6; R Corrigan 6, S Quigley 7, T Corrigan 7. Subs: P McCusker for Lyons (47), J McMahon for O'Brien (57), K Connor for D McCusker (65), P McGovern for Breen (70).
Ref - J McQuillan (Cavan).