Down profit from O'Shea's disputed red card to halt Mayo charge
Down 1-13 Mayo 0-11
Mayo's league aspirations suffered a serious setback in Castlebar where their unbeaten run was terminated by an unfancied Down side who hit top form on the day.
While Mayo will be justifiably angry with having to play most of this game with 14 men, there was no denying that Down were the hungrier side and fully deserved their five-point win, with their attack in particular finding weak points in the Mayo defence.
But the victory left a sour taste for home fans after a game marred by niggly fouls and poor refereeing decisions, although it was on the advice of one of his linesmen that Barry Cassidy showed Aidan O'Shea a straight red card after an altercation with Daniel Hughes on nine minutes.
O'Shea protested his innocence, but his loss was crucial with Mayo forced to drop Cathal Freeman into the midfield area.
Mayo were a point ahead at that stage, thanks to the opening scores from Andy Moran from play and a Conor Mortimer free, but the game was tied when Ambrose Rodgers, a central figure in shaping Down's fortunes, fired over on 16 minutes.
However, the turning point came when Down hit the Mayo net on 19 minutes -- Conor Maginn, put through by Conor Laverty, flicking the ball over the head of the advancing 'keeper Robert Hennelly.
Mayo responded well with points from Alan Dillon and Mortimer, but they were chasing that goal at the interval as they trailed by 1-7 to 0-6, the in-form Aidan Carr nailing some terrific frees while Rodgers also landed a free and a '45'.
Carr boosted Down with an early second-half score to extend the gap to five but Mayo pared it back to two with Mortimer (free), Dillon and Freeman (free) dragging them back into contention.
The Connacht champions might have drawn level but for some poor finishing and dreadful freetaking options, which included two missed long-range attempts by goalkeeper Hennelly.
However, this game swung in Down's favour when Brendan Coulter arrived on the scene and two on the bounce from the Down ace settled the nerves. Mayo scored just a free from Freeman in the last 15 minutes of a game, which saw the officials booed off afterwards.
Man of the Match: Aidan Carr (Down)
SCORERS -- Down: A Carr 0-5 (3f), C Maginn 1-1, A Rogers 0-3, (1f, 1 '45), B Coulter 0-2, K Duffin, D Hughes 0-1 each. Mayo: C Mortimer 0-6 (6f), A Dillon, A Freeman (2f) 0-2 each, A Moran 0-1.
Down -- B McVeigh 7; D McCartan 7, C Garvey 7, D Turley 6; D Gordon 7, A Branigan 7, N McPartland 7; A Rogers 8, K King 9; D Hughes 7, M Poland 7, A Carr 9; C Laverty 9, A McConville 7, C Maginn 8. Subs: K McKiernan 7 for Garvey (22), B Coulter 8 for McConville (41), K Duffin 8 for D Turley (50), P Turley 7 for Rogers (64) O McCarty 7 for Poland (60).
Mayo -- R Hennelly 6; K Keane 6, G Cafferkey 7, K Higgins 6; R Feeney 7, D Vaughan 7, L Keegan 6; A O'Shea 6, B Moran 7; A Dillon 6, A Freeman 7, J Doherty 6; C Mortimer 7, A Moran 8, E Varley 7. Subs: S O'Shea 7 for Doherty (31), M Conroy 6 for Varley (50), P Harte 6 for Freeman (60), P Gardiner 6 for Feeney (67).
Ref -- B Cassidy (Derry).