Horan in no mood to panic despite collapse
QUESTION: When does a drama become a crisis? Answer: when you suffer your third defeat from five matches and lose to 14 men two weeks in a row, as Mayo did yesterday at McHale Park.
At least, that was the sense I got from the mutterings and complaints of disappointed home supporters among the 4,500 in attendance as they left the ground stunned by this loss to Cork.
Perhaps it's as well that the Green and Red have yet another chance to bounce back quickly, with Dublin due in Castlebar next Saturday in the rearranged fixture that fell victim to fog last month.
And while Mayo manager James Horan was disappointed with the manner of the loss as much as the fact of conceding defeat to Cork, he sought solace in perspective.
That was difficult, but understandable. How do you deal with losing after your team led by five points against 14 men -- Cork had Mark Collins sent off for an off-the-ball incident after 35 minutes -- with just 18 minutes left of normal time?
The answer is: "Don't panic."
"A lot of the stuff we are doing is right and we just have to keep working at it. The master plan doesn't change just because of a few defeats -- if you start to change it, then panic sets in. We know what we're trying to do. It's a bumpy road but we'll keep at it," Horan said.
Cork boss Conor Counihan was relieved with the great escape but not impressed by the performance level of his team.
"We were very lucky to get out of it. Mayo were the better team for a lot of that, but maybe our fellas leave a bit in the tank for the finish," Counihan said.
This was a scrappy, untidy affair, albeit marked by genuine effort on the part of both sets of players.
The result mattered to both sides, as Mayo had lost last Sunday week to Donegal, who, by coincidence, had a man sent off at precisely the same time as Cork's Mark Collins got his marching orders yesterday -- the 35th minute.
Cork's pride was hurt by their defeat to Kerry and they needed a morale booster, so the stage was set for an invigorating encounter -- or so we thought.
It didn't turn out that way. Mayo doggedly ground out a 0-7 to 0-3 lead by half-time, by which time they had replaced Lee Keegan with Peadar Gardiner, after 26 minutes, and minor and U-21 star Cillian O'Connor with Conor Mortimer in the 29th minute.
Mortimer certainly contributed well, and notched his first point in the 34th minute after a great catch, followed by a battle to retain possession by Michael Conroy who was injured in the process.
While he was receiving treatment, Donal Vaughan was stretched out on the ground at the other end of the field, and after consulting with his umpires, referee McQuillan showed Collins the red card.
Mayo, with full-forward Andy Moran the epitome of selfless and effective work, on and off the ball, didn't do too much wrong in the second half, but got caught in the closing stages.
Donncha O'Connor did the bulk of the scoring for Cork, and Michael Shields, Noel O'Leary, Paddy Kelly, Pearse O'Neill and Alan O'Connor were at the heart of a gallant Rebel resistance.
Their efforts seemed gallant, but doomed once the lively Kevin McLoughlin jinked his way through two tackles to score Mayo's 11th point in the 52nd minute, leaving Cork five points adrift.
Over the next 13 minutes, the home side added only two more points, one by Moran and the other by Jason Doherty, while Cork doggedly chipped away, interspersing scores with some costly wides.
On the plus side, a point from a '45' by Donncha O'Connor, a fine long-range point by substitute Paul Kerrigan, and one each by Barry O'Driscoll, Paddy Kelly and Aidan Walsh kept the Rebels in touch at 0-11 to Mayo's 0-13 with five minutes left.
And then bums started squeaking, as Alex Ferguson might say.
Mayo's Alan Dillon got sent off for a second yellow card offence in the 68th minute.
Almost immediately, Donncha O'Connor hit point number 12 for Cork from a free.
A minute into time added on, Paul Kerrigan drove the equaliser over the bar.
Was that enough? No, Cork still had one last bit of lung power left in the tank for a final raid into Mayo territory.
Cork's Paudie Kissane hit a huge high ball from 30 metres desperately hoping for the winning score, but it looked like it was going wide.
Instead, the ball bounced down off an upright and eager Donncha O'Connor snatched it and fired it over the bar. Victory!
"I thought the ball was going wide. As I was watching, it was going wide, wide, wide but then the 'keeper called 'the post' and he actually helped me out a bit, but I was watching it. So it was just great to get it," said O'Connor.
Man of the Match: Andy Moran (Mayo)
Scorers -- Cork: D O'Connor 0-6 (3f, 1 '45'), P Kerrigan 0-2, P Kelly 0-2, C O'Neill 0-1 (f), S Kiely, B O'Driscoll, A Walsh 0-1 each.
Mayo: C Mortimer 0-3 (1f), A Moran, M Conroy, A Dillon 0-2 each, A Freeman, D Vaughan, K McLoughlin, J Doherty 0-1 each.
Cork -- A Quirke 7; R Carey 7, M Shields 7, E Cotter 7; N O'Leary 6, S Kiely 7, P Kissane 7; P O'Neill 7, A O'Connor, 7; F Goold 7, M Collins 6, P Kelly 8; C O'Neill 6, A Walsh 7, D O'Connor 8. Subs: P Kerrigan 7 for C O'Neill (h-t), B O'Driscoll 6 for F Goold (58);
Mayo -- D Clarke 7; C Boyle 7, G Cafferkey 7, K Higgins 7 ; L Keegan 6, D Vaughan 7, S McHale 7; S O'Shea 6, B Moran 6; K McLoughlin 7, C O'Connor 6, A Dillon 7; A Freeman 7, A Moran 8, M Conroy 7. Subs: P Gardiner 7 for L Keegan (26), C Mortimer 7 for C O'Connor (29), D Geraghty 6 for S O'Shea (43), J Doherty 6 for M Conroy (51), A Campbell for C Boyle (66).
Ref -- J McQuillan (Cavan).