'I thought everyone else could see it apart from the referee' - Farney cry foul as Mayo seal last-gasp victory
Mayo 0-13 Monaghan 0-12
In the end, a game that had ebbed and flowed all day came down to a single decision.
With the teams tied on 0-12 apiece and the game in injury time, referee David Gough didn't call a foul close to goal when Monaghan looked to have decent claims for a push in the back on one of their forwards.
Mayo inevitably won back possession and worked the ball up field for Paddy Durcan to kick a beauty of a point and give Stephen Rochford a first opening day win in the league since taking charge.
Afterwards, Malachy O'Rourke cried foul. In difficult underfoot conditions, he had seen his side battle back from three points down to level things up going into the home straight only for Mayo to pick their pocket at the death.
"It was very cruel and we're very disappointed, the boys did very well to draw level," O'Rourke said.
"The ball was put into our full-forward line and there was a clear push in the back, he didn't give it. He gave a free out down the field and they got a point with the wind to win the game. It was a very cruel way to lose it, I couldn't understand. I thought everyone else could see it apart from the referee. It was a strange one to me."
If Monaghan felt Gough didn't do them any favours, they could be said to have been culpable to an extent themselves in a frantic finish as they finished the game with 12 men.
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Ryan Wylie was sent off on a straight red card after a clash with Aidan O'Shea with the sides level as normal time elapsed. A couple of minutes later tempers flared again and Barry Kerr was shown his second yellow card. In the same incident Colm Boyle picked up an injury that saw him helped off the field. Rochford later confirmed he had suffered a dead leg.
Deep in injury time Dermot Malone was black carded and couldn't be replaced as the Farney men had used all their subs and O'Rourke's 12 men couldn't muster another score
"We have to look back at that, there was a couple if instances we wouldn't be happy about and we went down to 13 men," O'Rourke said of the dismissals. "But I thought the character the boys showed was top-class and we kept coming back. It looked like the game was gone from us and the boys refused to die and we kept coming back. That's what makes it so disappointing, that decision at the end.
"That's what happens and sometimes the top teams get them and the other teams don't. Disappointing, no doubt about it."
Rochford was pleased that his side managed to get the win despite having little preparation time.
"Lucky in some ways to get the win but our overall application was really good for a team that hasn't done a lot and our prep hasn't been what we wanted it to be based on weather and all sorts of other little challenges," he said.
"When we put ourselves three points up in the second-half we could have controlled it a little bit better but that was just probably evidence of our rustiness."
And the Mayo managed declared himself pleased with how some of the new faces performed, with Belmullet's Eoin O'Donoghue catching the eye in defence.
"Eoin O'Donoghue in his first start had a fine, fine game," observed the Mayo boss. "He was a very good minor and under 21 on All-Ireland winning teams and he has stepped up there. I thought he had a good game but it is about being consistent and there's a big challenge coming next week for him against Kerry.
"In midfield, Jason Gibbons had a very effective second-half and against a super performer in Darren Hughes. He gave enough of a competitive element to winning that primary possession and then Neil Douglas too.
"For a guy that missed what he would perceive to be a disappointing free at the start showed a lot of mental character to come back and shoot two crucial '45's in the second-half so overall very happy with how they applied themselves. Lots of work to do still though."
The first half was evenly matched with Monaghan looking to deliver long and early into their full forward line where debutant David Garland was busy. The home side kicked the first two points of the day and before Andy Moran opened Mayo's account on nine minutes.
They would be evenly matched for the rest of the half with Karl O'Connell kicking the final point of the opening 35 minutes to ensure his side went in level (0-7 each) at half time. Mayo then went three points clear only for Monaghan to level things before Durcan's late intervention that sets Mayo up for an intriguing clash with Kerry on Saturday night.
"It's not about who isn't here it's about who is here and guys putting their hands up and building. We hadn't got two points under my tenure in the first game and it was about nudging ourselves towards seven or eight points. We have one game with two points collected and we look to the Kerry game next week, they will be looking to change the wins we had over the last year so that will be a massive game but one we are looking forward to in Castlebar."
SCORERS - Mayo: E Regan 0-5 (4f), N Douglas 0-4 (2f, 2 '45s), P Durcan 0-2, A Moran, E O'Donoghue 0-1 each, Monaghan: C McCarthy (2f), J McCarron (2f) 0-3 each, D Garland, N Kearns, K O'Connell 0-2 each.
Mayo - D Clarke 7; B Harrison 7, G Cafferkey 7, E O'Donoghue 8; C Boyle 7, S Nally 6, P Durcan 7; J Gibbons 7, S Coen 7; K McLoughlin 6, A O'Shea 6, D O'Connor 6; N Douglas 7, E Regan 7, A Moran 6 Subs: C O'Connor 6 for Douglas (57), A Gallagher for D O'Connor (BC 58), C Loftus for Moran (63), S Akram for Nally (66), G McDonagh for Boyle (69).
Monaghan - R Beggan 7; R Wylie 7, C Boyle 8, B Kerr 7; F Kelly 6, K Duffy , K O'Connell 7; D Hughes 7, N Kearns 8; O Duffy 6, P McGuirk 6, R McAnespie 6; C McCarthy 7, J McCarron 6, D Garland 7
Subs: P McKenna 6 for O Duffy (41), D Malone 6 for McCarron (53), D Freeman 6 for Garland (56), C Walshe for K Duffy, D Wylie for McGuirk (both 65), D Ward for McAnespie (70).
Ref - D Gough (Meath).