Mayo record controversial comeback win over Fermanagh after second half surge
Mayo 2-14 Fermanagh 1-12
Mayo relaunched their All-Ireland campaign this evening when they knocked back door specialists Fermanagh out of the race for Sam 2016.
Results rather than performances are what matter at this stage of the championship.
Nonetheless, the Mayo fans in McHale Park will have been concerned by the side's display - particularly in the first half - as they stuttered to a flattering five point win over Pete McGrath's side.
Furthermore, they had to depend on veterans Alan Dillon – who scored two points – Andy Moran, Barry Moran and Donal Vaughan to steer them over the line.
Playing with a near gale force breeze Fermanagh looked sharper in the early exchanges and Mayo's inability to secure their own kick out meant that they coughed up scores and the visitors deservingly led 0-4 to 0-1 after ten minutes.
Then the game turned briefly in favour of Mayo. In what was only their second purposeful attack in the 12th minute Mayo drove at the heart of the Fermanagh defence.
Evan Regan did the spade work, winning a great ball and found space; his pass put Keith Higgins clear and while his shot was brilliantly saved by Fermanagh keeper Christopher Snow, Alan Freeman drove the rebound to the net.
Cillian O'Connor quickly added a point to give Mayo the lead for the first time but their fans had scarcely time to digest their new found status when Fermanagh struck back.
Colm Boyle found himself isolated on Sean Quigley when contesting a through ball from Ryan Lyons.
Boyle protested vigorously that Quigley pushed him over before the ball arrived but the referee ignored his protestations and the Fermanagh full forward had oceans of time to pick his spot and beat Clarke.
Tomas Corrigan extended Fermanagh's advantage to four points and though O'Connor kicked two frees after fouls on O'Shea, Fermanagh looked more fluent when they counter-attacked with wing back Aidan Breen – who effectively was Kevin McLoughlin's man – being particularly impressive hitting two points on the spin.
Two more of their impressive performers, Eoin Donnelly and Ryan Jones, added another brace from distance before the break to give Fermanagh a deserved six point lead (1-10 to 1-4) at the break.
Initially the Mayo fightback began well with early points from the O'Connor brothers – the latter effort from Diarmuid.
But Fermanagh still punished their indiscretion when they worked the free through to Barry Mulrone who hit his second point and Fermanagh's ninth from play.
Fermanagh got a crucial break after 49 minutes when Marty O'Brien, having dropped the ball after catching it over the head of Cillian O'Connor, appeared to foul the Mayo captain inside the square but the referee wasn't interested.
The scoring rate dropped but it was Mayo who needed the scores. However, O'Connor (free) and Regan squandered chances as panic started to set in. But two of Mayo's key defenders, Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle showed the way with a brace of points to leave one between the sides with 15 minutes left.
Cillian O'Connor tied it up with a 45 before a Corrigan free restored Fermanagh's lead and then came the game's final turn when the referee harshly called that Che Cullen bundled over Aidan O'Shea in the square when replays showed there was little to no contact. O'Connor calmly stepped forward and slotted the penalty to give his side the lead for only the second time.
Appropriately it was two of Mayo's best performers Keegan and O'Shea who extended their advantage but David Clarke earned his place at the other end when he blocked a goal bound shot from a Fermanagh substitute. This pair together with Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins and Cillian O'Connor stood up when it mattered while Diarmuid O'Connor was one of the key Mayo players who shone in the first half.
It was altogether too close for comfort though Mayo's second half performance in which they outscored Fermanagh 1-10 to 0-2 was impressive. Still, it was that disputed penalty eight minutes from the end of normal time which turned the game. Mayo will probably need more home comforts in tomorrow's draw.
The official attendance was 12, 317.
Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, K Keane, P Durcan; C Boyle (0-1), L Keegan (0-2), K McLoughlin; S O'Shea, S Coen; K Higgins, A O'Shea (0-1), D O'Connor (0-2); E Regan (0-1, 1f), A Freeman (1-0), C O'Connor (1-5, 1g pen, 3f, 1 45). Subs: D Vaughan for Durcan 33m; A Dillon (0-2) for Freeman 46m; B Moran for Coen 52m; A Moran for Regan 60m; J Doherty for A O'Shea 71m
Fermanagh: C Snow; M Jones, M O'Brien, B Mulrone (0-2); D McCusker, C Cullen, A Breen (0-3); E Donnelly (0-1), R O'Callaghan; D Kelly, R Jones (0-1), R Lyons; R Corrigan, S Quigley (1-1, 1f), T Corrigan (0-4, 2f). Subs: P McCusker for Lyons 46m; J McMahon for O'Brien 56; K Connor for D McCusker 65m, K Flaherty for O'Callaghan 66m, P McGovern for Breen 38m
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)