Mayo survive massive scare to edge spirited Rebels in pulsating extra-time drama
Mayo 0-27 Cork 2-20
All-Ireland finalists Mayo are on their way back to Croke Park but only after surviving a massive scare from a fired-up Cork side.
The Rebels came back from seven points down to force extra-time, but Mayo dug deep and carved out a win with the bare minimum to spare.
Cork, having forced extra-time with a great flourish, led by 2-19 to 0-24 at the break in added time as they outscored Mayo by 0-4 to 0-3 in that period.
Cork knew they needed a good start if they were to have any real chance of rescuing their season and, not for the first time, it was Donncha O’Connor who delivered when the Rebels needed it most.
The Ballydesmond clubman was in inspired form early on, and by half-time he kicked half a dozen points, three of them from play.
He followed up two early frees with one from play to make it 0-3 to 0-1 after ten minutes, with Cillian O’Connor getting the All-Ireland finalists off the mark with a free after eight minutes.
Lee Keegan went forward for a trademark point, but good passing by Cork was rewarded with a second from play from O’Connor, as the Rebels made it clear they were up for the fight after a dismal Munster campaign.
Aidan O’Shea’s superb summer continued in the opening half and the Breaffy man was full of good running, setting up Tom Parsons for a point before veteran Andy Moran showed superb pace to race through and fist over the equaliser at the end of the opening quarter.
O’Shea drew Mayo level again after Barry O’Driscoll had pointed for Cork.
Cork were struggling to maintain their strong opening and Mayo, growing in confidence as they built from deep, opened up a two points lead.
The lead score came from Cillian O’Connor after good work by Colm Boyle, before O’Shea took several challenges before teeing up Moran for another fine score to make it 0-7 to 0-5 eight minutes from the break.
Paul Kerrigan responded with an important point for Cork and O’Connor then pointed a free to tie the sides approaching the break.
Cork had a couple of opportunities to hit the front but Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke did well to pull down an effort from John O’Rourke which was going over the bar.
And then moments later an effort from O’Connor from the right was flagged as point before the intervention of a linesman correctly saw the score disallowed.
There was a further blow for Cork when corner-back Jamie O’Sullivan was black-carded for the second game in a row for an unnecessary challenge on O’Shea.
Cillian O’Connor pointed the resultant free to trigger a big finish to the half from Mayo, with Jason Doherty doubling the lead and O’Connor making it 0-10 to 0-7 at the interval with his fourth point.
Mayo, having been behind in their three previous championship games, extended their lead three minutes after the restart when Moran landed his third point, with Cork having suffered another blow when midfielder Aidan Walsh limped off.
Mayo did not relent and a side which has not lost a qualifier game since being shocked by Longford in 2010 turned the screw.
Cillian O’Connor fired over two excellent points and sub Paddy Durcan wasted little time in making an impact when he pointed to make it 0-14 to 0-7.
Double scores after 48 minutes suggested an easy win for Mayo but O’Connor and then John O’Rourke gave Cork some hope as they found the range inside a minute.
Boosted by those scores, Cork burst forward and O’Rourke grabbed a second before Colm O’Neill announced his introduction with a good score and suddenly there was only a goal between the sides with 20 minutes to go.
Cillian O’Connor, O’Shea and Moran doubled the lead but then the superb Sean Powter got in for a 57th minute goal to give Cork hope.
They got the gap down to one before Mayo pulled away again but two minutes into stoppage time Luke Connolly took a return pass from Rory Deane to shoot an equalising goal.
Durcan edged Mayo back in front but in the seventh minute of stoppage time, Connolly kept his nerve to force extra-time with a free from 35 yards to leave it 0-21 to 2-15.
Scorers for Mayo: C O’Connor 0-11 (0-4f, 0-1 ‘45); A Moran 0-4; A O’Shea 0-3; P Durcan & C Loftus 0-2 each; L Keegan, T Parsons, J Doherty, K Higgins & D O’Connor 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: D O’Connor 0-6 (0-4f); L Connolly 1-1 (0-1f); S Powter 1-0; J O’Rourke, P Kerrigan & C O’Neill 0-3 (0-1f); M Hurley 0-2; B O’Driscoll & T Clancy 0-1 each.
Cork: R Price; J Loughrey, M Shields, J O’Sullivan; T Clancy, E Cadogan, C O’Driscoll; A Walsh, I Maguire; M Collins, S Powter, J O’Rourke; B O’Driscoll, P Kerrigan, Donncha O’Connor.
Subs: K Crowley for Loughrey (19), S Cronin for O’Sullivan (35, black card), R Deane for Walsh (37), C O’Neill for Shields (46), L Connolly for B O’Driscoll (53), M Hurley for Donnacha O’Connor (62), S White for C O’Driscoll (71), A O’Connor for Maguire (71), K O’Driscoll for O’Rourke (71), C Dorman for Crowley (75), C O’Driscoll for Powter (80).
Mayo: D Clarke; G Cafferkey, B Harrison, C Barrett; L Keegan, K Higgins, C Boyle; S O’Shea, T Parsons; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor; J Doherty, C O’Connor, A Moran.
Subs: P Durcan for Barrett (44), S Coen for S O’Shea (49), D Vaughan for Boyle (53), D Drake for Keegan (58, black card), C Loftus for Moran (63), C Crowe for Cafferkey (80), E Regan for McLoughlin (81), A Dillon for Diarmuid O’Connor (87).
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)