Mayo's composure gets them out of tight corner
MAYO 0-21 ; TIPPERARY 1-14 MAYO march on, Tipperary's summer is over, but both sides delivered a hugely entertaining game of football in Ennis last night before going their separate ways.
The game stayed in the balance right until injury time, Mayo making it hard on themselves, as ever, with some gratuitous shooting but equally showing enough composure to survive the best that Tipp and Declan Browne in particular could throw at them in a second half buoyed by the atmosphere generated by both sets of supporters in the stands.
Mayo led by three at the break and having registered no wides in the first half, started the second as they seemingly meant to go on, kicking a wide before Tipp went up the other end and closed the gap with a Browne free. Peter Lambert followed with a good free from the hand out on the right and with seven minutes gone, Mayo manager Pat Holmes had seen enough.
Enter Kieran McDonald, number 28 on his back and the hopes of Mayo's sizeable contingent too. He didn't disappoint either, kicking his usual couple of bad efforts but also kicking four critical points, two from play, and generally adding some needed dash to the Mayo attack.
Three points in-a-row brought Tipp level midway through the half, 1-11 to 0-14, and the teams could not be separated over the next four scores, locked at 1-13 to 0-16, until midfielder David Brady surged through the middle for the score that finally gave them decisive momentum.
They tagged on three more unanswered points, Tipp meanwhile could manage just one more, in the 70th minute, and when McDonald sailed one over in injury-time to triumphant roars from the crowd, the game was finally in the bag.
With both sides playing open football the first half also fizzed with good scores. Mayo ended the half with a remarkable zero in the wides margin and 12 points on the board. And there was a pleasing variety to their play, sometimes scoring at the end of long running moves with the last player on the overlap shooting over, sometimes kicking it long to a productive inside line.
James Horan and then Colm McManamon set them on their way and it was 10 minutes before Declan Browne saw a ball at the other end. His pass found Benny Hickey whose lob from a tight angle was well judged.
Browne's next ball could have been more damaging but he chose to shoot and shot wide when a popped ball to Eamonn Hanrahan, coming through on the burst, might have yielded a goal.
He made amends two minutes later with a sublime ball from out on his right touchline, judging the delivery perfectly to land it plumb in Peter Lambert's hands. The finish was composed and Tipp had the goal that would keep them in touch throughout the game.
A Browne free put them two up, 1-2 to 0-3, but the pattern of the match was ebb and flow and the Mayo midfielder David Brady scored the first of two good points on the run, arriving at the end of an overlap to tag one back. A Horan free brought them level but Lambert edged Tipp in front again with a free softly conceded by the Mayo defence.
Brady and his midfield partner combined again, driving through a yawning gap in the middle of Tipperary's defence, Brady tapping over. But if their running game was useful, the Mayo midfield was repeatedly marked absent in the air, Tipp's big men pulling down a succession of kickouts unchallenged.
But Mayo's best phase of the half was to come, corner forward Stephen Carolan coming to life with three points from play over the next ten minutes, a couple of them very easy on the eye.
Full-forward Brian Maloney also got in on the act and with full-back David Heaney coming out of defence with authority, Lambert left in his wake, it looked as if the Connacht side, growing in confidence, would pull away.
They led by four, 1-3 to 0-10, with a half-hour gone but Lambert's morale had not suffered unduly despite Heaney's presence he proved it with a beautiful curling shot, punishing the full back on one of the few occasions that he slipped him.
Another subtle, clever pass from Browne almost let Lambert in for his second goal - his point blank shot was smothered but he pounced on the rebound to slot it over. Liam England then launched a long one that went all the way and suddenly Tipp were on a confidence surge as Mayo went on the back foot. Horan settled nerves with a good catch, turn and shot to leave them three ahead at the break, 1-6 to 0-12.