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Mayo's house of pain: From close calls and near misses to anti-climactic displays and controversy

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A dejected Keith Higgins after the 2012 decider. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

A dejected Keith Higgins after the 2012 decider. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

A dejected Keith Higgins after the 2012 decider. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

In the 900 FIFA World Cup tournament matches that have been played since the inaugural competition in Uruguay in 1930, just once have multiple own goals been scored in a game.

It happened in the Group D clash between Portugal and the United States in Suwon at the 2002 World Cup - the United States won 3-2 in a game where both teams put the ball in their own net.

There's no way of calculating the statistical probability of scoring an own goal in Gaelic football. They are exceptionally scarce. An extreme, almost freak anomaly.

That Mayo had two in the first half of the drawn 2016 All-Ireland final says much about the shade of luck the county has worn on some of their many trips to Croke Park for football's blue riband day.

James Horan was working for Sky Sports that afternoon, watching the unfolding horror from their analysis suite beside Jim McGuinness.

"The first goal happened and James's head went down," McGuinness revealed in his Irish Times column. "I just said something about it being really bad luck. James said: 'That's an understatement.' When the second one went in, we were all stunned and I said: 'James, I know you're not going to like this but you do have to question the concept of this curse . . .'

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Conor Mortimer cuts a similar pose after the 2006 final defeat. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

Conor Mortimer cuts a similar pose after the 2006 final defeat. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

Conor Mortimer cuts a similar pose after the 2006 final defeat. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile

Some context. Mayo haven't been favourites for any of the 11 All-Ireland finals they have played in since 1989.

In 1996 and 2012, they were only marginal outsiders. But outsiders nonetheless. Discarding the blow-outs to Kerry in 1997, 2004 and '06, Mayo have scored just 11 points fewer than they've conceded across eight All-Ireland finals.

Twice, in 2013 and '17, they led at half-time.

They've been to replays (two), suffered fatal sendings-off (also two), been blown out by early goals and, on no fewer than four occasions, finished on the excruciating side of one-point results. Some Mayo players will be playing their sixth All-Ireland final next weekend. They've done everything now bar win one.

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1989: CORK 0-17 MAYO 1-11

From Mayo's 'One That Got Away' repertoire.

Early in the second half, Mayo - appearing in their first final since 1951 - swept into the lead when Anthony Finnerty latched onto a Noel Durkan pass and fired a goal.

All the energy was theirs when Durkan sent Finnerty through on goal again just minutes later.

With John Kerins' Cork goal at his mercy, Finnerty's shot blazed into the side-netting. Cork snapped from their stupor and won by three.

1996: MEATH 2-9 MAYO 1-11 (replay)

In May of 2016, a 29-year-old Meath man with an address in Delvin, Co Westmeath appeared in court after being arrested following an argument in a chip shop in Westport at 3.57am on the morning of October 4 the previous year.

According to a report in the Mayo News, the defending solicitor said the incident started after a row over the 1996 All-Ireland final.

For Mayo, the sting is in knowing they lost this All-Ireland twice.

Six points ahead midway through the second half of the draw, they were foiled when Colm Coyle's shot from distance was allowed to bounce and hop over their crossbar.

The brawl in the replay and the loss of Liam McHale to a sending off left a lasting sense of injustice and, all of 20 years later, still capable of causing fights in chippers.

1997: KERRY 0-13 MAYO 1-7

Eternally remembered for Maurice Fitzgerald's virtuoso display, for Mayo it began a run of chronic underperformance in All-Ireland finals against Kerry, albeit one beset by bad luck and worse shooting.

When Dermot Flanagan pulled up after only four minutes, Mayo changed four lines of their team to replace him.

They didn't score until the 23rd minute of the match and despite a revival that seemed to expose Kerry's nerves for a spell, they then failed to score for the final 20 minutes of the match.

2004: KERRY 1-20 MAYO 2-9

An extreme anti-climax.

After the 25th minute, when Colm Cooper put the game beyond rescue, there was only the dizzying genius of Kerry's forwards left to admire.

They hit 21 scores that day and another 13 wides.

Droves of Mayo supporters made for the exits through the second half, leaving the jarring sight of patches of empty seats for the closing passages of an All-Ireland final.

2006: KERRY 4-15 MAYO 3-5

By now, Mayo were being blamed not just by supporters for raising and plunging their hopes, but by the rest of Gaelic football for spoiling the biggest day of the year.

"Where the mind goes the body follows," noted John Morrisson, part of Mayo's managerial double-act that year with Mickey Moran who seemed to have cured the team of their self-doubt after an extraordinary comeback victory over Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.

"It was painfully obvious in the first 15 minutes our boys were following their minds."

2012: DONEGAL 2-11 MAYO 0-13

Mayo had enough possession to win this game comfortably but didn't score until the 16th minute, at which stage Donegal already had two goals.

Kevin Keane was given the task of marking Michael Murphy and after two minutes and 25 seconds, Donegal's totem had their opening goal.

Mayo played some excellent football after the mid-point of the first half but by then, the damage was done.

2013: DUBLIN 2-12 MAYO 1-14

Dublin finished with Eoghan O'Gara effectively immobilised with a torn hamstring and Rory O'Carroll concussed.

There was a bizarre ending when Cillian O'Connor pointed a 21-yard free to close the gap to one point having consulted Joe McQuillan about the length of time remaining.

From the restart, the Cavan referee blew immediately for full-time.

2016: DUBLIN 1-15 MAYO 1-14 (replay)

A tapestry of misfortune. Two own goals. Two black cards. A penalty.

After David Clarke's kick-outs came under pressure in the drawn game, Stephen Rochford dropped the All Star-elect goalkeeper for the replay.

Robbie Hennelly, his replacement, influenced the black card issued to Lee Keegan, the concession of a penalty and, in the same incident, was black-carded himself.

2017: DUBLIN 1-17 MAYO 1-16

Unanimously regarded as Mayo's best performance in an All-Ireland.

They hunted and hounded Dublin incessantly but with the match delicately poised early in the second half, Donal Vaughan was sent off for a retributive dunt on John Small just as the Dublin defender was being shown a red card.

Late on, David Clarke kicked one restart directly to James McCarthy and another straight over the sideline.

From there, Dublin iced the clock. Given the quality of Mayo's performance, it may rank as the most painful passage of their All-Ireland final experiences.


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