O'Shea leads way as Mayo come good in extra-time
Mayo 2-21 Derry 1-13
They would, undoubtedly, have preferred a more convincing performance, but this game might be exactly what Mayo needed to shift their focus to a back door route which took them to within a whisker of winning last year's All-Ireland.
A scare against Fermanagh at MacHale Park at the same juncture a year ago was the platform on which the deposed Connacht champions relaunched their championship bid. Stephen Rochford will now be hoping they can do it again after coming good in extra-time.
There were times on Saturday, in front of a MacHale Park crowd of 11,465, when it looked like this might be the end of the road for this Mayo squad, as they struggled to put away a dogged, but limited, Derry side.
Mayo, as usual, missed more than they scored, blowing a host of goal chances and shooting 17 wides in regular time.
Derry got a sniff of a shock, but lacked the potency to close the deal, even though Mark Lynch and James Kielt gave them a great chance when they were introduced.
However, Mayo opened their shoulders in extra-time and showed everyone why they are genuine All-Ireland contenders, as they blew Derry away by 1-9 to 0-1 in the extra 20 minutes.
The exercise has left Rochford with plenty of good selection dilemmas, with Conor Loftus impressing off the bench, along with the other goalscorer Jason Doherty.
However, this was the day when Aidan O'Shea got his 2017 campaign up and running. Dogged by an ankle injury picked up in January playing basketball, this was the first start of the year by the Breaffy man and he made it count with a superb display. No wonder then that the Green and Red faithful left the chilly Castlebar venue with a pep in their step.
"He was super," said Rochford. "He's a really, really important guy for us. We hadn't won a throw-up in the championship. We had three today and he won all three. He made a statement for the team. His tackling was super. He got on the scoreboard and I think he really stamped his claim for his first start this year."
The Mayo manager was also full of praise for sub Loftus, who blasted 1-1 after coming on to stake a big claim for a starting place.
Loftus, grandson of former GAA president Mick Loftus, looked to have won it in normal time for Mayo, but veteran Lynch fisted home a goal to send the match to extra-time.
"He'd been going really, really well in training and maybe a bit unlucky not to have started. Great bit of confidence for him," added Rochford about Loftus.
And with Doherty also scoring 1-1 after coming on, Rochford knows he could have a few selection headaches as they prepare for next weekend.
"They certainly made a difference. Throughout the second-half I thought we got ourselves into good positions. Our accuracy, though, certainly let us down, but we've got another week to look to improve that and the longer you're in the championship, the longer you get to improve on that.
"But the boys that came off the bench, we used 24 players today and they all played their part."
Rochford also allayed fears over the injury picked up by 2016 Player of the Year Lee Keegan and he expects him back for next week, but they will be without wing-back Paddy Durcan, who was given a red card for an off-the-ball incident.
His men shot 17 wides in regular time and trailed by 0-8 to 0-7 at the interval, having played with the wind.
Cillian O'Connor kept them in touch, finishing with 0-12, but they struggled for long periods to deal with a fired-up Derry side and could not find a way past keeper Ben McKinless, with Andy Moran guilty of several missed goal chances.
Ryan Bell was Derry's main threat up front until the arrival of Lynch, while Niall Loughlin's accuracy from frees looked like securing a shock win.
However, the Derry challenge wilted in extra-time, with Doherty getting Mayo's second goal and Damian Barton's men managing just a point. Home goalkeeper David Clarke also crowned a fine display with a penalty save from James Kielt in the opening period of extra-time.
Barton was proud of the Derry effort and believes they can learn a lot from it.
"The boys were brilliant in terms of their effort, the support was magnificent down here and the genuine consolation after the game is what they saw was a really good football spectacle. We will take positives from today.
"It was our most solid performance of the year, but extra-time we can forget about. On another day we could have won it in normal time, they are the tight margins, but I think the boys can take an awful lot from it. They gave it a lash."
Scorers - Mayo: C O'Connor 0-12 (0-9f); C Loftus 1-1; J Doherty 1-1; A Moran 0-2; L Keegan, P Durcan, K McLoughlin, A O'Shea D O'Connor 0-1 each. Derry: N Loughlin 0-6 (0-5f); M Lynch 1-1; R Bell 0-3; B Heron, D Heavron, J Kielt (f) 0-1 each.
Mayo: D Clarke 8; B Harrison 6, G Cafferkey 6, C Barrett 6; C Boyle 7, L Keegan 7, P Durcan 6; D Vaughan 5, T Parsons 7; F Boland 5, A O'Shea 8, S Coen 6; K McLoughlin 6, C O'Connor 7, A Moran 7. Subs: D O'Connor 7 for O'Shea (24-25, temp) & for Boland (h-t), S O'Shea 6 for Vaughan (55), J Doherty 7 for Coen (55), C Loftus 7 for Moran (59), D Drake 6 for Harrison (64), C Crowe 6 for Barrett (81), S Nally 5 for Keegan (85), D Kirby 5 for McLoughlin (87).
Derry: B McKinless 7; N Keenan 7, B Rogers 7, K McKaigue 7; C McFaul 6, C McKaigue 6, C McWilliams 7; C McAtamney 5, D Heavron 6; R Bell 7, N Loughlin 7, E Lynn 6; D Tallon 5, M McEvoy 5, B Heron 7. Subs: E McGuckin 6 for McAtamney (35, black card), M Lynch 7 for Tallon (46), J Kielt 7 for Bell (58), S McGuigan 6 for Lynn (68), C Nevin 6 for McEvoy (75), G O'Neill 5 for Loughlin (85), C Doherty 5 for Heron (87).
Ref - M Deegan (Laois)