Tuesday 16 January 2018

Sean Cavanagh sees red as Mayo hang on to book All Ireland semi-final spot

MAYO 0-13 TYRONE 0-12

Aidan O’Shea of Mayo celebrates with team-mate Cillian O’Connor
Aidan O’Shea of Mayo celebrates with team-mate Cillian O’Connor

Conor McKeon in Croke Park

THERE’S a theory about Mayo that has been gathering momentum of late that for all their dominance of Connacht prior to this season, their never-ending quest to land an All-Ireland might be more easily achieved through the back door.

That hypothesis got a new shiny coat of paint this afternoon.

Mayo, shocked in their provincial opener by Galway, are now a victory over Tipperary away from another All-Ireland final.

Tyrone, the Ulster champions they felled in Croke Park today can count themselves cruelly unlucky but such is the unforgiving nature of these weekends in the All-Ireland SFC.

Mayo won by being a bit cuter, by not giving up goal chances and by grinding Tyrone down.

Maybe the qualifiers has been good to them.

Aidan O'Shea of Mayo in action against Justin McMahon, left, and Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone
Aidan O'Shea of Mayo in action against Justin McMahon, left, and Colm Cavanagh of Tyrone

The first half played out along cautious lines.

Both teams played with double sweepers.

In a departure from their named team, Mayo started Alan Dillon and Jason Doherty, though the former was taken off at half-time and the latter fared not much better.

A key performance indicator for Mayo has always been the form of Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea.

Here, both started in encouraging form.

O’Shea began alongside his brother, Seamus, in midfield, though he intermittently switched into full-forward.

Referee David Gough shows a red card, second yellow, to Seán Cavanagh of Tyrone
Referee David Gough shows a red card, second yellow, to Seán Cavanagh of Tyrone

O’Connor, meanwhile, had his shooting calibrated to perfection.

He kicked two points from play and two exceptional frees before the break.

In tandem – and alongside the ravenous ball-winning of Andy Moran – they posed quite the threat.

Indeed, Mayo may have under-utilised O’Shea in that period as an attacking fulcrum, though his absence from midfield was felt on the three occasions David Clarke miscued his kick-outs, each of which Tyrone managed to convert into a point.

For all of Mayo’s inspirational individuals though, Tyrone looked the more polished team.

Mattie Donnelly had a huge half, kicking three from play.

And along with Niall Sludden and the irrepressible Peter Harte, they bored enough holes in the Mayo defence to match them on the scoreboard at half-time at 0-7 to 0-7.

Seán Cavanagh and Lee Keegan, who were involved mostly as a sort of Punch and Judy sideshow to then, were booked immediately after half-time for the latest in a string of mini scraps.

It would prove more costly for Cavanagh though, who was sent off for a second booking just before the hour mark after hauling O’Shea down behind his own ’45.

At first glance, Cavanagh was unfortunate, as the initial contact of his tackle was chest-high before his arm slid up and his earlier rebuke had come after meaty provocation from Keegan.

At that stage, it was 0-11 apiece. Both teams had enjoyed flourishes but nothing to suggest real dominance.

Tyrone came closest to a goal when Conor McAliskey spun and shot close-in but Clarke saved neatly.

Mayo used possession wisely thereafter.

A couple of O’Connor frees and a brilliant long range point from Keegan put them in front and with the extra man, they set out to ice the clock and make Tyrone chase the ball around Croke Park.

Conor O’Shea ceded possession in injury time and gave away a free 55 metres from goal, granting Niall Morgan a chance to equalise.

The Tyrone goal missed to the left and off the next kick-out, Darren McCurry wasted another opportunity and that was that.

Mayo endured. They’ve made a habit of it this summer.

SCORERS –Mayo: C O’Connor 0-7 (4f), L Keegan 0-2, C Boyle, A O’Shea, A Moran, T Parsons 0-1 each. Tyrone: P Harte 0-4 (2f), M Donnelly 0-3, C McAliskey 0-2 (2f), N Sludden, R O’Neill (f) 0-1 each.

MAYO: D Clarke; B Harrison, L Keegan, K Higgins; C Boyle, P Durcan, K McLoughlin; S O’Shea, A O’Shea; D O’Connor, J Doherty, D Vaughan; C O’Connor, A Moran, A Moran. Subs: T Parsons for Dillon (h-t), C O’Shea for Vaughan (69), C Barrett for Boyle (58), E Regan for Moran (62), C Loftus for Doherty (66), S Coen for D O’Connor (69).

TYRONE: N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann, J McMahon, R McNabb; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; N Sludden, P Harte, C McShane; C McAliskey, S Cavanagh, R O’Neill. Subs: R Brennan for McMahon (22), D McCurry for O’Neill (43), D McCurry for O’Neill (42), M Bradley for McShane (45), K McGeary for McAliskey (62), B Tierney for McNabb (66), P McNulty for Sludden (68)

REF: D Gough (Meath)

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