Mayo fail to finish off Cork and nearly pay the price
Connacht side have just one point to spare as they set up Kerry semi-final
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea tackled by Tomás Clancy, which resulted in the Cork player receiving a black card. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Mayo 1-19 Cork 2-15
Mayo came through this with gasping room only to spare. A game that took a while to ignite developed into a barn-burner by the end, with Cork unlucky not to find a way to at least force a replay. Brian Cuthbert’s side closed a seven-point second half gap to be level with seven minutes to go and, if the way they surrounded referee Cormac Reilly at the end is anything to go by, clearly felt they had more time to play with at the end.
It’s probably fair to say that Mayo were the better team but they very nearly got caught sitting on their laurels here. They dominated the period just after half-time, squeezing the life out of Cork to go 0-16 to 0-9 ahead on 51 minutes. But they didn’t put Cork away and very nearly paid for it.
For a couple of sides with no obvious bone to pick, there was no shortage of needle in the game. Kevin McLoughlin missed the best part of 10 minutes getting a cut attended to in the first half after Eoin Cadogan caught him with a flailing arm. Paul Kerrigan and Lee Keegan got in a spot of rasslin’ and rollin’, likewise Damien Cahalane and Keith Higgins.
It was obvious that the pre-match Cork talk of Mayo cynicism had hit a nerve of some sort – Cuthbert and Ronan McCarthy must have had a wry smile when the first free of the day was given against Cillian O’Connor.
Other than those occasional flashes of bad blood, there was very little between the sides in that opening half. Cork full forward Brian Hurley was the stand-out performer on show, a passage of three points from play on the spin early on highlighted just how unstoppable he can be when furnished with the right kind of ball.
His fourth point (third from play) put Cork 0-5 to 0-2 ahead on 16 minutes. He burned Chris Barrett at will and the usually secure Mayo corner back was shifted over onto Colm O’Neill soon after. His nightmare first half continued, however, as O’Neill took the baton to grab a couple of points of his own before the break.
Mayo are so experienced though. They didn’t panic. Seamie O’Shea started bossing the play around the middle third and got forward for a couple of points of his own. Tom Cunniffe was sweeping expertly behind his midfield and Aidan O’Shea made a couple of incisive runs, one of which was hauled to an end by Tomás Clancy and saw the Cork centre back black carded.
The sides nipped and tucked their way to half-time. Alan Dillon had been quiet but now he popped up with two points on the spin to put Mayo 0-8 to 0-7 ahead. Colm O’Neill nailed his second to draw Cork level and send the sides in at half-time on 0-8 apiece.