Tyrone display their typical resilience
Chris Barrett of Mayo is tackled by Tyrone's Justin McMahon at Castlebar yesterday. photograph: miike shaughnessy/inpho
DIVISION ONE Tyrone 1-12 Mayo 1-11:The Red Hand remains unbeaten this year. Mickey Harte’s team somehow won and lost this game before claiming a crucial road win thanks to Stephen O’Neill’s late winning penalty.
It seemed like something akin to old times for the Tyrone supporters. The sight of Sean Cavanagh pulling strings at midfield and the two McMahon brothers anchoring what was a relentless and disciplined Tyrone defensive effort bore the hallmarks of their All-Ireland -winning years.
And the composure they showed in grafting to win a crucial ball in the 75th minute of the game – Stephen O’Neill was operating at midfield at this stage and delivered a long, speculative ball towards the Mayo square – was redolent of what always has been their best quality: they never quit. Mark Donnelly grabbed possession and was bundled over by several Mayo men as he went to shoot.
O’Neill’s penalty was low and accurate and made to look perfectly easy.
Just like that, Mayo had what would have been an act of audacious thievery cancelled out.
They had played second fiddle to Tyrone all day, unable to figure their way through the sweeping defensive system which the visitors imposed and couldn’t buy a score from play for 31 minutes of the second half until Keith Higgins came like a speed train through a gap and, taking a pass from Kevin McLoughlin, fired a goal which turned the game on its head.
“Yeah, we had looked pretty comfortable when we were 0-12 to 0-8 up,” grinned Mickey Harte afterwards.
“I said to Gavin Devlin who was standing beside me: if we don’t concede a goal here we will win this game. But shortly after that we did. It is heartbreaking on Mayo too after the effort they put in. They thought they had the winning post in sight as well.”
Mayo won all the possession they needed over the course of the game, with Aidan O’Shea ripping spectacular catches out of the clouds and Chris Barrett, Lee Keegan and Tom Cunniffe sharp to breaking ball.
But once they turned to face the white shirts fanning across the field, Mayo completely lost their way, either carrying the ball into trouble or asking their full-forward line to compete with three or four Tyrone defenders for 50-50 balls.
Out of ideas
Only the free-taking of Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty kept Mayo in touch but as the second half developed, it was clear they were out of ideas as to how to break Tyrone down.
“Yeah. We didn’t play smart today at all for the entire game,” said their manager James Horan.