Tyrone display their typical resilience
But they weren’t really allowed to. It was a classic Tyrone performance, bamboozling the opposition and taking them ever further away from their familiar patterns of play and then capitalising with swift counter-attacks when Mayo’s attacks broke down.
All day long, they sought to free full-forwards O’Neill and the lively Conor McAlliskey with long, telling passes to the corners and had runners seeking to exploit the gaps in front of goal. Twice they created clear-cut goal chances: McAlliskey and Joe McMahon both sent low shots whistling wide.
Still, the engine was smooth. They eased into their four-point lead by knocking over points with no pressure.
But they were sumptuous points, with Martin Penrose finding his range four minutes after half time and Ronan McNamee kicking a beautiful score after 58 minutes to leave Tyrone sitting pretty. Mayo had no response.
But as ever under Horan, they were honest. The locals in the crowd of 6,046 had resigned themselves to a defeat when Mayo came storming back into contention with Higgins 67th minute goal. The score was so completely against the run of play that it took Tyrone a few minutes to adjust.
When they did, they were a point behind. Donal Vaughan charged through a channel to blast a point.
Then Jason Doherty delivered two frees, the second of which was top class, to leave Mayo with a haul of 1-3 in those five hectic minutes.
It ought to have been enough to break Tyrone’s spirit but they scrapped to win their first ball in about ten minutes at midfield, with O’Neill acting as midfielder for the crucial play.
TYRONE: N Morgan (0-2, 2f), A McCrory, Justin McMahon C Gormley; R McKenna, Joe McMahon, R McNamee; C Clarke, S Cavanagh (0-2, 1f); P McNiece, P Harte (0-2), P Kane; C McAlliskey (0-1), S O’Neill (1-1 pen), M Donnelly. Subs: C McCarron (0-1) for C Gormley (13 mins inj), M Penrose (0-1) for P Kane (half-time), D McCurry (0-1, f) for P Harte (45 mins inj.), J Lafferty for P McNiece (58 mins), R O’Neill for C Clarke (60 mins).
MAYO: D Clarke, G Cafferkey, K Keane, K Higgins (1-0); C Boyle, T Cunniffe, C Barrett; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; R Feeney, L Keegan (0-1), C Freeman; K McLoughlin (0-3, 3f), J Doherty (0-6, 5f), 15 M Conroy. Subs: B Moran for S O’Shea (half-time), A Dillon for C Barrett ( 55 mins) E Varley for C Freeman (55 mins), D Vaughan (0-1) for C Boyle (62 mins),
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).