Controversial penalty helps Mayo turn things around against Fermanagh

Che Cullen penalised after Aidan O’Shea went down six minutes from time

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea goes down  after being tackled by Che Cullen of Fermanagh. Cillian O’Connor fired home the subsequent penalty to give his side the lead late in the qualifier at MacHale Park in Castlebar. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea goes down after being tackled by Che Cullen of Fermanagh. Cillian O’Connor fired home the subsequent penalty to give his side the lead late in the qualifier at MacHale Park in Castlebar. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Mayo 2-14 Fermanagh 1-12

Mayo turned a six-point interval deficit into a five-point victory as they ushered Fermanagh out through the back door, but not before this qualifier ended in high drama at MacHale Park before a crowd of 12,000.

It took a controversial penalty call from referee Joe McQuillan to finally convince Mayo they had the winning of the game as Aidan O’Shea, pushed to the edge of the square for most of the second half, went to ground when he went to collect a centre from Kevin McLoughlin, six minutes from the end of normal time and with Mayo trailing by a point.

Whether there was any contact or not by full back Che Cullen, Cillian O’Connor buried the resultant penalty in the roof of the net to fire Mayo into a 2-11 to 1-12 lead and on their way to the next round of the qualifiers as Lee Keegan, Aidan O’Shea and Alan Dillon kicked unanswered points. Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke also played his part, producing a fine save to deny Paul McCusker a goal, which might well have earned Fermanagh a reprieve.

Two rapid points at the start of the second half had shaved Fermanagh’s interval lead of six points back to four and with 15 minutes remaining they had pulled level.

However, a pointed free from Tomás Corrigan had Fermanagh back in front again and it looked as if they might just hang on but substitute Barry Moran and Dillon, along with the controversial penalty, turned this game around for Stephen Rochford’s team, who came into this game under enormous pressure having lost their chance to defend their Connacht title after losing to Galway.

It seemed an unlikely result as Fermanagh picked off 1-8 from play, several of those scores from distance in that first half, and three of the points coming from wing back Aiden Breen, but it was the ability of the visitors to cancel out that Mayo goal from Alan Freeman, which proved crucial in keeping them in command of the first half.

It was the only time in the half that Mayo led as they fell behind by three points after nine minutes, 0-4 to 0-1, Diarmuid O’Connor producing Mayo’s only point after four minutes..

It was Keith Higgins and Evan Regan who were involved in creating the Mayo goal which was well taken by Freeman and a point immediately afterwards from Cillian O’Connor had Mayo ahead by two and seemingly in control.

But Fermanagh’s Seán Quigley got the better of Kevin Keane in a one-on-one after a stray pass from Higgins put Fermanagh on the attack and the big full forward rounded Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke before firing into an empty net. That made it 1-5 to 1-2 on 15 minutes and the smell of an upset was beginning to pervade MacHale Park already.

The impetus now swung towards Fermanagh and Breen in particular, whose back-to-back points at the close of the half, along with another long-range effort from Eoin Donnolly gave Fermanagh a solid 1-10 to 1-4 lead at the break having played with a strong wind.

MAYO: D Clarke; B Harrison, K Keane, K Higgins; L Keegan (0-2), C Boyle (0-1), P Durcan; S O’Shea, S Coen; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea (0-1), D O’Connor (0-2); E Regan (0-1, free), A Freeman (1-0), C O’Connor (1-5, three frees, pen, one 45).

Subs: D Vaughan for Durcan (34 mins), A Dillon (0-2 mins) for Freeman (45 mins), B Moran for Coen (50 mins), A Moran for Regan (61 mins), J Doherty for A O’Shea (70 mins).

FERMANAGH: C Snow; M Jones, C Cullen, M O’Brien; D McCusker, D Kelly, A Breen (0-3); E Donnelly (0-1), R O’Callaghan; B Mulrone (0-2), R Jones, R Lyons (0-1); R Corrigan, S Quigley (1-1, one free), T Corrigan (0-4, two frees).

Subs: P McCusker for R Lyons (46 mins), J McMahon for M O’Brien (52 mins), C Flaherty for R O’Callaghan (67 mins), P Cadden A Breen (70 mins).

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).

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