Enterprising Derry overcome a flat display from Mayo

Mark Lynch’s bravura display sends Ulster side through to meet Dublin in league final

Derry 2-15 Mayo 1-16

Sometimes there is no deeper meaning. No need to itch and scratch for a significance beyond the very what and how of the day itself. Mayo led this league semi-final with 10 minutes to go and failed to see it out despite having had an extra man for three-quarters of an hour. The rest of the year will bring what it will bring – this was a calamity in and of itself.

Disorganised defence
It doesn't mean they're cursed, it doesn't confirm them as eternal Croke Park washouts. Search too hard for a broader context and you risk overlooking the deed itself. Wasteful in attack, often mystifyingly disorganised in defence, Mayo went down to a Derry side that had access to a shelf stacked with excuses but never reached out a hand to pluck one.

“The longer that game would have gone, Derry would have won by more,” said James Horan afterwards. “They were starting to get away from us at the end. It’s a very disappointing performance from us and one we’re going to have to analyse, the whole lot of us as a group. We weren’t good today. We were very flat.

“Our tackling was poor. The second goal we gave away today, at any age group or in any game, you’d be very disappointed with it. But for a goal to go in like that, there’s more wrong than just someone missing a tackle. What’s that – 15 goals in the league? That’s a big problem. But our work-rate was poor and that must mean that our preparation was a bit off because we were very flat. I have to take responsibility for that.”


Horan was nearly right – the goals from Cailean O’Boyle and Kevin Johnston actually made it 16 green flags waved against Mayo over the course of the league, an average of two a game. Both Derry strikes here came from runs right through the heart of the defence, with a man over each time.

Whatever about O'Boyle's in the first half – its origin a scything gallop by the outstanding Mark Lynch – Johnston's 51st-minute tap-in was a unforgiveable goal to concede. By that stage Derry were playing with 14 men, Fergal Doherty having seen the line – harshly, it must be said – for a couple of first-half yellow cards.

Yet not only was Derry wing-back Seán Leo McGoldrick able to swan past a couple of half-hearted tackles in front of the Mayo square, he found his wing-back partner Johnston loitering at the back post with no green shirt near him. Though the persistence of the Derry half-backs was only to be admired, Mayo's fecklessness in allowing them through told the tale of a team not at the pitch of the day.

Derry, by contrast, came to Croke Park with the propellers of a strong league campaign still kicking up spray behind them. Lynch was tremendous throughout, finishing with nine points (four from play) and generally leading his side at every turn. Alongside him wing-forward Enda Lynn was his ubiquitous self, hooking over Derry's go-ahead point with three minutes left to cherry the cake.

Brian McIver’s side led by a point at half-time, 1-8 to 1-7. Mayo had eased into an early lead through Aidan O’Shea, Keith Higgins and a couple of Alan Freeman frees but Derry were always able to nip and tuck their way back to parity. Ciarán McFaul and Emmett McGuckin chipped in with points before O’Boyle’s goal in the 13th minute made it 1-3 to 0-4.

Mayo’s goal came on 25 minutes, a passage of play that on another afternoon might have gone a long way to deciding the outcome. It ended with Andy Moran applying the finish to good work by Kevin McLoughlin and the ever-sprightly Mikey Sweeney, sending Mayo into a 1-5 to 1-4 lead.

This was after it had begun with a footrace between Aidan O’Shea and Fergal Doherty just underneath the Hogan Stand, the Mayo man getting there just ahead of the Derry man and getting pole-axed for his trouble. It was a second yellow for Doherty, neither far beyond borderline to most fair eyes.

Never shake off
Lynch hoisted the two best scores of the day before half-time to send them in ahead and, though Mayo looked to be kicking on after the restart with five of the first six points, they could never shake off the Ulster side. Donal Vaughan fluffed a great goal chance on 49 minutes by shooting straight at Thomas Mallon and within a couple of minutes Johnston was walking in Derry's second to level the scores.

Even when Mayo nabbed the next two points – the second a terrific effort from Enda Varley – Derry came back for more. Two Lynch frees drew them level again and when Freeman iced a 45 with six minutes left, it was Derry who set about winning the game. Points from sub Emmet Bradley, the indefatigable Lynn and two more from Lynch saw them home.

DERRY: 1 T Mallon; 2 O Duffy, 3 C McKaigue, 4 D McBride; 5 K Johnston (1-0), 6 G O'Kane, 7 SL McGoldrick (0-1); 8 F Doherty, 9 P Bradley; 10 C McFaul (0-1), 11 M Lynch (0-9, five frees), 12 E Lynn (0-1); 13 B Heron, 14 E McGuckin (0-1), 15 C O'Boyle (1-1). Subs: 22 N Holly for O'Boyle (45 mins), 23 A Devlin for Heron (51 mins), 18 E Bradley (0-1) for P Bradley (60 mins), 19 C Kielt for E McGuckin (65 mins), 20 A McAlynn for Johnston (65 mins), 25 C McWilliams for McFaul (70 mins).
MAYO: 1 R Hennelly; 2 B Harrison, 3 G Cafferkey, 17 S McHale; 5 L Keegan (0-1), 6 C Boyle, 7 D Vaughan; 8 A O'Shea (0-1), 9 J Gibbons (0-1); 10 K Higgins (0-1), 12 J Doherty (0-2), 14 A Freeman (0-6, five frees); 13 K McLoughlin, 11 A Moran (1-1, 0-1 free), 15 M Sweeney (0-2). Subs: 18 K Keane for Cafferkey (32 mins), 24 E Varley (0-1) for McLoughlin (47 mins), 20 T Parsons for Higgins (58 mins), 21 S O'Shea for Gibbons (62 mins), 19 R Feeney for J Doherty (68 mins).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).