Mayo show ruthless streak to end Tipperary dream run
Big-name players stand up when needed as Stephen Rochford’s side earn final date
Conor Sweeney of Tipperary is tackled by Mayo’s Seamus O’Shea and Brendan Harrison during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Mayo 2-13 Tipperary 0-14
By now, Mayo have seen every sort of All-Ireland semi-final imaginable. They’ve come up short on epic days, fallen the right and wrong side of shootouts, dug out improbable wins against the head to squeeze the bellows under the blather of romance carrying them into finals. This was none of that.
It was about as epic as a lunchtime crossword. It carried all the romance of a plumber’s invoice. Mayo gave Tipperary enough of a sniff to allow them imagine there might be something in the game before whipping the day away in the space of 10 minutes coming up to half-time. The best that could be said for the job is that it was done.
In the weeks to come, many and loud will be the pronouncements that this will suit Mayo going into an All-Ireland final. Politely, it’s all guff. They played poorly, they’re in the final. If they play well when they get there, it won’t be because they limped over the line here.
No team in history has gone into an All-Ireland final under the radar. If and when one does, it won’t be from Mayo.
For Tipperary, nothing that could have happened here would have diminished their status as the yarn of the summer. They headed back down the road carrying a few regrets but none so serious that a return trip next summer ought to be considered beyond them.
Some of this should sting, all the same. For such a free-scoring team, they only managed five points from play all day – offer that to Stephen Rochford before the game and he’d have broken your wrist. On the face of it, Michael Quinlivan had the measure of Lee Keegan, continually getting out in front and drawing frees. But drill down and Quinlivan only took a single shot from play and Hawkeye waved it wide. Mayo would have been happy enough with that beforehand too.
All said and done, though, Tipp’s chief regret will be the fact that they came up against a Mayo team that had an off-day and didn’t give them enough of a fright. They were much the better side in the opening 25 minutes but only had a 0-6 to 0-3 lead to show for it.
It should have been more. Tipp had four poor wides on the board inside the opening 15 minutes. Four of their first five wides came from defenders and the game was 25 minutes old before either Quinlivan or Conor Sweeney managed to take a shot from play. Mayo were struggling but Tipp weren’t getting the ball to the players who could make them pay for it.
Their punishment was to have their own pockets turned inside-out. Raiding corner back Colm O’Shaughnessy dished off a loose pass around the Mayo 45 on 27 minutes and as soon as Keith Higgins intercepted, Tipp were taking on water. Higgins zipped through the middle of the pitch playing a one-two with Aidan O’Shea, danced around the Tipp cover and fed Jason Doherty for the first Mayo goal.
It was tough on Tipperary and especially tough on O’Shaughnessy who has been a revelation. Tipp had cause to wonder would Higgins have made such electric progress through the middle had centre back Robbie Kiely not been black-carded after eight minutes. Doherty’s goal came on 27 minutes and the period from there to half-time was the winning of the game. For those nine minutes, Mayo were irresistible.
They kicked seven of the next eight points. Diarmuid O’Connor, who had missed two regulation scores, now buzzed the black spot. Keegan and Aidan O’Shea landed a point each from the rafters. Andy Moran, who in fairness hadn’t been as infected with the squanderlust of his teammates, tacked on three points from three shots that were the very model of inside-forward play.
It all totted up to a 1-10 to 0-7 half-time lead for Mayo. That nine-minute spell of awesomeness ended the game. Tipp didn’t so much welcome half-time as hug it like a long-lost relative.
They came out the better for the interval. Mayo started the second half just as they had started the first – slow, hesitant, ponderous. Most of all, they played with a distinct lack of the authority that ought to have come naturally to them through bitter experience.
And so Tipperary kicked five of the first six points after the break. Mayo were second to the ball and careless in the tackle, coughing up fouls and watching Quinlivan kick his frees. Tipp needed a goal though and when Kevin O’Halloran played Josh Keane through in the 44th minute, a defter finish would have drawn them level. But David Clarke rushed from his goal to block and Mayo survived.
They shut the game down from there on. Tipp didn’t score between the 45th minute and the 68th, Mayo managed to pox a second goal when Evan Regan’s scuffed point attempt found Conor O’Shea alone in front of goal.
His finish didn’t earn any style points but then it wasn’t a style-points kind of day.
MAYO: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Barry Moran, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan (0-1), Colm Boyle (0-1), Patrick Durcan; Seamus O’Shea, Donal Vaughan; Kevin McLoughlin (0-1), Aidan O’Shea (0-1), Diarmuid O’Connor (0-2); Jason Doherty (1-0), Andy Moran (0-4), Cillian O’Connor (0-3, three frees).
Subs: Tom Parsons for S O’Shea (53 mins); Conor O’Shea (1-0) for Doherty (58 mins); Evan Regan for Moran (62 mins); Chris Barrett for Boyle (67 mins); Alan Dillon for McLoughlin (69 mins); Conor Loftus for C O’Connor (71 mins).
TIPPERARY: Evan Comerford; Colm O’Shaughnessy, Alan Campbell, Ciarán McDonald; Bill Maher (0-1), Robbie Kiely, Jimmy Feehan; Peter Acheson, George Hannigan; Josh Keane, Michael Quinlivan (0-7, seven frees), Brian Fox; Kevin O’Halloran (0-2, one free), Conor Sweeney (0-3, one free), Philip Austin (0-1).
Subs: Sheane Leahy for Keily (black card, 10 mins); Alan Moloney for Leahy (32 mins); Shane O’Connell for O’Shaughnessy (56 mins); Ian Fahey for O’Halloran (67 mins); Martin Dunne for Keane (72 mins).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).