Minor consolation as the Mayo way prevails against combative Tyrone

Stephen Coen became Mayo’s only teenager since 1985 to lift the Tommy Markham Cup


Relief from some of the pain at least as Stephen Coen became Mayo’s only teenager since 1985 to lift the Tommy Markham Cup.

Gaelic football can also celebrate this victory. Yesterday’s minor final supplied further evidence of the heavy load placed on the incoming black card to deal effectively with cynical fouling in 2014.

Nothing new in the way Tyrone went about their business. The streamlined nature of their football teams these past 10 years is unmistakable. Especially on All-Ireland final day. Systematic fouling is just how they do it. Flick back through recent history. Darran O’Sullivan’s rag-dolling as the Kerry minors faltered in 2004 lingers in the mind but two more national titles followed in 2008 and 2010.

Priority is success
Tyrone do what they do because their priority is success.

They instantly discarded traditional positioning with blonde mopped midfielder Frank Burns landing in the fullback line as a Franco Baresi type stopper who initiated rapid counter-attacks with some excellent distribution.

Burns fouled with the subtlety of a veteran Ulster born defender. Full Forward Daire Gallagher also dropped deep as they attempted to put the squeeze on Mayo’s flowing approach.

The usually reliable tactics failed. Or, more accurately, Mayo were too powerful, too conditioned, too much for them to contain. Their own defensive anchors, Séamus Cunniffe and Coen, had no body to mark and could predict the ball coming on top or below them.

But until referee Conor Lane started brandishing yellow cards as punishment for fouls on Mayo forwards who were first to incoming ball, Tyrone were in control.

By half-time Lee Brennan and Ruairí McGlone had their names taken. By the end they had five bookings. It could easily have been two red cards.

Mayo’s cause was equally assisted by Liam Irwin landing frees from all angles, including a magnificent left-footed stroke from wide right that reduced Tyrone’s lead to 0-4 to 0-5 after 28 minutes.

Tyrone’s natural footballing ability was another feature of the contest with eight different players registering on the scoreboard. (It would be remiss not to mention 15-year-old David Mulgrew at right half forward. Remember the name.)

But their instinct seemed to be to stymie before expression. It was Tommy Conroy of Kiltane who set this western bonfire ablaze. And try as they might, Tyrone’s defence couldn’t stall his goal after 29 minutes. It was scored despite the attentions of Cillian McCann and Burns, the rasping shot palmed into the top corner by goalkeeper Seán Fox.

The Tyrone way simply wasn’t working. Not against this modern, physically imposing opposition. Just as the majority of the Mayo Faithful made their way into Croke Park, an avalanche of scores crushed the Red Hand dreams.

Conor Loftus made it a two point game with a finely struck free just after half-time and then Darragh Doherty came to life.

The corner forward seemed to be facing a crisis of confidence after two first-half wides but this young man clearly has a short memory.

Doherty registered 1-2 in a five minute spell that brought the first guttural roar of the day from the red and green faction. His second point was magical, his goal struck low and firm past the onrushing Fox.

Advantage rule
That was yet another example of Tyrone’s inability to foul Mayo into submission. The advantage rule also helped.

Immediately after the green flag was raised Lane consulted his linesman before dishing out yellow cards for Christopher Morris and McCann.

The officials had a difficult day. There was a clear foul in the first half on Conroy that should have been a penalty.

Despite the cynical attitude, Tyrone were a team spread of talent and important scores from Lee Brennan kept them only three points adrift.

Mayo, with the Promised Land in sight, froze in their boots but sparks of resilience from Conroy and the excellent Conor Loftus kicked them onwards.

Tyrone refused to relent and for that they must be commended but after centre forward Conor McKenna fisted a goal in the third and final minute of injury time he aggressively attempted to clip two Mayo defenders as he returned to his position.

The GAA is in the process of reacting to the cynicism that infects Gaelic football. Superior conditioning and the very game itself defeated it yesterday. The Mayo way prevailed.
MAYO: M Mulligan; E Doran, S Cunniffe, D Kenny; M Hall, S Coen (capt), S Conlon; V Roughneen, D O’Connor; C Loftus (0-3, one free), M Plunkett, P Prendergast; D Doherty (1-2), L Irwin (0-4, all frees), T Conroy (1-3). Substitutions: C Byrne (0-1) for D Doherty (51 mins), H Cafferty for M Plunkett (59 mins), F Duffy for L Irwin (61 mins).
TYRONE: S Fox; C Byrne, R Quinn, C McCann; S Hamill, C Morris, P McGirr; R Nugent (0-2), F Burns; D Mulgrew (0-1), C McKenna (1-2), R McGlone (capt, 0-1); L Brennan (0-4, three frees), D Gallagher (0-1, free), S McGrath. Substitutions: P Donnelly (0-1) for S McGrath, C McShane (0-1) for R McGlone (both 40 mins), M Lynn for P McGirr (47 mins), C O’Donnell for D Gallagher (55 mins).
Referee: C Lane (Cork).