Leitrim 2-13 Mayo 2-13 (Mayo win 4-1 on penalties)
James Horan’s first match back as Mayo manager ended in a welter of excitement and confusion as they advanced to the semi-finals of the FBD League on the back of a penalty shootout.
They seemed poised for an easy win when Fionn McDonagh became their sixth forward to score early in the second-half, as they opened up a 2-10 to 0-8 lead.
The Leitrim revival came, rather bizarrely, when midfielder Dean McGovern was sin-binned for an off the ball tussle with Brendan Harrison, but new manager Terry Hyland saw his men score 2-1 without reply when down a man on a day when the experimental rules had little impact.
Evan Sweeney and Ryan O’Rourke got the goals but there was a further twist deep into stoppage time when McGovern appeared to be sent off when he was actually booked.
But instead of going off he set up Damian Moran for an equaliser four minutes into stoppage time at Pairc Sean MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon.
The crowd of around 3,000 got ready for extra-time time but then it was announced that a penalty shootout - five penalties each, only goals to count - would decide the contest.
Up stepped captain for day Jason Doherty, Brian Reape, Fergal Boland and Evan Regan to find the net, with O’Rourke the only Leitrim player to score.
“We knew since Saturday night that it was going straight to a penalty shootout,” said Horan.
“We didn’t think it would go that way but we knew it was on the cards and I thought we put them away well, all into the same side.”
Mayo built up a 2-9 to 0-8 interval lead after an entertaining opening half.
Leitrim, opting to try get quick ball into impressive full-forward Pearce Dolan, opened up a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after just four minutes.
But then Mayo struck for two goals in little over two minutes with Reape laying down a marker when he rounded his man and blasted to the net.
And then Donal Vaughan set up Boland for Mayo’s second goal to lead by 2-1 to 0-3 after seven minutes.
Horan’s men took a 2-4 to 0-5 lead into the second quarter and then extended it when Boland, Evan Regan, Eoin O’Donoghue and Reape landed points to go nine clear.
Leitrim hit back with points from Jack Heslin and Shane More before an exchange of points from Jason Doherty and Evan Sweeney left it 2-9 to 0-8 at the interval.
Evan Sweeney and Ryan O’Rourke got the goals which got Leitrim back into contention, and they battled to the end with Moran securing a draw in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
The hosts were earlier guilty of some missed opportunities on a day from which new manager Hyland will have gleaned a lot of confidence.
“I had made an assumption in my head that the reason the game was at 1.30 was in case there would be extra-time because they were worried about the fading light,” he said.
“But again, one should never make an assumption in life. I think we were unlucky in the first half. We hit the post with a shot for goal.
“I think we had maybe one or two little fluffs, where maybe we should have taken possession and maybe not a good pass, or whatever it was, that we could have converted.
“To be fair, up front I felt we were creating chances all through the game. Perhaps in our middle third we gave the ball away a bit too much in that last 15 or 20 minutes of the first half.
“And to be fair, we corrected that.”.
Mayo: R Hennelly (0-1, 1'45); E O'Donoghue (0-1), G Cafferkey, B Harrison; L Keegan, J McCormack, D Vaughan; S O'Shea, S Coen; F McDonagh (0-1), J Doherty (0-3, 3f), F Boland (1-3); C Moran (0-1), B Reape (1-1), E Regan (0-2, 1f). Subs: C Crowe for Cafferkey (h-t), J Kelly for Coen (58 mins), B Doyle for O'Donoghue (59 mins), O McLaughlin for Moran (64 mins), C Tracey for McDonagh (68 mins).
Leitrim: D McKiernan; P Maguire, F McTague, A Flynn; C Reynolds, R Mulvey, S Quinn (0-1); D McGovern (0-1), S Moran (0-1); S McWeeney, C McGloin (0-1), J Heslin (0-2); E Sweeney (1-3, 2f), P Dolan (0-2), D Flynn (0-1, 1f). Subs: M Plunkett for A Flynn (39 mins), R O'Rourke (1-0) for McGloin (45 mins), G Reynolds for Heslin (49 mins), D Moran (0-1) for Dolan (63 mins), D Rooney for Mulvey (68 mins).
Referee: James Molloy (Galway).