All-Ireland SFC semi-final: unimpressive Mayo stumble past Tipp

August 21, 2016

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea with Brian Fox of Tipperary

Mayo are through to their first All-Ireland final in three years after a very fortunate 2-13 to 0-14 victory over Tipperary at Croke Park.

With 53,212 looking on, the losers were the better team for long periods but Mayo - appearing in their sixth successive semi-final - blitzed them with 1-7 in the last ten minutes of the first half - the defining period of a disappointing game.

The patchy winners notched only three points in the first 25 minutes of that opening period and just two in the first 20 minutes of the second. And they needed one of the luckiest goals ever scored on the big stage to finally put their opponents out of sight and seal a date with Dublin or Kerry in four weeks.

With six minutes left, Jason Doherty's first-half goal still separated the teams; Mayo substitute Evan Regan slipped as he went for a point; the ball trickled through to fellow sub Conor O'Shea; his shot on the turn was also mis-hit and went into the bottom left corner of the Hill 16 net - 2-12 to 0-12 and game over.

The Premier County - appearing at this level for the first time in 81 years - were then reduced to 14 men as Bill Maher was shown a very harsh straight red card for pushing an opponent.

The beaten Connacht semi-finalists outscored their opponents by 1-7 to 0-1 during those last ten minutes of the first half to take a commanding 1-10 to 0-7 advantage into the interval, with Doherty delivering the match-changing goal at the Davin End in the 26th minute after a superb Keith Higgins run.

Prior to that, Tipp looked capable of causing an upset as three Michael Quinlivan points had them ahead by double scores, 0-6 to 0-3, and in cruise control, with the westerners floundering and fluffing their lines. The goal was followed by points from Diarmuid O'Connor, Kevin McLoughlin, Andy Moran - on target four times before the break - and Lee Keegan - as Stephen Rochford's charges briefly assumed control of a match that had been threatening to slip away from them.

There was a late change to the Mayo starting XV, with Barry Moran coming in for full back Kevin Keane and playing as sweeper. Tipp won the toss and opted to attack the Hill 16 posts in the first half. Philip Austin fisted their first point after Moran had opened the scoring and a Quinlivan free had the underdogs in front by the seventh minute.

Tipp received a huge blow when centre back Robbie Kiely was black carded for dragging down Diarmuid O'Connor off the ball after just eight minutes, with Cillian O'Connor clipping over the subsequent free, but the Premier kept their cool and moved ahead with scores from O'Halloran and Quinlivan (free) - 0-4 to 0-2 after 15 minutes.

Cillian O'Connor converted a 20th-minute free to atone for two missed efforts but Quinlivan responded in kind and Conor Sweeney's classy strike made it double scores again after 25 minutes, 0-6 to 0-3.

In the 26th minute, however, Doherty struck the goal that drew Mayo level but that score belonged to veteran defender Higgins, who carved open the Tipp defence with a trademark run before delivering a telling pass. In double-quick time, Mayo had turned a three-point deficit into a three-point lead as Diarmuid O'Connor, McLoughlin (with a glorious goal chance) and Moran tagged on points; Keegan made it 1-7 to 0-6 with four minutes left in the first half.

Two minutes from the break, Sweeney pulled one back but almost immediately Mayo played in Moran, who tagged on his third and fourth points either side of a thumping score from Aidan O'Shea off his left.

O'Halloran (free) and Diarmuid O'Connor traded points upon the restart before Tipp halved their arrears with points from wing back Maher and Quinlivan (two frees) - 1-11 to 0-11 after 45 minutes. Quinlivan's third straight free had the Premier County within two points with 20 minutes left to play.

Evan Comerford denied Moran a second Mayo goal before Colm Boyle hammered over Mayo's second point of the second half on 55 minutes. And the issue was settled in the 64th minute when substitute Conor O'Shea netted Mayo's second major when he fortunately connected with fellow sub Regan's mis-kicked attempted point to make it 2-12 to 0-12. Not a great goal but a crucial one.

Tipp then had Maher sent off before Cillian O'Connor and Sweeney exchanged frees. Quinlivan lofted over a late consolation score as Liam Kearns' charges' magnificent journey came to an end. Tipperary received a standing ovation after the final whistle, while Mayo celebrated having secured another final appearance. They must be pinching themselves...

Mayo - D Clarke; B Harrison, B Moran, K Higgins; L Keegan (0-1), C Boyle (0-1), P Durcan; S O'Shea, D Vaughan; K McLoughlin (0-1), A O'Shea (0-1), D O'Connor (0-2); J Doherty (1-0), A Moran (0-4), C O'Connor (0-3f). Subs: T Parsons for S O'Shea, C O'Shea (1-0) for J Doherty, E Regan for A Moran, C Barrett for C Boyle, A Dillon for K McLoughlin, C Loftus for C O'Connor.  

Tipperary - E Comerford; C O'Shaughnessy, A Campbell, C McDonald; B Maher (0-1), R Kiely, J Feehan; P Acheson, G Hannigan; J Keane, M Quinlivan (0-7f), B Fox; K O'Halloran (0-2, 1f), C Sweeney (0-3, 1f), P Austin (0-1). Subs: S Leahy for R Kiely (BC), A Moloney for S Leahy, S O'Connell for C O'Shaughnessy, I Fahey for K O'Halloran, M Dunne for J Keane.

Referee - D Coldrick.

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