Second-half goals from Cathal McShane and Darren McCurry propelled Tyrone to a wonderful 2-14 to 0-15 All-Ireland SFC final victory over Mayo at Croke Park.
This magnificent win bridges the gap to the Red Hands’ 2008 success and was as sweet as any that preceded it as the charges of Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan delivered a truly sensational performance on the biggest stage of all.
Mayo – who once more depart HQ with a bellyful of regret - couldn’t match them and fell to a second successive final defeat, their sixth in a decade and their eleventh since last capturing the Sam Maguire Cup in 1951.
There can be no arguing with Tyrone’s status as 2021 All-Ireland champions – they did this the hard way, seeing off Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Kerry and now Mayo to finish top of the pile once more.
The champions’ only score of the third quarter was a fantastic fisted goal from substitute McShane and Man of the Match McCurry would later fist their second major to the net after a sublime disguised handpass from Conor McKenna.
The winners took a two-point advantage into the interval, 0-10 to 0-8, having racked up some terrific points, with six of their players raising white flags in the first half, while Ryan O’Donoghue - who struck the woodwork from a penalty shortly after the restart - was Mayo’s main scoring threat before the break. Both teams missed presentable goal-scoring chances during those tense and enjoyable opening 35 minutes.
The Red Hands started as per match programme, while their opponents made one late switch to their starting XV, with All Star defender Oisin Mullin getting the nod in place of Enda Hession. The westerners won the toss and opted to play towards Hill 16 from the off, Tommy Conroy bulling into Peter Harte and opening the scoring inside 14 seconds.
O’Donoghue and Niall Morgan swapped frees before winning captain Padraig Hampsey equalised with a sensational strike off the outside of the boot from the wrong side. McCurry’s free from the hands edged the border county ahead for the first time on ten minutes – their third successive score – and McCurry cancelled out O’Donoghue’s second to leave the minimum between the sides at the first water break.
Before those last two scores, Morgan and the retreating Niall Sludden in turn denied Brian Walsh and Conor Loftus respectively as the Connacht champions came agonisingly close to bagging the day’s first goal. O’Donoghue’s third (free) tied the scores up for the third time and the early deadlock remained following an exchange of points between tireless all-action wing backs Kieran McGeary and Paddy Durcan.
Sludden sliced a terrific lead point off the outside of the boot; Mattie Donnelly doubled the difference; and Morgan’s ‘45’ made it 0-8 to 0-5 after Rob Hennelly diverted McCurry’s first-time soccer-style goal effort wide with his outstretched right big toe.
O’Donoghue and McCurry traded frees – with Padraig O’Hora fortunate to avoid a black card for his role in conceding the latter one – and O’Donoghue (free – his fifth) closed the first-half scoring following an exchange between Stephen Coen and Sludden.
Both teams went into the first-ever Mayo-Tyrone All-Ireland final with three previous titles to their credit, Mayo having previously ruled the roost in 1936, ’50 and ’51, while Tyrone’s prior triumphs were recorded in 2003, ’05 and ’08.
The Red Hands had also lost three finals prior to today, but the men from the west had suffered final heartache an unbearable 14 times already, including five in the last nine seasons and ten in total since that famous 1951 success. There were of course beaten by Dublin on this very stage last December, while the Dubs put the O’Neill County to the sword in the 2018 decider.
Conroy scuffed a Mayo goal effort left and wide when the action resumed and – after Frank Burns picked the ball off the ground close to his goal-line – O’Donoghue shaved the outside of the right post from the penalty spot at the Davin End. Nine minutes after the restart, Hennelly speared over the first point of the second half from a sensational 50-metre free. But Tyrone’s first score of the half was a massive one: on 46 minutes, substitute Cathal McShane fisted the dropping ball to the Hill 16 net with his right fist – 1-10 to 0-9!
O’Donoghue slotted a free from the hands from the D and Tyrone led by a goal at the second water break – that old-school McShane three-pointer their sole score in the third quarter.
Kevin McLoughlin reduced the arrears but McCurry then palmed the Red Hands’ second major to an empty net following an amazing Conn Kilpatrick catch and a crafty no-look handpass inside towards the back post by McKenna. Back came Mayo with points from Lee Keegan and O’Donoghue (free) to leave three between the teams after an hour – 2-10 to 0-13.
Conroy cancelled out Peter Harte’s trademark advanced mark but a fisted point from substitute Darragh Canavan left four points between them with just three minutes of the regulation 70 remaining. McCurry fisted a last-minute Tyrone point after Hennelly denied Canavan with his shins.
The losers had midfielder Matthew Ruane sent off for striking in the first of six minutes of injury time and Morgan pinged over a late, late Tyrone free. O’Donoghue (free) closed the scoring but it was to be Tyrone’s day once more and their supporters celebrated accordingly. Like their predecessor Mickey Harte, the co-management team of Dooher - winning captain 13 years ago - and Logan have led their county to All-Ireland glory at the first attempt. And nobody could deny that they deserved it.Tweet