Cork 0-13 By Sean O’Reilly
Who said that Mayo can’t play, can’t score, and can’t win? The Westerners came in the back door of this year’s championship and on Sunday in the final senior “B” semifinal they went out the front door.
Mayo seemed dead and buried in the opening half against a rampant Rebel outfit, and yet with five minutes to play, they had hauled themselves back to parity.
Cork’s Liam Birmingham spared no expense in getting his players back for the game. A JFK bomb scare on Saturday kept four of his players on the runway for over three hours. Mayo’s Ian Fitzgerald was also on board. Birmingham’s biggest scare, however, arrived at Gaelic Park on a fabulous football afternoon in the Bronx.
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Mayo sank Cork with two late strikes from the top drawer.
This was a strange game. Cork should have won, but it was Mayo who did. Import Mark O’Sullivan hit nine points from frees, yet the dogged Mayo defenders nullified his effect from play.
Rangers better bring well-woven jerseys next Sunday for the final. Mayo will wear them down to a thread. All six Mayo defenders are decent, honest performers. They simply hunt in packs and hound their opponents into the ground. They also hit hard, often and fairly.
In fairness to Cork, they looked much the better team for 40 minutes of this pulsating encounter. They lost because they scored only three times from play.
Mayo, on the other hand, never stopped fighting, and when Damien Hendy’s brilliant bulldozing drive ended up with a Mayo goal, the Westerners sensed victory. The goal set the Mayo supporters into raptures on the bleachers. Paddy Reddington was quickest to pounce and bash the ball to the net after Hendy’s shot ricocheted off the crossbar.
Out of the blue, Mayo rallied and buried an ailing Rebel outfit. In the final five minutes, Mayo looked like a team that could run for a week. John Lavery is back to his best at midfield and when he freed wing back Eamon McEvoy to point from out near the softball diamond, Mayo took the lead for the fist time. Mayo manager John Bourke is gradually molding the winning formula. Liam McDonald arrived late off the bench and the Belmullet native put two between the sides with time running out.
It was another fitting fairy tale for the senior “B” championship that has totally outclassed its more senior counterpart.
The opening 15 minutes was all Cork. O’Sullivan hit five points from frees while Conrad Murphy and Brian Hanley drove the Rebels forward at every opportunity. Mayo kicked aimlessly at the other end. Noel Faherty, Ian Fitzgerald and their top performer, Mark Culhane, only missed scorable opportunities.
In the second half, Mayo improved, but they must sharpen the radar before Sunday’s final. They must also get a weekender who can score from frees. Cork will be bitterly disappointed not to have won. With 10 minutes to play, Conrad Murphy received the ball behind the Mayo defense after Keith McMahon failed to clear. Murphy’s piledriver was parried brilliantly by Mayo keeper Kevin Touhy; Mayo got off the hook and it proved pivotal to the outcome.
O’Sullivan failed to deliver from play while Steven O’Shea, Murphy and Tadgh Callaghan never got going. At the finish, a brave and determined Mayo outfit deserved to win, mainly because they had more heart. Cork definitely had the stars but they failed to shine when they were needed most. If Mayo win next Sunday against Rangers in the senior “B” final, those who said, they can’t play, can’t score and can’t win will hear about it. Watch out, Rangers.
Mayo: Kevin Tuohy, Peter McGinley, Pierce O’Reilly, Tommy Gallagher, Eamon McEvoy (0-1), Damien Hendy, Keith McMahon, David Colleran, John Lavery, Niall McMahon, Mark Cullhane (0-7), Noel Faherty, Paddy Redington (1-1), Ian Fitzgerald (0-2), John Brown. Subs: Liam McDonald (0-1).
Cork: Pat O’Sullivan, Andy Mullins, C.J. Doherty, Lian Hanley, Paul Hanley (0-1), Donagh Wiseman, Noel Buckley, Pat Mahoney, Denis Kiley, Stephen O’Shea, Pat Sexton, Conrad Murphy (0-1), Tadgh Callaghan (0-1), Mark O’ Sullivan (0-10), Brendan Wiley.