SF qualifier: Mayo battle past spirited Rebels in extra time

July 22, 2017

Cork's Ian Maguire tackles Aidan O'Shea of Mayo

Mayo are through to their seventh successive All-Ireland SFC quarter-final, pipping Cork by 0-27 to 2-20 after extra time in an epic contest at Limerick.

The brilliant Rebels came back from the dead three times in the second half of normal time but were physically out on their feet as they surrendered a two-point lead in extra time to bow out with heads held high. Fittingly, it was captain fantastic Cillian O'Connor (0-11) who slotted the deserving winners' last point of the day as they hit four-in-a-row at a vital juncture to seal a last-eight date with either Roscommon or Kerry next month.

Having trailed by seven points early in the second half, the losers - unrecognisable from the side that contested the Munster SFC - refused to roll over. They struck 1-3 without reply between the 57th and 60th minutes to edge within one and then equalised with a 71st-minute Luke Connolly goal after Mayo seemed to have pulled away. Connolly then hammered over a 77th-minute free to force extra time.

A run of seven unanswered points either side of the interval had seen Stephen Rochford's charges lead by double scores, 0-14 to 0-7, with 23 minutes left to play. But this was a patchy display from them and they will need to improve if they are going to challenge for the Sam Maguire Cup again this year.

Cork led for most of the first half and were on terms after 31 minutes but late points from Cillian O'Connor (2) and Jason Doherty edged Mayo into a 0-10 to 0-7 half-time lead. The Leesiders lost key defends James Loughrey and Jamie O'Sullivan to injury and a black card respectively during the opening period and would play into the breeze when the action resumed.

A brace of Donncha O'Connor frees gave the Rebels an encouraging start and the veteran full forward followed up with a fantastic finish from play after Cillian O'Connor had opened Mayo's account from a free - 0-3 to 0-1 after ten minutes.

Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan raided forward to slot the winners' first point from play but O'Connor replied with his fourth of the evening only for Tom Parsons to punctuate a swift Mayo offensive with their third score in the 15th minute. Andy Moran rounded his man to fist the equaliser at the midway stage in the first half, 0-4 each.

Barry O'Driscoll restored Cork's lead after Diarmuid O'Connor shot wide under pressure from Eoin Cadogan, but Aidan O'Shea benefited from good work by Cillian O'Connor to make it five apiece with ten minutes left before the break. Winning captain O'Connor's deadly finish had the Connacht county ahead for the first time. With O'Shea again prominent, Moran kicked the seventh Mayo point from 20 metres straight in front of the posts.

Cork captain Paul Kerrigan brought an end to Mayo's scoring sequence with a tidy point after Sean Powter did the spadework and the sides were level for the third time when Donncha O'Connor stole a few yards to steer over a free in the 30th minute, 0-7 each.

Mayo stayed on terms by the skin of their teeth as David Clarke pulled a shot down from above his crossbar before a Donncha O'Connor shot was first given as a point before being ruled out. At the other end, Ballintubber ace Cillian O'Connor popped over a free from the hands to give last year's All-Ireland finalists the narrowest of leads, with O'Sullivan black-carded for a late tackle on O'Shea.

Doherty registered in injury time to leave two between them and Cillian O'Connor added to his tally with a sweet strike off his left peg to make it a three-point contest at the short whistle.

The underdogs suffered another setback when Aidan Walsh limped off within two minutes of the restart and points from Moran - his third - and Cillian O'Connor (2) - his fifth and sixth - quickly extended the gap to six. Substitute Durcan made an instant impact as he pointed in the 47th minute, firing over his side's seventh consecutive score to give them a double-scores advantage, 0-14 to 0-7.

Donncha O'Connor (free) and John O'Rourke (2) reduced the Rebel arrears to four before substitute Colm O'Neill pulled back a fourth straight Cork score but Mayo's big hitters O'Connor, O'Shea and Moran quelled the comeback with a trio of priceless points - 0-16 to 0-11 with a quarter of the game left.

Powter's terrific solo goal halved Cork's deficit and the Rebels could have been level had not O'Rourke pulled his shot across the face of goal and wide when he found himself staring into the whites of Clarke's eyeballs. After Keegan was black-carded, Clarke then tipped a Thomas Clancy flick over his crossbar as the underdogs kept coming, closing the gap to two with 13 minutes left to play.

It was a one-point game when O'Rourke gathered a pass from O'Neill to kick a great point. Mayo's entire starting half-back line was now gone off and they looked wide open at the back with ten minutes left in a pulsating clash…

Mayo really needed a point and their captain contributed a vital score in the 62nd minute to double their advantage, 0-18 to 1-13, before O'Connor knocked over his ninth point from a free from the hands to leave three points between the teams with four minutes left.

O'Neill slotted a late Cork free from the deck after Keith Higgins cynically stopped the excellent Powter in his tracks; substitute Conor Loftus replied at the other end but the teams were level on the stroke of 70 minutes when the spirited Rebels conjured their second major, finished to the net by substitute Connolly - 2-14 to 0-20 with six minutes of injury time to be played!

Durcan seemed to have lofted over the winning point in the fourth minute of injury time after collecting a pass from fellow substitute Loftus, but Connolly showed terrific composure and conviction to wave away O'Neill and thump over a brilliant point from a 77th-minute free to force extra time.

Kerrigan edged the Rebels back ahead with a lovely point at the start of extra time and then cancelled out a Loftus reply before Parsons fired a Mayo goal chance wide. Substitutes Michael Hurley and O'Neill pointed either side of an Aidan O'Shea reply as the Rebels led by two but Cillian O'Connor whacked over his tenth - a stunning free into the wind - in the tenth minute of the first period of added time.

Cork were clearly out on their feet and Powter had to be pulled ashore suffering from cramp, but they still led by a point with one ten-minute period of extra time left to play…

Quickfire points from Higgins and Diarmuid O'Connor saw the lead change hands inside the opening two minutes of the second additional period and, with Cork players cramping all over the field, a superb Cillian O'Connor '45' in the 76th minute doubled the difference.

Hurley reduced the arrears to the minimum with 90 seconds left and fired his next effort wide in the first of three minutes of injury time at the end of this epic contest. Substitute Sean White was off target with another attempted equaliser and time ran out for the Rebels as Mayo won a memorable 100+-minute classic at the sunny Gaelic Grounds.

Mayo - D Clarke; G Cafferkey, B Harrison, C Barrett; L Keegan (0-1), K Higgins (0-1), C Boyle; S O'Shea, T Parsons (0-1); K McLoughlin, A O'Shea (0-3), Diarmuid O'Connor (0-1); J Doherty (0-1), C O'Connor (0-11, 5f), A Moran (0-4). Subs - P Durcan (0-2) for Barrett, S Coen for S O'Shea, D Vaughan for Boyle, D Drake for Keegan (BC), C Loftus (0-2) for Moran, C Crowe for Cafferkey, E Regan for McLoughlin, A Dillon for D O'Connor.

Cork - R Price; J Loughrey, M Shields, J O'Sullivan; T Clancy (0-1), E Cadogan, C O'Driscoll; A Walsh, I Maguire; M Collins, S Powter (1-0), J O'Rourke (0-3); B O'Driscoll (0-1), P Kerrigan (0-3), Donncha O'Connor (0-6, 4f). Subs - K Crowley for Loughrey, S Cronin for O'Sullivan (BC), R Deane for Walsh, C O'Neill (0-3, 1f) for Shields, L Connolly (1-1, 1f) for B O'Driscoll, M Hurley (0-2) for O'Connor, S White for C O'Driscoll, A O'Connor for Maguire, K O'Driscoll for O'Rourke, C Dorman for Crowley, C O'Driscoll for Powter.

Ref - Ciaran Branagan (Down).

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