SF quarter-final: 'Streetwise' Mayo edge Rebels in second-half thriller

August 03, 2014

Aidan O'Shea of Mayo with Colm O'Driscoll of Cork
Mayo 1-19
Cork 2-15

Mayo held off a spirited rally by Cork in a proverbial game of two halves at Croke Park today to book their place in the last four of the All-Ireland SFC.

A tense first-half saw the sides finish level on eight points apiece but the game came to life after the resumption and those in attendance were treated to an end-to-end thriller.

The third quarter belonged to the Connacht champions and they took over in the driving seat when outscoring their opponents by eight points to one but Cork rallied and pushed last year's defeated finalists all the way thanks to a superb goal by Donnacha O'Connor.

Aidan O'Shea and Brian Hurley traded goals late on as the pendulum swung to and fro but James Horan's side held on to scrape over the line.

Both teams made one change in advance of throw-in with Tom Cunniffe replacing Barry Moran for Mayo and Fintan Goold starting instead of Donal Og Hodnett for the Rebels.

Cork captain Michael Shields won the toss and opted to play into the Hill 16 end but it was Jason Doherty who opened the scoring with a fine effort from out near the Cusack Stand sideline in the first minute.

Brian Hurley responded for Cork in the 5th minute from a close range free after Tom Cunniffe fouled Colm O'Neill and the Castlehaven man was a constant thorn in the side of the Mayo full-back line helping himself to four points during the opening 35 minutes.

Brian Cuthbert stuck to the defensive system which saw his side overcome Sligo last weekend with Mark Collins and Colm O'Driscoll giving a helping hand to their defenders and Mayo were made work very hard for their eight first half scores.

The team in green and red hit six first half wides compared to Cork's three while the team in red and white lost centre-back Thomas Clancy to a black card in the 19th minute for a 'rugby tackle' on Aidan O'Shea.

The second half was a much more open affair and points from Andy Moran (2), Alan Dillon (2), Jason Doherty, Donal Vaughan and Kevin McLoughlin parachuted Mayo into a sizeable 0-16 to 0-9 lead with 20 minutes remaining.

But, unlike the Munster final, Cork refused to throw in the towel and got themselves back into the game when hitting four points without reply.

Substitute Donnacha O'Connor put his name to three of those scores while Rob Hennelly pulled off a smart save to deny Ian Maguire a goal.

There was nothing Hennelly could do about O'Connor's blistering shot in the 63rd minute and the sides were level - 0-16 to 1-13 - with seven minutes left on the clock.

A rash foul by Damian Cahalane on Aidan O'Shea gifted Cillian O'Connor the chance to restore Mayo's lead and he duly obliged in the 64th minute and, moments later, the hugely influential Aidan O'Shea displayed commendable composure, and no shortage of skill, to outwit the Cork defence and cooly dispatch the ball into an empty net.

It looked to be game, set and match but Hurley replied almost immediately for the Rebels and it took points from Donal Vaughan and Lee Keegan to give Mayo some breathing space and the Connacht champions will now take on Kerry in the last four.

Cork players, meanwhile, were unhappy with referee Cormac Reilly's time-keeping at the final whistle after Colm O'Neill opted to settle for a point from a close range free rather than go for goal.

Mayo - R Hennelly; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan (0-1), C Boyle, D Vaughan (0-2); T Cunniffe, S O'Shea (0-2); K McLoughlin (0-1), A O'Shea (1-0), J Doherty (0-2); C O'Connor (0-5), A Moran (0-2), A Dillon (0-4). Subs: E Varley for Moran, B Harrison for Barrett, A Freeman for O'Connor, J Gibbons for A O'Shea, M Conroy for Dillon.

Cork - K O'Halloran; J Loughrey, E Cadogan, N Galvin; M Shields, T Clancy, B O'Driscoll; I Maguire, A Walsh (0-1); P Kerrigan, M Collins, C O'Driscoll; C O'Neill (0-5), B Hurley (1-4), F Goold (0-2). Subs: D Cahalane for Goold (black), P Kelly for C O'Driscoll, D O'Connor (1-3) for Collins, J O'Rourke for B O'Driscoll, D Goulding for Maguire, J Hayes for Walsh.

Ref: C Reilly (Meath).

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