Our long stay in the National League’s top division finally came to an end at MacHale Park this afternoon. A calamitous spell for us between the first water break and the early part of the second half, during which Tyrone hit us for three goals, proved fatal to our hopes of once again avoiding relegation by securing a result in Round 7. We made a spirited comeback after those blows but the damage had been done and we eventually came up short by a single point.
They made three changes prior to throw-in to the side they’d named just a few hours earlier. We made one enforced switch and a significant one it was too as Cillian O’Connor was unable to line out due to injury. Darren Coen started in his place.
Up until the first water break it was a case of trading scores. We started with the same kind of style we’d shown in Tuam, with runners breaking rapidly from deep and, playing against the stiff wind in that half we opted to keep the ball low and pass it, for the most part, through the hands. They chose to let the wind do more of the work, spraying long balls downfield.
Paddy Durcan got our opener from a move worked off a ’45. That had come when Tommy Conroy bore down on goal but just lost control of the ball, which bounced off Morgan and out over the end-line.
We had a clear goal chance soon after. Tommy went on another run and offloaded to Bryan Walsh whose shot off the outside of the boot was blocked and the ball cleared.
McKenna bagged their opener but then Eoghan McLaughlin finished a great run by firing over. A McCurry free answered that.
Tyrone were pressing us high on our restarts but we worked the ball well down the field. Bryan Walsh was fouled and Diarmuid O’Connor drove the free over off the ground from a fair distance out.
McKenna, claiming the mark, tied the game up again. Then Tommy Conroy burst clear and fired over but Harte had a quick retort to that one at the other end.
Another good move for us saw the ball played to Darren Coen. The goal chance wasn’t really on, Aidan O’Shea was in the clear inside him but Darren opted to blast it instead and his effort went wildly wide.
They immediately hit the front after that, Canavan clipping the score over. They took that one-point lead into the first water break.
What had been a fairly open and even first quarter changed utterly once the action got going again. Tyrone’s first goal represented poor defending from our perspective as the ball squirted clear more than once in our backline but we failed to claim possession. McKenna then grabbed it and blasted to the net.
From then to half-time was a total calamity for us. We defended – if you could even call it that – in the most naïve manner possible and they ripped us open again and again with a series of rapid, incisive moves. Then when we did manage to attack it was the kind of slow, ponderous approach that suited the swarming Tyrone cover perfectly.
How far asunder we’d come so quickly was evidenced when Harte claimed a long ball inside and it was Tommy Conroy who was challenging him for possession. Not a single other Mayo back was within yards of them, even though this was only just outside the ’21.
The wheels really came off the wagon when Canavan smashed home their second goal shortly before half-time. Now we were eight adrift, the match spinning well out of control for us.
It could – and perhaps should – have got worse for us soon after. Lee Keegan, chasing a ball he’d just lost possession of, followed through crudely into Donnelly. He could easily have seen red for it but got away without even a warning.
Trailing by eight at half-time against a team who were going to be extremely hard to break down, realistically we were already in Division Two at that stage. We put up a hell of a fight in the second half but ultimately, largely thanks to a gifted third goal to Tyrone soon after the resumption, it wasn’t enough.
What made matters worse in relation to that third goal was that we’d started so well after the break. Two Darren Coen points and a super long-range one from Mattie Ruane cut the gap to a more manageable five points and with half an hour plus injury time to go and with the wind at our backs we weren’t out of it yet.
But then McGeary pointed for them and David Clarke made a hash of a short restart – why go short with such a strong wind behind him? – with McKenna intercepting and firing home.
Nine down now, this left us with a veritable mountain to climb. From then to the finish we did what we could to clamber up it but the deficit ultimately proved too great.
Fionn McDonagh and, in particular, Ryan O’Donoghue were prominent in our comeback in the second half, both players having come on at half-time, replacing Bryan Walsh and Mark Moran.
We got the next three points – from Conor Loftus, Diarmuid O’Connor and a Darren Coen free – but they added another via McCurry. Another great burst and score from Tommy Conroy cut the gap to six at the second water break.
We made another substitution before the final quarter started. James Durcan came on for Darren Coen while Padraig O’Hora replaced Kevin McLoughlin.
A brilliant goal by Tommy Conroy – who had his best game to date for his county today – brought us to within three of them and gave us hope anew. Ryan O’Donoghue, fed cleverly by Aidan, then cut the deficit to two.
A McCurry free gave the visitors some breathing space but they were now blowing pretty hard as we came at them with intent. Diarmuid O’Connor was taken out of it in possession but incredibly the free was given the other way.
Tyrone were reduced to fourteen soon after, though, when Meyler hand-tripped Paddy Durcan. The absence of a crowd at the game meant that Paddy’s shout of “that’s a black!” was clearly audible. He was right, though, and Meyler was dispatched to the sin bin.
The lively Ryan O’Donoghue was fouled as he tried to burst through and James Durcan pointed. The Castlebar Mitchels man pointed from another, more difficult, free shortly after and now we were trailing by just one. McCurry, once again, bagged one for them but Ryan, from a forward mark, kept up the pressure on them by firing over into the bacon factory end.
A McKenna free, following a charitable enough whistle, edged Tyrone back two in front. Five minutes of injury time were called but all we were able to add to our tally was a further pointed free from James Durcan, following a foul on Ryan. Tyrone, wobbling badly at the finish, held out to claim the win they needed to stay up while we ended up in the second relegation spot and, after 23 years, finally dropping out of Division One.
Heading into these last two rounds of the League it was always going to be a tall order for us to get the results we needed to stay up. Having hosed Galway last Sunday, though, we could – and, deep down, we’ll know we should – have completed the job today. But ultimately our Division One campaign this year has been marked by inconsistency and a failure to punch our weight. Over the seven games we played we just didn’t do enough to deserve a place in the League’s top tier next year. As is often the case in life, you get what you deserve.
It helps, of course, that we don’t have any time to lick our wounds following this loss. Championship starts next weekend and the knockout format means we can’t afford to take the kind of lethargic form we showed for long stretches today into the campaign that’s about to start.
We’re down today – literally – but there’s still ball to be played this year. It’s up to us to learn from what went awry for us today and put those learnings to good effect as we get ready to embark on this winter knockout Championship.
Mayo: David Clarke; Oisin Mullin, Stephen Coen, Lee Keegan; Paddy Durcan (0-1), Kevin McLoughlin, Eoghan McLaughlin (0-1); Matthew Ruane (0-1), Conor Loftus (0-1); Diarmuid O’Connor (0-2, one free), Mark Moran, Bryan Walsh; Tommy Conroy (1-3), Aidan O’Shea, Darren Coen (0-5, three frees). Subs: Fionn McDonagh for Walsh, Ryan O’Donoghue (0-2, one a mark) for Moran, James Durcan (0-3, frees) for Darren Coen, Padraig O’Hora for McLoughlin, Paul Towey for McLaughlin.
Who was our MOTM against Tyrone? Pick your top three performers
- Tommy Conroy (42%, 761 Votes)
- Ryan O'Donoghue (13%, 231 Votes)
- Eoghan McLaughlin (7%, 135 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (7%, 133 Votes)
- Oisin Mullin (4%, 79 Votes)
- Darren Coen (4%, 76 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (3%, 60 Votes)
- Mattie Ruane (2%, 44 Votes)
- David Clarke (2%, 41 Votes)
- Fionn McDonagh (2%, 39 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (2%, 33 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (2%, 33 Votes)
- James Durcan (2%, 28 Votes)
- Paul Towey (1%, 22 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (1%, 22 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (1%, 20 Votes)
- Mark Moran (1%, 15 Votes)
- Bryan Walsh (1%, 11 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (1%, 10 Votes)
- Padraig O'Hora (0%, 9 Votes)
Total Voters: 994