Late Kevin McLoughlin score sees Mayo edge past Tyrone

Allianz Football League One: Tyrone 0-12 Mayo 1-10

From Neil Loughran at Healy Park

ONE final swing of Kevin McLoughlin’s weary left leg settled an absorbing, at times eye-watering encounter at Healy Park yesterday as Mayo snatched a one-point win over familiar foes Tyrone.

Shuddering hits, black card controversy, top notch scores and the odd off-the-ball coming together as the minutes slipped away. It wasn’t always easy on the eye, but you couldn’t take your eyes off it and with the sun shining down on the Omagh sod, this felt every bit like summer yet we’ve only just welcomed spring.

And just as was the case last August at Croke Park, it was the men from the west who just held the edge by the close of a draining 70-plus minutes, McLoughlin somehow summoning the strength to send the ball sweetly between the posts from 30 metres.

Tyrone were left kicking themselves that they kicked themselves out of it, 15 wides and three short is the kind of ugly stat that understandably rankles with Red Hand boss Mickey Harte.

“It tells its tale on the scoreboard,” he admitted.

“I can’t fault the effort of the boys, they worked hard, particularly in the second half against the breeze. There’s no doubt we created enough chances to get something out of the game but if the ball doesn’t go between the posts, it doesn’t work.

“So there’s learning in that for us.”

Last summer’s All-Ireland quarter-final provided much of the pre-match narrative, and the early stages yesterday indicated a desire to pick up where they left off seven months ago.

Level four times during the first half, and eight times by Conor Lane’s final whistle, both were content to play patiently and wait for a mistake, a stray pass or a turnover opportunity.

Some of the early scores were breathtaking, and they had to be such was the intensity of the defensive walls faced. Mark Bradley’s fifth minute point to put Tyrone 0-2 to 0-1 ahead was a thing of beauty that began with a Mattie Donnelly interception inside his own 45.

The Trillick midfielder bounded forward before kicking cross-field to Sean Cavanagh who, with a swivel of the hips, arrowed the ball in Bradley’s direction. The Killyclogher man cut in on his left and lashed the ball over for a glorious score.

One of the most intriguing battles of these early exchanges was between Tyrone dynamo Niall Sludden and player of the year Lee Keegan. Sludden looked to be getting the upper hand as he launched those familiar arcing runs from deep.

However, just a minute after making it 0-3 apiece with 14 on the clock, his afternoon was cut short when he was harshly adjudged to have tripped Keegan.

Lane dished out a black card and all of a sudden Tyrone’s most creative attacking outlet was gone.

“I think people would reflect on that and say that’s the problem with the black card,” said Harte.

“When people get them when there shouldn’t be one, they’re difficult to stomach. He was a huge loss to us.”

Kieran McGeary levelled at 0-4 each after Cillian O’Connor’s free before Darren McCurry put Tyrone ahead following a powerful Peter Harte burst.

Nine minutes before half-time Keegan would follow Sludden from the field when he too was black-carded for pulling down Ronan McNabb.

Not that Mayo were knocked out of their rhythm as, within three minutes, they bagged the only goal of the afternoon with one of the best moves of the game.

Cillian O’Connor was the architect-in-chief, his defence-splitting pass finding Andy Moran who laid the ball off for the onrushing Tom Parsons to fire low to the net.

Bradley produced another sublime piece of skill when his impudent dummy sent Colm Boyle diving into thin air before the Killyclogher man finished the job with a curling shot.

Yet as the first half drew to a close there was a sense that Mayo were getting to grips with Tyrone, often seizing upon the Red Hands’ lateral passing, with last year’s All-Ireland finalists leading 1-6 to 0-8

The pace of the first half clearly took its toll as there were only eight points in total after the break, though Mayo were by far the more economical in front of the posts.

Kieran McGeary’s outside of the boot effort after 44 minutes was the first of the half, before Mayo midfielder Danny Kirby was black carded for a high tackle on Sean Cavanagh.

Tiernan McCann brought it level at 1-7 to 0-10 after 53 minutes, with Mayo throwing on man mountain Aidan O’Shea for the final quarter of an hour in a bid to edge their noses in front.

With bodies tiring, though, the last 15 minutes was a nervy, error-strewn affair.

Bradley’s 58th minute leveller was the last until, two minutes into added time, McLoughlin got out in front of Cathal McCarron, turned and sent over the killer blow from which Tyrone would never recover.

“It was edgy, but I thought it was played at a good intensity, and some maybe relative to what might be later in the summer,” said Mayo boss Stephen Rochford.

“We probably turned over the ball a little bit easy. It is something we have been trying to work on and certainly haven’t nailed it, but against a packed defence and really tight structure that Tyrone bring, we still got 10 scores and we had a number of other chances.

“But look it was a tight game and we are just happy, relieved, to come away.”

Yesterday’s victory gives Mayo a massive boost in their bid to stay away from the relegation zone heading into a final weekend clash with Donegal in Castlebar, while Tyrone’s hopes of a League final hang my a mathematical thread after a second successive defeat as they head to Killarney.

Tyrone: N Morgan (0-1, 45); P Hampsey, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McNabb, A McCrory, T McCann (0-1); C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; K McGeary (0-2), N Sludden (0-1), P Harte; M Bradley (0-3), S Cavanagh (0-2, 0-1 free), D McCurry (0-2). Subs: C McShane for R McNamee (43), H Loughran for R McNabb (56), J Munroe for R McNabb (69)

Black card: N Sludden replaced by C Meyler (15)

Yellow cards: C McCarron (69), H Loughran (74)

Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, K Higgins, C Barrett; C Boyle, L Keegan, P Durcan (0-2); T Parsons (1-0), D Kirby; F Boland, C O’Connor (0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 45), S Nally (0-1); K McLoughlin (0-2), A Moran, D Drake. Subs: D O’Connor for F Boland (44), A O’Shea for A Moran (54), J Doherty for D Drake (64), C O’Shea for S Nally (69)

Black cards: L Keegan replaced by S Coen (26), D Kirby replaced by D Vaughan (50)

Yellow cards: D Drake (3), P Durcan (9), A Moran (19), A O’Shea (69)

Referee: C Lane (Cork)

Att: 7,850

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