Mayo edge past Cork after extra-time to set up Roscommon quarter-final
MAYO will face ‘a massive challenge' from Connacht champions Roscommon in next Sunday's All-Ireland SFC quarter-final at Croke Park.
That was the message from a “relieved” Stephen Rochford after Saturday evening's thrilling round 4A Qualifier win over Cork after extra-time in Limerick.
Mayo needed to pull out all the stops as Cork produced their best performance of the season, and it took 11 points from man-of-the-match Cillian O'Connor to drag the Westerners across the line.
“We've got to be a lot more effective next week,” admitted Stephen Rochford after the dust had settled.
“We're coming up against a confident bunch [Roscommon] and we've got a massive challenge. The preparations start right now with recovery and the finer details tomorrow.
“No doubt having played extra-time in that warm weather will ask questions of us, but we're back in a quarter-final, there's nobody ahead of us in the race, and we'll take that on and we look forward to it.
“The boys have produced some of their best performances over the last number of years at Croke Park, but that's history at the same time.”
A crowd of 13,545 fans, the vast majority of them wearing Mayo colours, watched the drama unfold at the Gaelic Grounds as Cork sub Luke Connolly landed a free in stoppage time to send the game to extra-time.
Mayo looked to be cruising when they led by seven points during the third quarter, but two goals from Seán Powter and Luke Connolly saw Cork come roaring back into contention.
The loss of Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan to a black card came as a big blow to Mayo's game-plan, but Cork were also hit by injuries to key men James Loughrey and Aidan Walsh.
Jamie O'Sullivan also picked up a black card midway through the first half.
However, the Rebels made a flying start to extra-time with two quickfire points from Paul Kerrigan easing them ahead.
They were a point up at the break too, but Mayo's running power and experience finally wore them down with inspirational scores from Keith Higgins, Diarmuid O'Connor and Cillian O'Connor (from a 45) proving decisive.
Cork manager Peadar Healy announced his resignation after the game and conceded that his two years in charge had been ‘tough'.
“My term is up and I'm stepping down,” he said.
“At this level, you just need to devote your life to it. That's the way it's going, especially when you're on the managerial side of it. It's that professional. You'd either want to be retired or a teacher and off for the summer. You just need a lot of time for this job.
“To lose against Tipp is the last thing you want to do in Championship and then to be beaten in Killarney the way we were beaten. Look, that's it. When you go into the business, especially the manager's side of it, it's brutal and Championship is brutal.”
Healy added he no issue with Down referee Ciarán Branagan blowing for full-time over 20 seconds short of the announced three minutes of additional time in the second half of extra-time.
“Look, the referee is a human being,” said Healy.
“I'm sure when he looked at it, he felt the time was up. He maybe thought it was 3:20. If we'd got a turnover who knows what would have happened but, look, I'm not going to blame a referee. To be fair, I thought he did a good job.”
Mayo, meanwhile, are preparing this week for their seventh successive All-Ireland quarter-final with all roads leading back to Croke Park for their fanatical supporters.
Mayo: D Clarke; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, K Higgins (0-1); L Keegan (0-1), C Barrett, C Boyle; S O'Shea, T Parsons (0-1); K McLoughlin, A O'Shea (0-3), D O'Connor (0-1); J Doherty (0-1), C O'Connor (0-11, 0-4 frees), A Moran (0-4).
Subs: P Durcan (0-2) for Barrett (44); S Coen for S O'Shea (50); D Vaughan for Boyle (53); D Drake for Keegan (58, black card); C Loftus (0-2) for Moran (63); C Crowe for Cafferkey (81); E Regan for McLoughlin (81); A Dillon for D O'Connor (87).
Cork: R Price; J Loughrey, E Cadogan, J O Sullivan; S Powter (1-0), M Shields, T Clancy (0-1); A Walsh, I Maguire;
C O'Driscoll, M Collins, J O'Rourke (0-3); Barry O Driscoll (0-1), D O'Connor (0-6, 0-4 frees), P Kerrigan (0-3).
Subs: K Crowley for Loughrey (19); S Cronin for O'Sullivan (36, black card); R Deane for Walsh (37); C O'Neill (0-3, 0-1 free) for Shields (46); L Connolly (1-1) for B O'Driscoll (54); M Hurley (0-2) for O'Connor (62); A O'Connor for Maguire (70); S White for C O'Driscoll (70; C O'Driscoll for Powter (81); M Shields for Cronin (87).
Referee: C Branagan (Down)