Nicky Rackard Cup final: Mayo 2-27 Tyrone 1-14

A PUNISHING Croke Park encounter with a team of substance and class left Tyrone licking their wounds at the end of a heavy Nicky Rackard Cup final defeat.

Last year’s beaten finalists never looked back after getting off to the perfect start with a goal inside the opening five minutes, and the Ulster men never looked like catching them.

“Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to a better team,” said Tyrone manager Michael McShane.

“Mayo were better than us in nearly every facet of the game.

“We got dealt a few bad blows, Cain (Ferguson) having to go off. He wasn’t coming in one hundred per cent fit, it was a risk to get him through the game, but it just didn’t work. He’s a big, big part of our team, and unfortunately the injury he picked up last week just didn’t heal enough."

McShane felt Mayo’s defeat in last year’s final was a significant factor in their approach to the game.

“Mayo had the bit between their teeth, they really wanted it, because they were still hurting from last year, having lost it.

“We had a lot lads out there of 18, 19 years or age, and maybe the occasion got to them.”

Sean Regan punished a short puck-out with a goal, and Mayo led by 1-7 to 0-4 at the water break, with points from Keith Higgins, Adrian Phillips and Cathal Freeman. Damian Casey and Chris Kearns kept Tyrone in touch, but Casey had a penalty saved by Bobby Douglas when a goal would have narrowed the gap to four.

The Connacht side pulled away in the second quarter, with Phillips and Higgins doing most of the damage, and David Kenny a rock at the heart of their defence, as they built up a 1-15 to 0-5 interval lead.

A bright start to the second half saw the Red Hands hit 1-3, including a Conor Grogan goal, but that was cancelled out by Cathal Freeman’s clinical strike.

And so it was on towards an inevitable conclusion, with Higgins putting in a virtuoso performance, finishing with seven points.

Casey’s nine points haul was a personal triumph, but not nearly enough to bring his side close to contention.

Mayo skipper Higgins felt the early goal was important in helping the players to settle.

“Once we got the good start, we settled down, got rid of any nerves we had from last year,” he said.

“I don’t think at any stage we were really under awful pressure, although they had a few chances.

“The full-back line and half-back line have been laying the foundation for us all year, and they did again.”

Mayo: B Douglas; S Coyne, M Morley, C Daly; G Nolan, D Kenny (0-1), C Henry; J Cassidy, S Kenny (0-1 frees); C Phillips (0-1), C Freeman (1-4), S Boland (0-3, 0-2 frees); K Higgins (0-7, 0-1 free, 0-1 65), A Phillips (0-3), S Regan (1-3).

Subs: J Coyne (0-1) for C Phillips (46), P McCrann for Cassidy (46), B Morley (0-2) for A Phillips (60), O Greally (0-1) for Boland (66)

Tyrone: C McElhatton; SP McKernan, D Rafferty, C McNally; J Kerr, C Kearns (0-3), L Devlin; C Lagan, M Little; C Grogan (1-0), CJ McGourty, D Casey (0-9, 0-6 frees); R Weir, C Ferguson, B McGurk (0-1).

Subs: T Morgan (0-1) for Ferguson (30), D Begley for McNally (h-t), P McHugh for McKernan (38), S Og Grogan for Weir (43), S Donaghy for Little (63)

Referee: R Fitzsimons (Offaly).