MAYO manager James Horan pointed to Mayo winning the breaking ball in the second half as the key to his side’s shock win over All-Ireland champions Cork at Croke Park on Sunday.
Mayo ended a famine going back to 1916 when they last defeated Cork in the championship and atoned for more frequent defeats in the final of 1989 and 2002 when Horan himself was on the losing side to Cork in that quarterfinal, a game that marked the end of the inter-county career of the Ballintubber man.
“The breaking ball was eight to one after 15 minutes. Cork were dominating, even though the guys were catching some clean ball, but in the breaking ball we were getting beaten,“ he said.
“We adjusted that and it seemed to work. We got the majority of possession around there and that enabled us to get the ball into Andy Moran, and the guys inside did a lot of damage. That was a huge part of the game,” he said.
Victory over the All-Ireland champions sets up an intriguing semi-final clash with Kerry, the team who handed out a heavy defeat to Mayo when they last met in the final of 2006.
However, Mayo defeated Kerry in the semi-final of 1996 when they went on to lose in a replay to Meath in what became known as the ‘hop ball final’.
Sunday’s win came as a shock to most Mayo supporters, many of whom didn’t make the journey, just over 22,000 attending the Croke Park double-header.
An amazing statistic from Sunday’s game was Cork were held to a single point in the second half, something that was unthinkable going into the game but which must be credited to the work rate of the Mayo backs.
But Mayo’s second-half performance came as no surprise to the Mayo manager who pointed out that Roscommon managed just two points in the second half of the Connaught final and Galway scored just one point against them in the second half of their semi-final.
“We must be doing something right in the second half. You saw the tackling and the work rate there; whenever a Cork player got the ball there were two or three guys around him. The work rate was superb,” he said.
“Fitness is important but the discipline in some of our tackling was close to the edge, but very good. We were aggressive in the tackle and got the hands out when we needed to and conceded very few frees in the second half. The discipline and the setup we have is very strong and the guys are working so hard that we’re getting results.
“Our aim was to come up and play as well as we can and work as hard as we could. Fortunately, we outworked and outfought the opposition, and that was the bedrock of the game.
“We’re delighted. We won the game and are looking forward to moving on to the next step.”
And that will be another big step on August 21 but once more Mayo will be delighted to go in as underdogs.
He agreed that it suited Mayo going into Sunday’s game with all the talk about Cork and Kerry in the semi-final.
The question now is whether Mayo can produce another big game against the All-Ireland favourites who had a stroll in the park in their quarterfinal against a poor Limerick side who never put any pressure on the Kingdom.
On current form you can’t rule them out.