TWO months ago he had one leg in the relegation grave.
Following Sunday’s sensational national league semi-final win over Kerry in a game that needed extra-time to decide, James Horan and his men have one hand on a national trophy as they bid to bring home the first major piece of silverware in 11 years.
Mayo’s chances going into Sunday’s game at an empty Croke Park were never rated.
But when news broke on Saturday that top midfield player Aiden O’Shea would be out for several weeks due to a recurring injury to a pelvic bone, they were written off in most quarters, and particularly by their normally loyal supporters, who never showed for this one.
Past Croke Park experiences against Kerry may have influenced the decision of supporters not to travel, although the tough economic times must be factored in for what was the lowest ever attendance at two major games in Croke Park, the place virtually empty for the Cork versus Down semi-final that followed the first game, and the official attendance put at 11,000.
However, it didn’t unduly affect the performance of a Mayo team who showed tremendous character and spirit to come back on two occasions from the jaws of defeat. And ultimately it was Castlebar Mitchels player Richie Feeney, finding himself in the unfamiliar role of centre-half forward, who kicked the winning point to send Mayo into a league final meeting with Cork on Sunday week.
Although the intensity of the game was low and at times the match looked like a training session for both teams, there was no shortage of excitement and drama as the normally ice-cool Munster men were put under pressure by Mayo’s man-marking tactics.
Two players in particular stood out for Mayo. Ger Cafferkey did a massive job on the highly vaunted Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper, whose influence on this game was well curtailed.
But the player who encapsulated what the new spirit for this Mayo team is all about was Davitts man Colm Boyle, his amazing goal, five minutes into the second period of extra time, turning the game on its head at a stage when Kerry had assumed control to lead by three points - 1-17 to 1-14.
Boyle, despite the attention of four Kerry defenders, managed to get back up after being bundled over and somehow squeeze the ball past a body of players, including the goalkeeper, although the replay did show the ball took a lucky deflection.
But the goal had determination and sheer will-to-win behind it and it was the score that transformed impending defeat into a stunning victory.
It fired Mayo level and when Feeney raided forward to nail the winner with a minute to go, there was stunned silence amongst the small band of Kerry followers in a strangely quiet Croke Park.
Bryan Sheehan, normally a long-range dead-ball expert, had the chance to send the game to a replay but his ’45 attempt curled wide, and with it went Now Mayo’s clash against Cork in the final on Sunday week has the makings of an intriguing final.