Leading by 0-9 to 0-5 at the interval, having played with that strong wind the Connaught champions looked to be in with a big chance but within eight minutes of the restart, Cork had fired over four unanswered points to wipe the slate clean and when a goal followed almost immediately, the writing was clearly on the wall for a Mayo team that once again under performed on the big stage.
While Mayo struggled around the midfield area their failure to match Cork in this department can’t be entirely blamed for a five-point defeat.
James Horan was not hiding behind any excuses, taking the defeat on the chin, but he did agree with a question concerning the incident before the first Cork goal when Mayo were not awarded what looked like a free when Lee Keegan appeared be pushed in the back as he ran towards goal.
Cork countered and hit the net and it was game over really.
“It was an important time in the game alright, no doubt about that,” he said.
“But I think over the course of the game, Cork probably deserved it.
“We didn’t play to the level we can and we’d be disappointed about that.
But even with that, we didn’t play well in the first half and we were still four points up.
“Cork had a good start to the second half but we hung in there and if we’d got the rub of the green and a few decisions we would have been there or thereabouts. But overall, the game was disappointing and I don’t think we played at the tempo we can play at.”
He also averted to the key area of strength, which Cork had in abundance.
“Cork were strong. They were very good. We ran into tackles quite a bit and they were very strong so we turned over the ball. That was a big factor.”
We made a couple of good runs and ran into traffic and we weren’t strong enough to get through it or to play the ball back and Cork got a lot of soft frees that way. That gave them momentum when we were trying to get back into the game.
“So yeah, from a strength and conditioning point of view, we’re a long way back. Cork are a big team and we’ve plenty of work to do there.”
Mayo struggled in the attack, two second half points an indication of just how strong Cork were in the defensive department, and how telling a factor the wind turned out to be with Mayo dropping at least two balls into the arms of the goalkeeper.
The defence also found one or two Cork forwards a shade too sharp to handle but the overall pictured to emerge is Mayo are well down the pecking order for All-Ireland honours and are well off the pace set by the big guns who will be lining up in the 2012 championship.
Horan will see this as another stepping stone on the road to gaining valuable experience and he did go into Sunday’s encounter without Aiden O’Shea who had been holding the fort for Mayo around the middle of the field in a number of the big games before he picked up an injury.
His return is paramount for Mayo to make an impact in the championship.
But Cork’s physicality and size, along with their comfort on the ball has to be a worry for aspiring teams like Mayo who have some distance to go before they can be considered as serious contenders for the championship.
Mayo have time on their side to plot a route down the September Road with
a meeting with either London or Leitrim in Castlebar in June.
A Mayo win will most likely pit them against Galway in Pearse Stadium and Galway will certainly hold no fears of the current Connaught champions on the bias of their own development in division two of the league and Mayo’s failure to make an impression yet again in a Croke Park final.The task for Horan and his mentors will be remove any sense of doubt that Mayo have been planted after this defeat but there can be no disguising the fact that unless Mayo sort things out their problems around the middle of the field and bring a physical presence to some of the key positions they will always be filling the role of bridesmaids when it comes to the big occasion