When manager Tony Duffy announced more or less the same team that had lost to Roscommon in the Connaught final - he made on change up front- and barely scraped by Sligo in the semi-final for this quarterfinal clash, we feared the worst for a team that seemed to lack direction, particularly up front where the six starting forwards against Roscommon failed to register a score.
However, the manager’s belief in the team remained unshaken and he is on record as stating he felt this team had yet to perform to their true ability.
And perform they did. Although it did take a bit of tweaking by the manger as he shifted a few of the forward chairs around and they worked a treat with the attack operating much better as a unit, while the work of Eoghan Lavin and Ruadhri O’Connor around the middle of the park and the leadership of team captain Adam Gallagher were instrumental in securing a semi-final berth for Mayo.
But this was a case of the team putting their collective shoulder to the wheel and while Tipperary were reduced to 14 players, with 15 minutes remaining, the truth is the Munster side never looked like winning this game at any stage as Mayo dictated terms from the word go.
The loss of a player may have influenced the margin of victory but when Steven O’Brien was red-carded for apparently stomping on Mayo wing-back Kevin Lynch, Mayo were playing much the better football and leading by five points -1-5 to 0-13.
That Mayo scored 19 points in this game -10 in the first half - is a tribute to the application of the forward line and the work of Mayo’s midfield.
But it was Mayo’s defensive heroics which really impressed many in the small crowd who made it to headquarters for the early game in a triple-header.
Full-back Seán Moran was superb. Joe Geraghty and Michael Plunkett put in two huge games, while the half-back line again delivered a massive performance, keeping the much feared Tipperary attack under a tight rein and always willing to come forward, Patrick Durcan with two points from play and seemingly relishing his more centre role on the half-back line.
Tipperary, who had a number of last year’s All-Ireland winners on board may have gone into this game with their eyes closed as were punished severely for their casual attitude in that opening half but I’m more inclined to the view that they didn’t know what hit them.
Mayo rolled the sleeves up from the start using the wind wisely with quick ball and had built an eight-point lead -0-9 to 0-1- after 18 minutes, the scaffolding for such a solid foundation constructed by the excellent finishing up front and the industry of the team in general.
Team captain, Adam Gallagher, who led by example, set the tone for the opening half with a wonderful free near the sideline after just two minutes.
Tipperary were level with a free of their own within minutes but a string of points from Ruadhri O’Connor, who had a huge game, Durcan, Gallagher (free), O’Connor again , Shane Hennelly, Cian Burke, James Quinn and an Eoghan Lavin free had Mayo on nine points and coasting.
In fact the goal which brought Tipperary back into the game could have been avoided as the ball appeared to be going wide only for it to be prevented from going over the line and knocked into the path of Philip Quirke who smashed it the top left hand corner.
It was one of the few defensive errors made by Mayo but they responded before the break with a good attack which yielded a free converted by Lavin to give his side 0-10 to 1-3 at the break.
An early free second half free from Lavin extended Mayo’s lead to five but Tipperary still looked a threat.
They managed back-to-back points to suggest a revival was at hand but their shooting and passing options were poor and clever cover play from Mayo’s defence kept that much feared Tipperary attack in check.
Even allowing for the sending off, Mayo looked well in control, manager Duffy bringing in fresh legs with Darren Duffy, Val Roughneen, Conor Byrne and Ryan Coleman all making telling contributions but the defining score of the game came from team captain, Gallagher, who sold two dummies before firing over Mayo’s 16th point and extending their lead to 11 points, his punch in the air announcing Mayo are not to be written-off just yet.
It was game over but this game may have been over from Tipperary before the start as they appeared to saunter into this game, while Mayo hit it like an express train.
Another performance like this will see them into the final and, who knows!
Scorers for Mayo: A. Gallagher 0-5 (3f), J. Quinn 0-3, E. Lavin, S. Hennelly (2f) and P. Durcan 0-2, each, C. Burke , D. Duffy and R. Coleman 0-1 each. Scorers for Tipperary: P. Quirke 1-2, C. Kennedy 0-3 (2f), J. McGrath, C. Kennedy and J. Lonergan 0-1 each.
Mayo: C. O’Malley (Westport), J. Geraghty (Ballintubber), S. Moran (Kiltimagh), M. Plunkett (Ballintubber), P. Durcan (Castlebar), C. Burke (Ardnaree Sarsfield), K. Lunch( Mayo Gaels), B. Mullen 9westport), A. Gallagher (Mayo Gaels), E. Lavin (Kiltmagh), S. Coen (Hollymount-Claremore),D. O’Connor (Ballintubber), J. Quinn (Ballinrobe), S. Regan (Ballina), S. Hennelly (Shrule-Glencorrib).
Subs used: R. Coleman (Castlebar Mitchels) for Hennelly, D. Duffy (Aughamore) for Mullen, C. Byrne (Aghamore) for Regan, V. Roughneen (Balla) for Coleman, S. Hennelly for Lavin.
Tipperary: E. Comerford, K. Fahey, J. Feehan, R. Mulcahy, C. O’Riordan, D. Fitzelle, B. Maher, S. O’Brien, J. Martin, J. Fahey, J. McGrath, G. Henry, C. Kennedy, P. Quirke, T. Kirwan.
Subs used: J, Shelly for Henry, J. Lonergan for Martin, T.J. Ryan for Kirwan, J. Loughnane for Fitzelle.
Referee: F. Barry (Kildare).
Where this performance from Mayo came from ? The bookies had them priced at 7/2 agaisnt the odds-on favourites for this game.
I don’t think there were too many takers of such generous odds, even in a two-horse race.
The belief was Tipperary would be having a shower when Mayo were still setting out on a second circuit. Nobody saw it coming least of all we men of the quill, including this scribe who had them written off.
But I did say they would need a minor miracle and maybe they got one.
There were 10 of them and they all came in the first half as Mayo laid down their marker and there was no way back for Tipp in that second half.
Man of the mach:
This was a difficult one to call. A good handful of players were in line and you could make a case for them but the contirnbtiuin of Patrick Durcan at centre-back was the eye-catching performance for Mayo, his covering and attacking flair, which saw him nail two fine points, earning him my nomination.
Score ofthe match
Team captain Adam Gallagher gave a tremendous display and his point, and Mayo’s, 16thafter sealing two dummies and cutting through the Tipperary defence was exquisite and typified the fire, flair and passion Mayo brought to their play.