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Mayo and Donegal just can't be separated

Story by Brian Gillespie

Saturday, 23rd January, 2016 6:17pm

Mayo and Donegal just can't be separated

Sharoize Akram played helped the Mayo Under 21s to a draw against Donegal this afternoon. Photo: Sportsfile

THERE was no presentation of the North West Under 21 Cup today simply because there was no separating finalists Mayo and Donegal.

Level at 1-7 apiece at the end of normal time, both sides scored two more points each in the 20 added minutes at a sodden Sligo Centre of Excellence, and when the Ulster side refused to play 10 more minutes of extra time, the match ended without a winner.

Mayo really shouldn't have had to play the added time. Leading by 1-7 to 0-6 in the final minute of the game, they pressed the self-destruct button when firstly substitute defender Eoin O'Donoghue took a slip on the heavy ground and, in a panic to find a team-mate, then saw his hand-pass instead intercepted by another sub, Donegal's Hugh Boyle, who cleverly found the net.

Having already landed a great point from a tight angle, Boyle went one better with a delicate lob over Mayo 'keeper Matthew Flanagan, who was stranded a long way from his goal line.

With just a point in it, resurgent Donegal went in search of the leveller and duly scored it when John Campbell fired over a free after James Kelly was deemed to have fouled an opponent, the Mayo man picking up his second yellow in the process.

That evened it up in terms of playing numbers, as Donegal had been reduced to 14 men with 10 minutes to go, Eamon McGrath also getting two yellow cards.

In a game played at close to championship pace, Mayo were always ahead until that last point by Donegal in stoppage time. Liam Irwin was the star of the show for the Connaught side, scoring five points in total, four of them frees and many from fouls he won himself as his sheer strength caused all sorts of problems for the Donegal defence.

But the pick of the scores was undoubtedly Mayo's goal in the 13th minute. It came at the end of a quick break from defence – a ploy Mayo would have liked to utilise more often but found difficult to implement in the wretched conditions – and instigating and ending the charge was Barry Duffy, who finished low underneath Donegal 'keeper Paddy Byrne when presented with the chance.

At half-time Mayo led by 1-3 to 0-4 but there were impressive moments from Donegal, who held possession well and demonstrated great support play at times. But Mayo were good too, especially after the break when they applied pressure on their Donegal opponents all over the pitch. It was going so well too until the last few minutes.

Having never been ahead in normal time, points from Campbell (free) and Daniel Gallagher in the first period of extra time appeared to have given Donegal momentum, but Mayo responded on the turnaround and made it a tied game again when Brian Reape (free) and Mikey Murray scored in quick succession.

And that was that, bar a black card for Donegal's Caolan McMonagle in the closing seconds. No word yet on a replay, and given that they couldn't be separated, perhaps Mayo and Donegal could share the cup in the first year the competition has been held.


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