Sports digest: Mayo stays strong, back in GAA All-Ireland final
Will battle Dublin for spot in finals
Mayo are back in the All-Ireland football final for the second time in 12 months after surviving an early scare against Tyrone to win Sunday’s semifinal on a 1-16 to 0-13 scoreline.
A couple of controversial decisions from referee Maurice Deegan and injuries to Peter Harte and Stephen O’Neill left Tyrone fans disappointed at headquarters after their side had led by a point, 0-7 to 0-6, at the break.
But Mayo, boosted by an Alan Freeman goal from a disputed penalty in the 39th minute, overcame the loss of Cillian O’Connor to injury to run out deserved winners as they fought back to dominate midfield and the scoreboard.
They are back in Dublin for the final a month from now, just 12 months after suffering heartache at the hands of Donegal.
And ace Mayo forward Andy Moran believes Mayo’s response to that Donegal defeat in the 2012 decider is the reason why they are within 70 minutes of ending a 62 year wait for Sam Maguire.
Moran insisted, “Semifinals are for winning. It is great to be back in the final. We didn’t think we did ourselves justice in the first half but we came out in the second half a different team.
“Colm Boyle led us by winning the penalty and Alan Freeman took it well. We moved on from there and did well.”
Sunday’s semi-final saw Mayo tested for the first time this season as Tyrone’s underdogs put it up to the Connacht champions.
And manager James Horan acknowledged that his team had dug deep in the final 10 minutes of the first-half to reduce Tyrone’s lead to just a point and establish the platform for victory.
Horan said, “Today was a grind. It was the hardest grind we had, particularly in the first half.
“We were playing poor stuff but we kept going, we kept battling. We missed had six of the easiest shots we missed two 14 yard frees, lost our free taker, had a goal disallowed.
“But it didn’t matter. We just kept playing and eventually came through. I think today was good for us and we’ll take a lot from it.
“It’s obviously a very pleasing win. It was an All-Ireland semifinal where we didn’t play well, certainly in the first half.
“We made every mistake you could possibly make. To figure out what was wrong and adjust and come through and kick on and take control of the game and win by six is very pleasing.
“It is ‘process, process, process’ really. We had 10 minutes in the first half which catapulted us forward. I think we just brought that form into the second half.
“We never saw anything different coming our way. Tyrone are a seasoned team with seasoned players. We knew it was going to be hard. It has been a long 12 months since the defeat against Donegal.
“We have worked hard and have four weeks to prepare for the final. Fingers crossed it will go a bit better than last year.”
Horan and Tyrone boss Mickey Harte did clash over a first-half Tom Cuniffe shoulder charge on Peter Harte that ruled the Tyrone player out for the rest of the game.
Harte was critical of the challenge afterwards but Horan insisted, “There were pictures of the collision going round on Twitter after the game. I thought his comment was a little bit disappointing.
“If you look at that, it’s a manual shoulder to shoulder that you could put in a textbook. It was unfortunate for Peter. He’s a very good player but Tom made a great tackle.”
Mayo fans were disappointed when referee Deegan disallowed a Freeman goal in the first half after blowing his whistle for a foul.
Horan had no problem with the decision. “I saw the signal early in fairness, so I didn’t get caught up in celebrations. I knew it wasn’t a goal. It was okay,” he said.
As for the penalty, when the foul appeared to have been committed outside the squad, Horan said, “Look we had a goal disallowed and then we had a penalty that was close. Some days you get them, some days you don’t. We’ll take whatever is going.
“It was an excellent penalty. It was at a key time and he absolutely nailed it. That gave us a bit more confidence and we built on it from there.”
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