Tyrone win the All-Ireland playing like a team used to overcoming adversity while Mayo find new way of hitting the wall on the biggest day.
Tyrone 2-14 Mayo 0-15
BY SHANE STAPLETON
It’s Tyrone’s day, and yet dwelling on Mayo’s pain will take precedence for many.
So public and all-consuming within the footballing world has been their journey in the past decade especially, that you can’t help but get drawn in by them.
The Dallas Cowboys are known as America’s Team and, in many ways for many people, Mayo are Ireland’s Team. They’ve been through so much, and witnessing so much pain begins to take a toll on us neutrals too.
That’s not to become a grief thief, as the hurt will be felt most deeply for those of the Heather County. Yet the groundhog days wear us all down.
The double own goals, the missed chances, the silly red cards, the botched frees, the GPS missiles, the double concussions in Limerick, the early implosion against Donegal, and now this latest faux pas.
Most certainly, Tyrone deserved to win this All-Ireland final. A victory for composure, taking the right option, and not succumbing to the occasion. Of not reading the script written perhaps by 31 other counties.
When all was said and done, and pained Mayo faces were filing out of the stands during injury time, there was an acceptance that the Sam Maguire was heading to the right home.
Niall Morgan didn’t put a foot or hand wrong, Padraig Hampsey led, Darren McCurry kept the scoreboard ticking, Peter Harte and that amazing mark, while the towering midfielders won their battles.
When the goal chances came, Tyrone kept their heads. Conor Meyler, who shut down Paddy Durcan and should receive a Footballer of the Year nomination, pitched a lovely high ball in for Cathal McShane to net. Then Conn Kilpatrick brilliantly caught a kickout, fed it to Conor McKenna, who gave ‘Dazzler’ McCurry a simple palm for a green flag.
For a team that had opted out of the championship on August 14 due to Covid issues, it’s been quite a journey since. For a team that had beaten none of Mayo, Kerry or Dublin since 2008, they beat two of the three to claim glory.
Brian Dooher and Fearghal Logan are in their first year at this level, but made the brave and correct calls. Mattie Donnelly taken off, McKenna withdrawn — fearless changes that others dare not make.
Then there’s Mayo. A brilliant, swashbuckling team that were choked out by a northern anaconda. Goal chances were squandered, point attempts butchered, and a penalty skewed to the outside of the right post.
Lee Keegan may go down as Mayo’s greatest ever player, and his defiance as his teammate’s foundered underlined his enduring influence. It’s his misfortune that he has excelled at a team sport where others give him too much slack to pick up.
There will never be a question of these players going as deep into the well as is needed, but they seem to forever toil against their own shortcomings. Yes, Cillian O’Connor was absent, and Eoghan McLaughlin would have been useful, but all known evidence this past decade suggests they would have found a way to sink.
Some of their wides were unforgivable, the lack of awareness to carry the ball an extra few steps before finishing to the net destroyed them, and gave Tyrone oxygen.
Curiously, the Red Hands didn’t even score once from play using a boot in the second half. From play, they hit 2-2 using their hands, and otherwise converted a few placed balls.
It was a 50% return from scoring chances in the second half but, crucially, they found the mark with five of their last six attempts in the game to the tune of of 1-4.
What of Mayo? A 35% scoring efficiency in the second half, and that doesn’t include handpasses in dangerous areas that were cut out by Tyrone.
In many ways, Mayo should be irate with themselves. One goal might well have been enough to turn this game in their direction.
They lost their heads and Tyrone kept theirs. Composure beat chaos, calm overcame panic. Tyrone most deserving.
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