Against all the odds Mayo will join Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-finals after a superb second half performance starved the Cork forward line of possession and left the champions looking second rate in a 2-06 to 1-13 loss.
Cork had been accused of starting slow throughout the championship but after a few minutes of the sides feeling each other out Ger Cafferkey gifted The Rebels a penalty which Donnacha O’Connor slotted home with confidence and it appeared to all as if the afternoon would play out as expected.
Immediately though Mayo gave a taste of what was to come, flooding forward after winning possession through patient blocking and after being fouled Cillian O’Connor sent over his first point of the afternoon.
O’Connor was just one of the Mayo players to shine in front of the 22,732 crowd, Alan Moran in the unnatural position of full-forward ran Michael Shields ragged winning every ball and always giving his midfielders an option when they won possession.
Cork remained in control of the midfield for the opening twenty minutes though, winning most of the breaking ball and enjoying 72% of the possession, restricting Mayo to free kicks and hopeful shots from distance.
All appeared to be going the way of The Rebels until Kevin McLoughlin found his stride, shrugged off a few flat footed Cork defenders and finished with vengeance into the roof of the net.
The goal was only Mayo’s second of the championship and it looked like it wouldn’t be enough to keep pace when Cork broke from the middle in a great move as Pearse O’Neill pushed the ball out to Fiachra Lynch who lofted in a hand pass for Paul Kerrigan to flick into the net.
The goal exhibited all that was great about Cork last year but it was the last time Conor Counihan’s men looked capable of mounting a defence of their championship.
Mayo took control and though the champions went in 2-05 to 1-06 at the break Mayo enjoyed the better of the closing stages of the first half and remained in the ascendency at the start of the second half.
The Connacht champions played with purpose and when they won the ball they went direct to their forwards but it was goalkeeper Robert Hennelly who put Mayo in front from a forty-five and from there James Horan’s men took control.
Cork were second best to everything and their often discussed physicality was no where to be seen as Mayo dominated for the rest of the match.
Horan said after the match that Cork may have been caught by surprise, “they didn’t really expect it is what it looked like in the end” he said, but that’s only half the story.
Without the All-Star Daniel Goulding they were toothless and when Fintan Goold found himself through on goal with 15 minutes left he couldn’t compose himself and shanked his shot wide from a goal scoring position.
Mayo then shut the gates, never giving Cork another sniff at goal and limited The Rebels to just one score in the second half – only the fourth second half point that Mayo have conceded all championship.
Donnacha O’Connor and Kerrigan were marked out of the game and Cork were left frsutrated culminating in John Kinsella getting a red for lashing out at a Mayo player in the lead up to a 45 as the champions went out with a whimper.
All-Ireland Champions Cork were defeated by Mayo for the first time since 1916, the men from the west put up a stunning performance in the second half in which Cork only scored one point.
Cork 2-06 1-13 Mayo, 4pm Croke Park.
Full-time A remarkable statistic, Mayo have conceded only four points in second halves of the championship this year. A stunning but deserved victory
70+3min They go short this time and Michael Shiels shoots wide as the refferee blows the full-time whistle. What a win for the Connacht champions
70+2min And the same again, it looks like it’s all over for Cork
70+1min O’Connor drops it in but it’s out for another 45
70+1min Cork win another 45 as Kerrigan’s shot is blocked, Mayo holding firm
70min 3 minutes added but it doesn’t look like it will be enough for the 14 man Cork
69min Bad to worse, John Miskella sent off for an off the ball incident
68min The free is floated in but won by the resolute Mayo defence and Cork are now 17 minutes without a score
68min Walsh goes for goal but is deflected for a 45
67min Time is running out for Cork as Mayo continue to keep their shape
65min Mayo sub: Kevin McLoughlin off for Aidan Campbell
64min Mayo extend the lead though another O’Connor free
62min Cork sub: Denis OSullivan in for Fintan Goold, it was Alan O’Connor who made way for Murphy
61min Cork sub: Nicholas Murphy comes on for Cork, they’ll need to find something to get back into this
61min Trevor Mortimer with a cute pass to Cillian O’Connor who takes his fifth point of the match
60min Donnacha O’Connor and Paul Kerrigan have been marked out of existence in this half
59min Mayo sub: Seamus O’Shea off for Ronan McGarrity
58min Jason Doherty kicks Mayo into a two point lead, good point from the sub
57min Mayo sub: Peadar Gardner comes on for Alan Freeman
55min Goold shanks it wide after finding himself alone infront of Hennelly’s goal
53min Keith Higgins in acres of space carries it between the posts and puts Mayo back in front
52min Miskella levels as a hand pass meant for Kerrigan bounces on the bar and over
51min Miskella with Corks fifth wide, not much working for the Cork forwards at the moment
50min Mayo win yet another Cork kick out but Dillon runs out of options and Cork regain possession
49min Cork are second best to everything here and they look to be missing the quality of Goulding
48min Subs: Cork – Mark Collins on for Fiarachra Lynch, Mayo – Enda Varlley makes way for Jason Doherty
47min Lovely play from Freeman down the left hand side ends with a weak shot in the hands of the Cork keeper
45min Pierce O’Neill shoots wide as Cork cut out their first chance of the half
42min Dillon puts Mayo in front
42min The tempo has really lifted as Mayo continue to crowd out the Cork attackers
40min Richie Feeney shoots wide, all Mayo so far in the second
40min Hennelly levels it and the Mayo crowd let out a roar, there’s no doubt now that Cork have a real game on their hands now
40 min Moran turns Shiels but his shot is blocked for a 45
39min Andy Moran’s shot drifts wide
38min Donnacha O’Connor shoots wide from distance, Cork need to find their rhythm
37min Cork sub: Graham Canty in for Noel O’Leary
36min Alan Dillon wins a free and Enda Varley converts to take it to within a pint
35min We’re off again
Mayo will be encouraged by their performance in the closing stages of the first half but they’ll need to stop Cork finding O’Connor and Kerrigan who have turned their men every time. Still it’s all to play for as Cork made hard work of it after an early dominance
35min O’Connor converts his fourth free of the match and it’s half-time
35min Alan Dillon wins a free to take the game within a score before half time
34min Kerrigan fists the ball over the bar and extends the lead to 3 points again
33min The Mayo supporters start to find their voice as Cork go in search of their first score in ten minutes
32min First stoppage of the game as Eoin Caddigan takes a shoulder to the head
32min Keith Higgins takes a rare trip from corner back and shoots wide
31min Mayo have bossed the midfield for the last ten minutes, Cork have no where to run when they get possession
30min Cillian O’Connor converts a free after Andy Moran is held
28min Alan Freeman is booked, that’s Mayo’s fourth yellow of the day so they’ll have to mind their manners if they’re to finish this with 15
27min Mayo defend in numbers and Cork run out of space, Kerrigan kicks out of play
25min Andy Moran squirms into space and scores a fine point
24min That goal was Cork at their best, power, pace and a lovely finish from Kerrigan who flicked in a pass with hand
23min GOAL. Kerrigan flicks in after a fast counter after Mayo dawdle in possession
22min That was a great individual goal from McLoughlin and is only Mayo’s second of the championship
22min GOAL. McLoughlin punishes he Cork defence, cuts straight through and finishes into the roof of the net
21min Messy stuff from Cork after a hop ball when the kick out fails to cleat the 30m line
20min McLoughlin takes Mayo’s first point from play
19min Aidan O’Shea booked after going in late with a shoulder after the ball is played, naughty
18min Cork have had 72% of the possession so far, they’ve won nearly every breaking ball and Mayo will be in for a long afternoon if they don’t start stepping up on the kick outs
17min Kevin McLoughlin stretches his legs for the first time but he runs straight into the brick wall of the Cork back line and is easily dispossessed
16min Cillian O’Connor converts a free
15min Donnacha O’Connor converts the 45
14min Cork in possession from another Mayo kick out, leads to a goal chance from Kerrigan but Keith Higgins blocks well and it’s only a 45
13min Fintan Goold takes the point from the free
13min Cafferkey is having trouble with Lynch and fouls him again, the Mayo man will have to be careful
12min Another wide from Mayo, they’ll need to be more clinical if they’re to hurt Cork
11min Kerrigan takes a point after a great move from Cork after winning the kick out
10min Donnacha O’Connor shoots on sight, and puts the lead back to 3 points
8min A tight and tense game so far as Mayo look to temper Cork’s attack, Cillian O’Connor shoots wide
7min Mayo respond immediately, flooding forward but Andy Moran is fouled just on the edge of the box and Cillian O’Connor converts the free
6min GOAL. After a tight start O’Connor undoes Mayo’s hard work with a cool penalty
5min Soft penalty but Ger Cafferkey is booked for the foul
4min Walsh claims a weak free kick and Cork break at pace and O’Connor is fouled for a penalty
2min Aidan Walsh with a wild shot hits wide, one wide a piece now
1min Donnacha O’Connor holds well on the edge of the box but Mayo dispossess
1min Aidan O’Shea shoots wide after Mayo win the throw in
0min And we’re off…
0min National anthem underway in a sparsely populated Croke Park
0min One change to the announced Cork line-up, young gun Fiachra Lynch in for Nicky Murphy, no word yet as to why but surely it can’t be another injury in The Rebels attacking line, they’ve been dropping like flies this championship
0min Reigning champions Cork’s 12 point defeat of Down last weekend sounded a warning bell to Mayo and all others that if The Rebels are to be stopped from reaching a fourth final in five years it will require an exceptional performance.
Cork: A Quirke; E Cotter, M Shields, E Cadogan; N O’Leary, J Miskella, P Kissane; A O’Connor, A Walsh; F Goold, P Kelly, P O’Neill; D O’Connor, N Murphy, P Kerrigan.
Mayo: R Hennelly; K Higgins, G Cafferkey, T Cunniffe; R Feeney, D Vaughan, T Mortimer; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; K McLoughlin, A Dillon, A Moran; E Varley, A Freeman, C O’Connor.
Kerry await in the semis but if they keep their eye on the ball here and are not distracted by the talk of that tantalising face-off they should have more than enough to get past the Connacht champions.
The manner in which Conor Counihan’s men disposed of last year’s finalists without the master of that triumph Daniel Goudling leaves no doubts that Cork are a well fitted machine and it will be a major upset if the Mayo men, on a high from their provincial championship, can derail the champions.
Even with significant absences to their front line, Counihan can field a side full of players the envy of other counties.
Goulding will not play again this season unless his team make the final while Barry O’Driscoll, Colm O’Neill and Ciaran Sheehan are all ruled out until next year but still the Leesiders have yet to meet a defence a match for their attack.
Paddy Kelly in particular was outstanding against Down, his performance as playmaker was integral to the healthy nature of the victory.
Paul Kerrigans’ deadly speed and Donnacha O’Connor’s eye for goal – 1-7 against Down – will leave most defences feeling helpless, add in the six-foot-five All Star Nicky Murphy in place of Goulding at full-forward and Mayo have their work cut out for them.
The half-back line of Noel O’Leary, Paudie Kissane and John Miskella will also pose a danger, stepping up as they do to put pressure on the Mayo back line.
Aidan O’Shea and Seamus O’Shea will need to be at their best in the middle third to prevent Cork running the show and if Andy Moran and Enda Varley can take their points at the front Mayo may at least force Cork to work for the full seventy.
No matter the outcome on Sunday James Horan has satisfied in his first year at Mayo by keeping them in Division One and taking the Connacht title.
Cillian O’Connor’s step up from the Minors will give the Red and Green hope that their panel is capable of challenging in the later stages of the championship over the next few years.
On Sunday though it looks like Horan’s men will have to make do with being another stepping stone on Cork’s march towards the final.