Oisín Mullin wheels away in celebration and relief after his goal dragged Mayo back into tonight's game.
Oisín Mullin wheels away in celebration and relief after his goal dragged Mayo back into tonight's game.

All-Ireland SFC: Mullin's goal crucial to Mayo's survival

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Round 2

MAYO 2-13 KILDARE 0-14

Kevin Egan at Croke Park

Yet again, Mayo found a way to survive.

Midway through the second half of this evening’s qualifier tie with Kildare, it looked like James Horan’s side had simply run out of energy and ideas, and that they were destined to exit the championship in June for the first time in 12 years.

Then, on the hour mark, Oisín Mullin made a trademark burst forward, only to get bottled up by three Kildare defenders. Like the result of the game, Kildare looked set to pounce and take the turnover ball. Instead Darragh Kirwan nudged Mullin back in the direction he wanted to go, two other tacklers stood off, and the goal opened up for the Kilmaine defender.

A quick exchange of passes with Pádraig O’Hora opened up the shot, the net danced, and crowd roared, and new life had been breathed back into James Horan’s troops.

In equal measure, Kildare’s deflation was palpable. Mayo being Mayo, they didn’t put it away until the fifth minute of stoppage time when Jordan Flynn took advantage of one of Aaron O’Neill’s attacking forays to float the ball over the Maynooth man and into the net, yet there was no evidence in those last ten minutes that Glenn Ryan’s side were going to able to beat back the relentless Mayo tide.

After the game, Mayo manager James Horan said that their “energy and intent was non-existent” in the first half, and certainly that showed in front of the posts, where the men from the West simply couldn’t get going.

There were some very poor misses at both ends of the ground, but two points in the first 28 minutes of action spoke volumes of how Mayo’s attack misfired. Fergal Conway dropped back to operate in a sweeping role, Daniel Flynn was likely to pop up anywhere on the field, and with Kevin Feely also tending to drop back and cover from midfield, Kildare crowded the back line to great effect.

The Lily Whites also had their share of horrendous misses, but Jimmy Hyland looked sharp, Kevin O’Callaghan came forward to kick two good points, and it took three scores from defenders – two from Eoghan McLaughlin and one from Lee Keegan – to keep Mayo in touch at the interval, 0-8 to 0-5 adrift.

From the first attack of the second half, Mick O’Grady made a sensational block on Fergal Boland, and sensing more blood in the water, Kildare went on to double their lead. Ben McCormack fisted a point, Daniel Flynn hooked one over on the turn, then Shea Ryan found himself in the high third of the field to claim a mark, but instead brought Jimmy Hyland into play and let the Ballyteague man fire over a point.

Gradually, Mayo worked their way back into it, through a combination of single-digit-jersey wearers pushing up, and their attackers beginning to find some form. Aidan O’Shea set up Fergal Boland for a score, Darren McHale’s first act after coming on was to lay one on for Cillian O’Connor, and when Conor Loftus found the target from the Cusack Stand sideline, there was momentum again.

Still however, the errors continued, and as the sides traded points, if felt like Mayo needed a goal to bridge the gap – and there was no evidence that one was coming.

Enter Oisín Mullin, and gaelic football’s great survivors had found their escape route - for another fortnight at least.

Scorers for Mayo: Cillian O‘Connor 0-3 (0-1f), Oisín Mullin 1-0, Jordan Flynn 1-0, Eoghan McLaughlin 0-2, Lee Keegan 0-2, Fergal Boland 0-2, Jack Carney 0-1, Diarmuid O’Connor 0-1, Conor Loftus 0-1, Darren McHale 0-1.

Scorers for Kildare: Jimmy Hyland 0-6 (0-5f), Kevin O’Callaghan 0-2, Darragh Malone 0-1, Kevin Feely 0-1, Ben McCormack 0-1, Daniel Flynn 0-1, Neil Flynn 0-1, Shea Ryan 0-1.

Mayo: Robert Hennelly; Lee Keegan, Oisín Mullin, Enda Hession; Patrick Durcan, Stephen Coen, Eoghan McLaughlin; Aidan O'Shea, Matthew Ruane; Diarmuid O'Connor, Jason Doherty, Conor Loftus; James Carr, Cillian O'Connor, Jack Carney.

Subs: Fergal Boland for Doherty (29), Darren McHale for Carr (44), Pádraig O’Hora for Coen (45), Jordan Flynn for O’Shea (60), Aidan Orme for Carney (70).

Kildare: Aaron O'Neill; Ryan Houlihan, Shea Ryan, Mick O'Grady; Kevin Flynn, David Hyland, Darragh Malone; Kevin Feely, Kevin O'Callaghan; Alex Beirne, Ben McCormack, Fergal Conway; Neil Flynn, Daniel Flynn, Jimmy Hyland.

Subs: Paul Cribbin for Beirne (31), Darragh Kirwan for N Flynn (55), Paddy McDermott for Conway (70+1), Brian McLoughlin for J Hyland (70+2).

Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary)