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5 talking points from today's Mayo v Cork All-Ireland SFC quarter-final

From Colm O’Neill’s late free to Mayo’s consistency.

Ciaran O'Sullivan and Colm O'Neill talk to Cormac Reilly before the game's final free.
Ciaran O'Sullivan and Colm O'Neill talk to Cormac Reilly before the game's final free.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Controversy at the finish

THE GAME ENDED in a blaze of drama with Mayo experiencing both joy and relief at holding on for a one-point win while Cork were frustrated as their players surrounded referee Cormac Reilly.

Colm O’Neill clearly kicked the last free over the bar with the understanding that there would be time for another passage of play as Cork required an equaliser.

Cork never got that opportunity as the Meath whistler blew for full-time after Rob Hennelly’s subsequent kickout.

It was similar to the scenario Mayo found themselves in after last year’s All-Ireland final when Cillian O’Connor tapped over a late free. It wasn’t satisfactory and brings up for debate again as to whether time keeping should be taken out of the hands of referees.

2. Mayo’s third quarter power

They were forced to sweat at the finish as Cork produced a powerful onslaught but ultimately Mayo’s show of strength in the third quarter proved so decisive here.

After a cagey and tight first-half, the teams were locked at 0-8 apiece. Then Mayo exploded after the break and had stretched 0-16 to 0-9 clear by the 51st minute.

Mayo matched their entire scoring total of the first-half in the opening 16 minutes of the second-half.

Seamus and Aidan O’Shea were terrific while Alan Dillon and Andy Moran pulled the strings in attack. It was impressive stuff by Mayo and as Brian Cuthbert conceded afterwards, Cork lost too much ground to make up.

3. Cork’s bench nearly change the game

Donncha OÕConnor celebrates scoring his side first goal Donncha O'Connor celebrates his goal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cork were in serious trouble midway through the second-half but they changed the course of the game and nearly managed to spring a sensational comeback.

That was largely down to the input of two of their substitutes as Patrick Kelly and Donncha O’Connor helped shape the game for Cork.

Kelly directed play around the middle and prompted several attacking movements. O’Connor proved an adept finisher as he struck a point from play, converted two frees and smacked home a marvellous goal.

Injuries have affected both players in 2014 but they demonstrated their worth when introduced today.

4. Mayo return to the last four stage once more

Mayo’s victory in today’s quarter-final was by a wafer-thin margin in contrast to the landslide success they enjoyed at this stage last year against Donegal. But the result was still the same as they negotiated a quarter-final tie for the fourth successive year.

It’s an impressive show of consistency by Mayo considering the depths they had plunged to before James Horan assumed the managerial reins.

It’s the first time since 1951 that Mayo have reached four All-Ireland semi-finals in a row. Their top tier status remains firmly intact.

5. Cork exit on a battling note

After the horror show that was their Munster final performance, Cork desperately needed to mount a response. They got the job done in a commanding fashion against Sligo last week before providing Mayo with a stern test today.

James Loughrey, Brian Hurley, Eoin Cadogan, Ian Maguire Fintan Goold and Colm O’Neill all sparkled at stages today as Cork nearly sprung an upset. Brian Cuthbert also pointed out that they have ushered a bunch of young players into senior action in 2014.

It all helps create some future promise but will be of scant consolation tonight as they exit the championship at the last eight juncture.

Mayo beat Cork by the narrowest of margins to book All-Ireland SFC semi-final place

POLL: Who was your man of the match from today’s Mayo v Cork All-Ireland SFC quarter-final

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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