Cork's Tommy Walsh and Mayo's Conor Loftus. Evan Treacy/INPHO
Talking Points

Setback for Mayo, a major moment for Cork, and two scoring stars dominate

Some of the key talking points after yesterday’s showdown in Limerick.

1. Setback for Mayo

Almost a month after they had ended Kerry’s home championship record that stretches back to 1995, Mayo’s group campaign unravelled in dramatic fashion. They were in pole position for first spot and a direct passage to a quarter-final, possessing a handsome six-point advantage after Tommy Conroy booted home his goal.

Around 20 minutes later their minds were scrambled as they processed a defeat to Cork, an outcome that sent them tumbling to third in the group and the prospect of a trip on the road next weekend. That their scoring output was wiped out in the finale was remarkable, but it had been a day where they laboured up front in the first half and the injection of energy off the bench failed to materialise.

Mayo have been here before this season. They tasted league final glory and then had to withstand the blow of a Connacht loss to Roscommon week later. Kevin McStay had plenty time to work on the minds of his players then and he had them primed for the start of the All-Ireland series. There is little time now to stew on this reversal, the next assignment is about to be launched at them. This setback will demand a response.

2. A major moment for Cork

Cork football have had their disappointments on championship afternoons served up in different ways in recent times. There have been crushing defeats where they were pummelled into the ground and days where they turned up to compete but just came up short. The 2023 season alone has witnessed Cork lose by two to Dublin, draw with Derry and end up two points in arrears to Kerry.

As John Cleary admitted afterwards, at some stage they needed to claim a scalp to signify genuine progress was being made.

That outcome scarcely seemed likely as they trailed by six with 13 minutes of normal time remaining but they executed an improbable comeback. Outscoring Mayo by 1-6 to 0-0 was impressive but also part of a wider trend, in similar time frames of late they have outscored Louth 0-6 to 0-3 and Kerry 0-5 to 0-2.

brian-o-driscoll-celebrates-winning Brian O'Driscoll celebrates Cork's win. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

A team that wilted in the heat of the last quarter last year, they are now lasting the pace, a testament to improved conditioning. The scoring return off the bench that yielded 1-7 helped, while the aggressive tackling generated some crucial turnovers in the opening period.

Home advantage in the last 12 is the prize for Cork after a major moment for John Cleary’s group.

3. Two scoring stars dominate

It was an afternoon where the tense, and sometimes dull, fare was shaped by two scoring performances. Jordan Flynn knocked over one point from play in the first half, 22 minutes in, before exploding to life thereafter. Scores on 42, 49 and 56 were indicative of a player who had his eye in.

The Crossmolina man effortlessly swept his shots over into the City End in Limerick and in propelling Mayo ahead by 0-11 to 0-8, it was a burst of points that set him apart in the game. Flynn’s mark from a kickout was also crucial in paving the way for a free that Ryan O’Donoghue point but just as his input seemed destined to push Mayo towards home, he was overshadowed by another free-scoring display.

colm-ocallaghan-and-jordan-flynn-of-mayo-go-up-for-a-high-ball Colm O'Callaghan and Jordan Flynn compete for a high ball. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Steven Sherlock was pressed into the action as a 41st minute substitute and it took 14 minutes for his first shot on goal, splitting the posts from play. Then he took a commanding grip on the game, tucking his penalty to the net, nailing a free, clipping over two from play and banging over a ’45. By the final whistle Sherlock was the game’s top scorer.

His sparkling contributions from the bench have handed the Cork management a selection headache as to how best to utilise his talents.

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