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all-ireland pain As Ronaldo brought the spirit of 2008 to Old Trafford, Tyrone rewound to the same year

McShane and McCurry goals unleash more heartache as the Green and Red wilt again

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A Mayo supporter during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

A Mayo supporter during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

A Mayo supporter during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

ONCE more freedom's bell declines to toll for Mayo, their Great Torment stretching cruelly into a 71st year of crushing darkness.

Instead, their own 13-year thirst joyously slaked, it was Tyrone who converted the old coliseum into their chapel of thanksgiving.

Though the Ulster side were deserved winners, though euphoria poured from their outnumbered support, still a profound ache hung over the afternoon.

Only last week, and to a fever of acclaim, Mayo's most celebrated daughter, Sally Rooney, released her eagerly anticipated third novel: Beautiful World, Where Are You.

Plainly not anywhere close to Croke Park, unless, of course, you were uniformed as one of Tyrone's white knights.

This bone-crushing September sense of ruin is becoming as familiar to Mayo as the weather: An 11th All-Ireland final loss since 1989 is more desolation than any county deserves.

For veterans, like Lee Keegan, Aidan O'Shea, Rob Hennelly and Kevin McLoughlin the clock ticks cruelly toward midnight.

Yet again Mayo have unseated the defending champions - the first team in seven years to take down Dublin - only to buckle at the final fence.

The superstitious will, inevitably, lament a curse, a jinx, a hex, or some tormenting, vicious and merciless voodoo.

More practical observers will identity Tyrone's markedly superior predatory skills as decisive.

Unleashed

Cathal McShane and Darren McCurry unleashed the kind of devastation that was beyond opponents whose accumulation of September heartache is now piled higher than Croagh Patrick itself.

In this latest incarnation of cruelty, the doomed green and red battalion saw a penalty crash off a post and squandered three more goal chances.

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Ryan O'Donoghue of Mayo reacts after missing a penalty during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ryan O'Donoghue of Mayo reacts after missing a penalty during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ryan O'Donoghue of Mayo reacts after missing a penalty during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

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Within minutes of Ryan O'Donoghue's penalty thundering off the word work, the contest spun violently toward Tyrone.

Just sprung from the bench and with perhaps his first touch, McShane's right-hand arm rose to the skies to deliver the kind of devastating blow that, for Mayo, obliterated the light.

Once Darren McCurry added a second goal, a ghostly silence fell over the previously fevered western hordes.

None of that will bother the new champions, the gap to Mickey Harte's great soldiers of the Noughties gloriously bridged.

On the same afternoon Ronaldo brought the spirit of 2008 to Old Trafford, Tyrone also rewound to the same year.

Their intensity, ferocity, impressive attacking surges, and superior bench strength were decisive.

McCurry top-scored and was named Man of the Match.

And as old "Come on Tyrone, Tyrone" anthem echoed around the stadium, he joined team-mates grazing heartily on the thrill of a victory few could have envisaged as Covid ravaged their squad just over a month ago.

Restored and magnificent, joy nourished them as no banquet ever could.

Even at half-capacity, the Drumcondra palladium was alive with the electricity peculiar to great events.

Their All-Ireland crusade is built into Mayo blood and the rush of adrenalin on the approach roads to Croke Park was so tangible you could reach out and touch it.

Could this be the hour when a green-and-red laser beam of joy was fired into the night sky?

The Egyptians were merely laying the foundation stone at Giza when Mayo last heard freedom's bell toll.

On this evidence, the pharaohs may return to life before Sam Maguire returns to Castlebar.

After 70 years and all those lost finals, here they were again in endless numbers (many making the pilgrimage east without tickets), loosening the leash on hope.

In the 2020 final, Dean Rock had the ball in Mayo's net within 13 seconds of the throw-in. In four of their six final appearances since 2012, the first scores conceded by the Connacht giants were goals.

This time though it was Mayo who burst into the contest as if fired from a canon.

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Tyrone captain Pádraig Hampsey lifts the Sam Maguire Cup following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Tyrone captain Pádraig Hampsey lifts the Sam Maguire Cup following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Tyrone captain Pádraig Hampsey lifts the Sam Maguire Cup following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

O'Shea, as ever, had been the most discussed figure in the days before the game. Should he start and, if so, where?

O'Shea was looking for his first point in seven All-Ireland final appearances, and the fury with which he stormed into the contest spoke of a manic desire to put all those terrible bruisings of the spirit behind him.

He won the throw-in, forced a free and within 16 seconds, O'Donoghue - Mayo's most dangerous player across the first period - had fired James Horan's side ahead.

Mayo's early intensity was eye-catching and when Paddy Durcan, Lee Keegan and Padraig O'Hora surged at pace, they looked capable of cracking the Ulster safe.

Tyrone, though, quickly adjusted and responded with similar ferocity: Niall Sludden, McCurry and Padraig Hampsey finding the target with the consistency of heat seating missiles.

Niall Morgan converted two trademark dead-ball monsters.

Three times in the opening period the Ulster champions stretched three points clear and thoughts of another soul-scarring defeat began to haunt the minds of the more pessimistic among the green- and-red battalion.

Matthew Ruane had squandered a clear goal chance, O'Shea had an ambitious attempt to raise a green flag blocked, Tommy Conroy surged into Tyrone territory but fired his shot wide, O'Donoghue's penalty thudded to safety.

And the gods again turned their back on Mayo, freedom's bell declining to toll for a country incarcerated in an inescapable Alcatraz of misery.

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