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Dubs await Tipp dream over as Mayo march into All-Ireland final

Mayo 5-20 Tipperary 3-13

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Cillian O'Connor of Mayo celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match against Tipperary. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Cillian O'Connor of Mayo celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match against Tipperary. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Cillian O'Connor of Mayo celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match against Tipperary. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

For the fourth time in seven seasons Mayo and Dublin will meet in the All-Ireland final on Saturday week after the Connacht’s champions had their anticipated victory over Tipperary in the second semi-final at Croke Park.

In a remarkable match played out in dense fog and freezing temperatures, Cillian O’Connor hit 4-9 as his side romped to a 13-point victory.

O’Connor’s tally (including 4-3 from play) is a record for a player in the All-Ireland series while Mayo’s 5-20 is also the highest tally ever returned by a team in an All-Ireland semi-final. On the other side of the coin, Tipperary’s 3-13 is the highest ever score from a losing team in a penultimate tie.

The game was over as a contest at half-time with Mayo leading by 16 points after O’Connor had secured his hat-trick in the space of twenty minutes.

The defeat brings the curtain down on Tipperary’s fairy-tale like season which saw them win a first Munster title in 85 years.

But football and romance generally don’t mix at the business end of the All-Ireland series. Tipp coughed up too many goal chances as Mayo hounded them in possession in the first half.

On the basis of their sloppy second-half performance when they conceded two goals and could have conceded four, there isn’t the slightest chance of Mayo being talked up ahead of their clash against Dublin, in which they will be bidding to end a run of ten All-Ireland final defeats stretching back to 1989.

This was Mayo’s ninth semi-final appearance in ten seasons while Tipperary were featuring for the second time in five seasons – they lost to the Connacht side in the penultimate tie in the 2016 series.

It was Tipperary who nearly made a sensational start. Their ability to isolate Mayo individual defenders allied to the aerial power of Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan had the Connacht champions in disarray in the early exchanges.

Michael Quinlivan ought to have a goal after just five minutes when a high ball broke into his path after it deflected of Lee Keegan, but instead of soloing around David Clarke he shot at the veteran Mayo keeper who saved brilliantly.

Four minutes later Quinlivan was the creator with his floated foot pass which Sweeney fielded over the head of Chris Barrett but again Clarke saved Mayo. However, this was as good as it got for the Munster champions.

Mayo hit the first of their four first-half goals when Aidan O’Shea won a turnover and combined with the excellent Tommy Conroy to set up a simple tap-in goal for Cillian O’Connor.

There was a brief reprieve for Tipperary when in the next play Brian Fox got clear of the defence; he dropped the ball but his scuffed shot took a deflection of Paddy Durcan’s heel and rolled just over the goal-line despite a despairing clearance from Diarmuid O’Connor.

But Mayo pressed the accelerator and hit five quick points with just a single response from the underdogs. Tipperary’s problems stemmed from their inability to prevent Mayo winning turn overs inside the Tipp half.

Though Mayo only turned over two of Evan Comerford’s kick out in the first half, the Tipperary ball-winner was invariabley surrounded by Mayo players and they repeatedly coughed up possession with calamitous results.

Every Mayo forward was winning their individual battles while Paddy Durcan was making incisive runs into the scoring zone though he dropped a couple of his efforts short. It mattered little as Mayo routed Tipperary in the last ten minutes of the half.

As the freezing fog settled over the pitch, the Tipperary agony began when Eoghan McLaughlin won a turnover under the Cusack Stand. He linked up with Aidan O’Shea whose angled foot pass put Cillian O’Connor through for his second goal.

It was 2-11 to 1-4 when two defensive disasters ended any chance of the game being competitive. Under pressure after a kick out Tipperary midfielder Liam Casey attempted a lateral back pass to Evan Comerford which O’Connor anticipated and palmed to the net to complete his hat-trick.

And the agony continued for Tipperary in injury-time when a 45 from O’Connor dropped short and his brother Diarmuid ghosted in behind the defence to palm the ball into the net, leaving Mayo 4-12 to 1-5 ahead at half-time and with one foot already in the final.

The second-half was a bizarre affair due to the descending fog meaning it was nearly impossible to see the game from the stand. But the half will give James Horan headaches for the rest of the week as his side conceded two goals and were fortunate that Tipperary didn’t hit another brace as the Munster champions’ strong running game completely unhinged the Mayo defence.

Granted, there was never the slightest danger of the comeback being successful from the moment Cillian O’Connor scored his fourth and Mayo’s fifth goal in the 45th minute after a defensive slip by his marker.

Nonetheless Tipperary actually outscored Mayo 2-8 to 1-8 in the second stanza which doesn’t bode well for the winner’s prospects against Dublin in the All-Ireland final.

Obviously, Tipp decided to give it a lash in the second half and their initiative almost reached a dividend straight away when Lee Keegan took a black card rather than allow Michael Quinlivan through on goal.

Moment later Tipp had another penalty appeal turned down after Bill Maher was fouled on the edge of the parallelogram. Tipperary’s efforts were finally rewarded when substitute Paudie Feehan found the net in the 55th minute and on the stroke of full-time Conor Sweeney scored a gem of a goal to bring his personal tally to 1-9.

But Liam Boland and Quinlivan had already squandered goal chances by then. Their final tally of 3-13 would have won many All-Ireland semi-finals. And while Mayo did hit 5-20 there is no danger of them being installed as favourites ahead of the final. Their sloppiness in the second half will annoy Horan.

There was a poignant ceremony after the final whistle when Tipperary captain Conor Sweeney laid a wreath at the Bloody Sunday memorial in front of Hill 16 to commemorate the participation of the Tipperary team in that fateful game one hundred years ago. Their dream is over for 2020 but it was some journey for David Power’s side.

Scorers:

Mayo: C O’Connor 4-9, 6f, D O’Connor 1-0, T Conroy 0-4, D Coen 0-2, K McLoughlin, C Loftus, M Ruane, P Durcan, A O’Shea 0-1 each

Tipperary: C Sweeney 1-8, 8f, P Fox, J Feehan 1-0 each, C O’Riordan 0-2, S O’Brien, K Fahey 0-1 each each.

TEAMS -

MAYO - D Clarke; O Mullin, C Barrett, L Keegan; P Durcan, S Coen, E McLaughlin; C Loftus, M Ruane; K McLoughlin, R O’Donoghue, D O’Connor; T Conroy, A O’Shea, C O’Connor. Subs: J Flynn for D O’Connor (43), P O’Hora for Barrett (47), M Plunkett for McLaughlin (54), T Parsons for O’Donoghue (55), D Coen for C O’Connor (66).

TIPPERARY - E Comerford; A Campbell, J Feehan, C O’Shaughnessy; B Maher, K Fahey, R Kiely; S O’Brien, L Casey; C O’Riordan, M Quinlivan, C Kennedy; B Fox, C Sweeney, C Kennedy. Subs: E Moloney for Casey (ht), P Austin for Fox (ht), P Feehan for Kiely (52), L Boland for Colman Kennedy (56), D Brennan for Feehan (62)

Referee: David Gough (Meath)

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