Mayo 1-12 Donegal 0-13
Cillian O’Connor scored 1-05 and Mayo secured their NFL Division 1 status with a 1-12 to 0-13 victory over Donegal at a jam-packed MacHale Park in Castlebar.
There was a real championship feel to the game, and throw-in was delayed by ten minutes due to crowd congestion with 14,102 in attendance. But Donegal responded better to lead 0-11 to 1-05 at half-time.
Cian Mulligan kicked a couple of great scores at the start of the second-half, but Mayo hit their stride and O’Connor’s brilliance shone through, after Eamonn Doherty got a straight red for Donegal.
All of the pressure was on Mayo coming into this game, and with Cavan playing against an already relegated Roscommon, they knew it was essential to win – although their Connacht rivals held up their side of the bargain.
Mayo were brilliant when they secured a badly needed 1-10 to 0-12 victory over Tyrone in Round 6 last weekend, and that was a huge step forward for Stephen Rochford’s side.
But after a positive league campaign, which yielded three wins from their opening five games, Donegal had to settle for their second draw with a 1-11 to 1-11 stalemate against Monaghan in Ballyshannon.
Donegal played against the breeze in the first-half but they dominated, and scored the first two points through Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Cian Mulligan.
Mayo hit back emphatically in the fifth minute when O’Connor slotted home a penalty – he had been fouled by Donegal goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley.
And Mayo seized the momentum briefly, with points from Andy Moran, O’Connor and a fine Danny Kirby effort giving them a 1-03 to 0-02 lead after eight minutes.
But between the 11th and 32nd minutes Donegal out-scored Mayo by eight points to one. Michael Murphy was inspirational and brought his tally to four points for the first-half.
Colm Boyle finally got Mayo back on the scoreboard one minute before half-time, but the brilliant Frank McGlynn cancelled that out, and Donegal led 0-11 to 1-05 at the break.
Lee Keegan almost scored a goal on the resumption but his fisted effort was saved by McGinley and it rebounded over for a point.
Two Cian Mulligan points then flew over to give Donegal a 0-13 to 1-06 lead, but incredibly Donegal wouldn’t score again in the game.
Instead Mayo took over after a huge bust up where Donegal had Jason McGee, Ciaran Thompson and Michael Murphy all yellow carded, along with Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea in the 53rd minute.
Keith Higgins quickly pointed and then Doherty got sent-off for a straight red card when he allegedly kicked out at O’Shea with 12 minutes left to play.
The Donegal heads dropped after that, and O’Connor kicked four points as Mayo went through the gears to seal the win.
MAYO: D Clarke; C Barrett, K Higgins (0-01), B Harrision; C Boyle (0-01), L Keegan (0-02), P Durcan; T Parsons, D Kirby (0-01); F Boland, S Nally (0-01), D Drake; K McLoughlin, A Moran (0-01), C O’Connor (1-05, 1-00 pen, 0-04f).
Subs used: D O’Connor for Boland (half-time), S Coen for Boyle (half-time), A O’Shea for Kirby (46), J Doherty for Moran (59), D Vaughan for Drake (65).
DONEGAL: M A McGinley; P McGrath, N McGee, K Lacey; E B Gallagher (0-01), E Doherty, M O’Reilly (0-01); J McGee, M Murphy (0-04, 0-03f, 0-01 45); C Mulligan (0-03), M Carroll, C Thompson (0-02); J Brennan (0-01), H McFadden, F McGlynn (0-01).
Subs used: E McHugh for McFadden (49), P McBrearty for Lacey (59), M McHugh for McGlynn (65), M McElhinney for McGrath (68), M Langan for McGee (69).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).