Mayo are back in an All-Ireland semi-final after defeating Donegal in their Super 8s shootout in Castlebar.
Donegal started the brighter of the two sides in Castlebar and opened the scoring through Patrick McBrearty who collected a pass before jinking inside and firing over.
Declan Bonner’s men made it two points from two shots moments later when Niall O’Donnell finished following some slick build-up play involving McBrearty, Michael Murphy and Ryan McHugh.
Mayo got off the mark through Patrick Durcan before Cillian O’Connor equalised and from here on out it was one-way traffic until half-time.
So often one of Donegal’s most consistent performers this season, Shaun Patton seemed to get off to a nervy start when he was turned over far out the field by Aidan O’Shea. Moments later Patton scuffed one of his trademark quick kick-outs, however, he redeemed himself by making an excellent save.
From here on out though, it was Mayo who dominated despite losing Keith Higgins for a black card after 14 minutes.
Jason Doherty and James Carr both kicked scores to complement their strong first-half performances before Cillian O’Connor reacted quickest to fist to the net when one of Doherty’s efforts dropped short.
It was proving to be a frustrating half of football for Donegal and their key-men. Michael Murphy was well shackled by Lee Keegan while McBrearty was deprived of service upfront. Ryan McHugh got on the ball but was unable to crack open the Mayo defence.
Donegal did spurn a couple of goal opportunities towards half-time but Mayo deservedly led by six at the break. 1-7 to 0-4.
Donegal hadn’t scored from play since O’Donnell’s point in the third minute and it was the same player who got them back up and running in the second half when he clipped over from an acute angle moments after the restart.
It was game on after 41 minutes when Lee Keegan was adjudged to have been holding on to Michael Murphy’s jersey as the Donegal captain camped out in the full-forward line. David Gough awarded the penalty which Murphy duly dispatched to bring Donegal to within three.
Mayo could have had a goal of their if not for another excellent save from Patton. Donegal, in turn, worked the ball upfield to Murphy who kicked their third score in a row from play to put the bare minimum between the sides.
Mayo led by three heading into the final ten minutes as Donegal squandered a couple of golden opportunities.
Had Mayo have taken half their chances in this game it would have been over long before the final whistle. It’s a disappointment for Donegal who never really got into the game, yet still had their chances to win it.
For Mayo, it’s back to the All-Ireland semi-final they go!
In today’s other Super 8s clash, Kerry defeated a gallant Meath side in Navan on a scoreline of 1-13 to 2-18