Three minutes into injury time at McHale Park in Castlebar on Sunday afternoon, Tyrone looked as though they were going to suffer a defeat, but they took the spoils in dramatic fashion thanks to a last gasp penalty conversion from full forward Stephen O’Neill.
The Red Hands were left to wonder how they came to need that goal as just over ten minutes earlier they appeared to be in complete control of proceedings. The Red Hands led 0-12 to 0-8 at that stage and were much the better side. Mayo found something from nowhere and a goal from Keith Higgins was followed by three unanswered points to leave them within touching distance of victory.
With the game some minutes into injury time, the visitors staged one last attack with Stephen O’Neill sending in a high delivery from the right wing which broke to Mark Donnelly. He was unceremoniously hauled to the ground and referee Maurice Deegan had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Stephen O’Neill stepped up to fire it low to the bottom right hand corner of the net sending Mayo keeper David Clarke the wrong way. The home side still had one last chance to take something from the game, but substitute Donal Vaughan’s shot sailed wide off the target much to the relief of the Tyrone faithful in the six thousand plus crowd.
This was a superb win for Tyrone and sets them up nicely for a good push towards the league semi finals. Next up is a game that everybody will want to see when All Ireland champions Donegal are the visitors to Healy Park for what is sure to be a cracking encounter.
Best for Tyrone on the day were Joe McMahon, Ryan McKenna, Ronan McNamee, Stephen O’Neill and Mark Donnelly. Carrickmore man Donnelly was outstanding from start to finish as he covered every blade of grass for the team’s cause.
Jason Doherty opened the scoring for Mayo from a free before Lee Keegan doubled their advantage with a great score from out on the left wing. Tyrone had already kicked four wides at this stage before Peter Harte finally opened their account with a well taken point with his weaker right foot. Full forward Doherty was looking sharp as he registered a fine effort from play but back came Tyrone with Sean Cavanagh converting a difficult free from out on the left wing before Harte fisted the equaliser.
O’Neill and Doherty traded points from placed balls before Tyrone keeper Niall Morgan landed two well struck frees from just inside the forty five metre line to leave them 0-6 to 0-4 in front at halftime.
In the first attack of the second half Doherty converted a free and two minutes later they were level when Kevin McLoughlin knocked over a placed ball as well. Substitute Martin Penrose took a pass from Conor Clarke to put Tyrone back in front before Cathal McCarron took a fine score as well.
McLoughlin converted a couple of frees but either side of that Conor McAliskey hit an great effort from play. Ronan McNamee then hit an outstanding point with the outside of his boot before substitute Darren McCurry got his name on the score sheet when he made no mistake from a thirty five metre free on the right wing.
It was all Tyrone at this stage and they had chances to put the game beyond the reach of their opponents but failed to take them. The changes that Tyrone were forced into making upset them a little and they began to lose possession at crucial times.
Mayo still didn’t look capable of a comeback until Doherty found Higgins who finished like a forward to the roof of the net. The home side got the boost that they were looking for with that score and when substitute Donal Vaughan split the posts to level matters Tyrone were desperately trying to hold on. Substitute Alan Dillon then won a free which Doherty made no mistake from and when the same player repeated the dose moments later for his sixth point of the afternoon it looked bleak for the visitors.
When all seemed lost though the experienced players came to the fore to win that vital spot kick. There was no better player to take the kick than the team captain and he proved up to the task with an ice cool finish as Tyrone made it seven wins from seven in 2013.