Mayo may be among the favourites for Nicky Rackard Cup honours but, for forty minutes of this round one clash in Carrickmore on Saturday, the Westerners were a very mediocre team as Tyrone looked poised to upset the formbook.
Five minutes into the second half Mayo trailed by four points and facing the elements with a man short, they were staring at defeat before suddenly bursting into life with a stunning scoring blitz that left Tyrone reeling.
The Connacht men lost Gary Nolan to a straight red card two minutes before halftime but, inspired by the introduction of Patrick Connell, Corey Scahill and Joseph McManus, JP Coen’s men turned the screw in devastating fashion as they advanced to meet Armagh.
Mayo outscored Tyrone 4-10 to 0-4 in the closing thirty minutes as their work rate, stronger bench and superior fitness came to fruition.
Tyrone battled hard throughout and had some notable contributions from Tiernan Morgan, Justin Kelly and Mike O’Gorman in defence while Aidan Kelly had his hands full at midfield. The attack posed considerable problems as they filtered men back to deny Mayo space, Damian Casey once again delivering a quality display of scoring on his way to a twelve point contribution.
The inclusion of Castlebar’s Patrick Connell in defence solidified the Mayo challenge at a crucial stage and, with Cathal Freeman driving them on in a man of the match performance Mayo capitalised on an exhausted Tyrone rearguard in the closing four minutes that yielded 2-3 without reply.
Tyrone made a purposeful start to proceedings, Casey knocking over a couple of early frees. But with Freeman prompting from deep. Mayo gradually got into their groove with Kenny Feeney and Shane Boland contributing points. Freeman, however, was to be the key for Mayo during this period of play as the Toureen star, making his long-awaited return from injury, supplied five points.
Conor Grogan and Casey responded but, despite enjoying good possession. the Red Hands relied on Casey for scores, the Dungannon man accounting for 0-9 in the half with his fifth edging Tyrone 6-5 ahead on 21 minutes.
It remained point for point as the teams restored parity on several occasions and Casey nullified efforts from Freeman and Sean Regan, before the visitors were dealt a hammer blow on 33 minutes, when Nolan collected a straight red card from Cavan whistler James Clarke. Two late Casey points allowed Kevin Ryan’s men to hold a fragile 10-9 interval lead.
With the wind at their backs, Tyrone stormed clear with three points within five minutes. Casey got them going before Gerard Gilmore and Sean Og Grogan pushed them four ahead.
However, just when an upset was looming, Mayo assumed control. Connell bolstered their defence while McManus, who replaced Sean Mulroy, offered the visitors a viable attacking outlet.
Tyrone struggled to sustain the tempo as Mayo harvested three of the next four points. McManus (2) and Boland raised onfidence either side of a second Grogan point before aCasey free nudged Tyrone 15-12 in front.
The addition of John Cotter and Scahill offered Mayo a visible lift around midfield and they levelled with a well-taken Boland goal. Eoghan O’Sullivan nearly cancelled that out - but it was clear the tide was turning and Mayo soon tagged on 1-4, the goal coming from Feeney.
Casey replied from a free before captain Kelly popped over their final score. Mayo finished in style as Feeney netted a second time before sub Scahill completed a stunning recovery, Tyrone left to face a tricky assignment in Longford on Saturday.
Tyrone scorers: Damian Casey 0-12, Conor Grogan 0-2, Sean Og Grogan 0-1, Gerard Gilmore 0-1, Aidan Kelly 0-1.