Mickey Harte: Tyrone boys have lots of bottle
Mayo 1-11 Tyrone 1-12
Published 12/02/2013 | 04:20
Tyrone are joint top of the Allianz Division One table after an amazing one point victory over Mayo at McHale Park in Castlebar, with Red Hands boss Mickey Harte hailing the character shown by his team.
With 10 minutes left to play the visitors looked to be cruising, leading 0-12 to 0-8, and were on top in all sectors of the field.
Mayo were struggling but a well-taken goal from corner back Keith Higgins reignited their challenge as they stormed back to draw level before taking a two point lead deep in injury time.
They looked set for what appeared an unlikely victory but there was to be one final twist in the game as a high ball in from the right wing by Stephen O'Neill saw Ronan O'Neill break it down into the path of Mark Donnelly who was hauled down for a penalty.
Tyrone captain O'Neill stepped up to finish in style, low into the bottom right hand corner of the net, to give the Ulster side a deserved but hard fought win in a close game.
Tyrone manager Harte couldn't hide his pleasure at his side's second brace of points on the road.
"To say that we are delighted to win here would be an understatement," said Harte.
"We deserved something from the game but it looked at one stage that we weren't going to get anything from it.
"When we were leading 0-12 to 0-8 we looked to be comfortable. I had just turned to Gavin Devlin and said to him that we will win here if we don't concede a goal but unfortunately moments later we did concede a goal.
"I suppose it was heartbreaking on Mayo as they had put a lot of effort into coming back into the game late on at a vital time.
"They came from four down to go two in front and they probably felt that the winning post was in sight when they had got into that position.
"That tells the story of the game as it is never over until the final whistle.
"Our boys deserve great credit for the character and fighting spirit that they showed to come straight down the field and win that penalty and in a situation like that there is no better man around to put it away than Stephen O'Neill. He was coolness personified," added Harte, who is refusing to get carried away by Tyrone's good start in the league.
"We are just where we want to be but just because we are in that position it doesn't mean that we can afford to take it easy," he said.
"Every two points have to be fought for. The Down game was a step up from the McKenna Cup and that was a step up again there and that will stand to the boys.
"It's good to have those points tucked away but we need to be very firm in our goals because the aim is to stay in this division.
"There isn't much point in picking up the first four points if we finish up back in Division Two."
While it was a good all round display, Harte had special praise for the way his players defended against the home side.
"They have dangerous forwards and you have to take measures to counter that," he said.
"I felt it worked well bringing players back and it was only in the closing stages where they began to make significant inroads."
Tyrone skipper O'Neill added: "We thought we had lost but thankfully Mark got the penalty.
"We knew it was going to be a battle – it always is here.
"We are delighted to get to the break with four points on the board but we are by no means the finished article."
It was a win that certainly sets Tyrone up nicely for a massive Ulster derby at home to All-Ireland champions Donegal in three weeks.
Mayo: D Clarke, K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins (1-0), T Cunniffe, C Boyle, C Barrett, A O'Shea, S O'Shea, L Keegan (0-1), R Feeney, C Freeman, K McLoughlin (0-3), J Doherty (0-6), M Conroy. Subs: B Moran for S O'Shea, D Vaughan (0-1) for Boyle, E Varley for Freeman, A Dillon for Barrett
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-2), A McCrory, Justin McMahon, C Gormley, R McKenna, Joe McMahon, R McNamee (0-1), C Clarke, S Cavanagh (0-2), P McNiece, P Harte (0-2), P Kane, C McAliskey (0-1), S O'Neill (1-1), M Donnelly. Subs: C McCarron (0-1) for Gormley, R O'Neill for Clarke, J Lafferty for McNiece, D McCurry (0-1) for Harte, M Penrose (0-1) for Kane
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).