An off day all round costs Tyrone men most dearly
Tyrone 0-12 Mayo 0-13
Tyrone's bid for an unlikely All-Ireland came to a shuddering halt on Saturday, with captain Sean Cavanagh being dismissed on a second yellow card and, in his absence, passing on three chances to level matters in the final throes.
Cavanagh's marker Lee Keegan spent the evening frustrating the Moy man, almost to the point of neglecting his own game. Keegan's caveat comes in the form of two superb points, one in the 55th minute with his left foot to level things, and 10 minutes later, a skyscraper that dropped like a meteor inches over Niall Morgan's bar.
That score proved to be the winner. Tyrone will be especially sick about that, given they had three clear-cut chances to equalise after and force the replay.
With a minute left, Peter Harte, who had kicked two from play in a more influential second half, surprisingly dished off a chance to Cathal McCarron, who pulled it wide.
Mayo continued to play keepball and when Tyrone snapped up a loose ball, they won a free. Seamus O'Shea threw the ball away and referee David Gough brought it up to scoreable range. However, Niall Morgan missed his third deadball of the day.
Still, there was more drama to come. A loose pass aimed at Patrick Durcan was intercepted by substitute Darren McCurry. Under no pressure, he snatched at the chance and drilled it wide, just prior to the final whistle.
A disappointed Mickey Harte was asked about the manner of Cavanagh's two yellow cards. While the second was deserved for a high challenge, there was controversy over the first booking as he and marker Keegan were booked before the ball was even thrown in for the second half following an altercation.
"I didn't see it, so it's unfortunate it happened. But I know this for sure, Sean Cavanagh doesn't go looking for cards, never did in his whole career," Harte rued.
"It seems a shame that he would be victim to someone else enticing him into that arena. He doesn't go looking for anything, I can say that without fear of contradiction.
"It seems a shame that a man at this stage of his career, has given so much to the game, can fall victim to that kind of stuff."
His opposite number, Stephen Rochford, alluded to some rough treatment the Mayo players had received themselves when the question was put to him.
"Maybe Mickey was watching it but he came out after me and I didn't see it," he began.
"I can categorically tell you that Mayo did not target anoyone. Was our Dairmuid O'Connor targeted in the first two or three minutes if anyone wants to go down that line?
"There were no instructions to Lee Keegan, nor indeed, any Mayo player, to target anyone."
In a tense game, there was never more than a two-point gap in it, and Tyrone found themselves in that position prior to half-time.
Putting pressure on the Mayo kickout paid dividends and when Niall Sludden - immense in the first half - dived on a breaking ball, it ended up in the hands of Mattie Donnelly who charged forward to clip over his third from play.
A foul on Kevin McLoughlin by Connor McAliskey was punished by Cillian O'Connor, while Colm Boyle found himself in enough space to stuff a shot over the bar to level the scoreboard at half-time, 0-7 apiece.
Tyrone looked set for a big second half. Justin McMahon had sat too deep off late inclusion Alan Dillon, who had conducted the Mayo attack, and so Harte addressed it by sending on the more dynamic Rory Brennan.
However, with the inside line struggling for scores again, the big chance arrived in the 48th minute. McAliskey produced a dummy run to drag his marker across the square before backpedalling into space. Donnelly's delivery was inch-perfect, but when McAliskey turned and shot, he made it too easy for David Clarke by drilling it straight at him.
Peter Harte then drew a foul from Seamus O'Shea that McAliskey converted, before matters were tied again by a Harte point when he skipped inside to land a point when nothing seemed on.
With the momentum behind them, Tyrone were dealt the hammer blow of losing Cavanagh. Aidan O'Shea was building a head of steam for a run, Cavanagh's arm caught him high and careless and referee Gough was really left with no choice having earlier cautioned him.
O'Connor nailed the resultant free, before a needless Chris Barrett foul on Tiernan McCann brought the Tyrone equaliser from Darren McCurry.
The stage was set for Lee Keegan, the villain of the piece as Tyrone followers would see it, to land an outrageous shot that looped over Morgan's crossbar and leave the Connacht side in their sixth consecutive All-Ireland semi-final.
Can they finally win it, one of these years?
Doubtful. But the watching is compelling.
TYRONE: N Morgan.; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann, Justin McMahon, P Harte 0-4, 2f; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly 0-3; C McShane, N Sludden 0-1, R McNabb; C McAliskey 0-2f, S Cavanagh, R O'Neill 0-1f
Subs: R Brennan for McMahon (22), D McCurry (0-1f) for O'Neill (42), M Bradley for McShane (46), K McGeary for McAliskey (62), J Munroe for McNabb (69), P McNulty for Sludden (69)
Yellow cards: McCarron (26), S Cavanagh (36, 59), C Cavanagh (42), McCann (74)
Black cards: 0. Red cards: S Cavanagh (59)
MAYO: D Clarke; B Harrison, K McLoughlin, K Higgins; L Keegan 0-2, C Boyle 0-1, P Durcan; S O'Shea, D Vaughan; A Dillon, A O'Shea 0-1, D O'Connor; J Doherty, A Moran 0-1, C O'Connor 0-7, 4f
Subs: T Parsons 0-1, for Dillon (h-time), C O'Shea for Vaughan (55), C Barrett for Boyle (58), E Regan for Moran (62) C Loftus for Doherty (66), S Coen for D O'Connor (69)
Yellow cards: Boyle (25), Doherty (35), Keegan (36), S O'Shea (50)
Black cards: 0. Red cards: 0
Ref: David Gough (Meath). Att: 82,400