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Victory over Red Hands is firing Mayo's bid for glory

By Declan Bogue

Published 20/08/2016

Huge boost: Cillian O’Connor is determined to build on Mayo’s quarter-final win over Tyrone
Huge boost: Cillian O’Connor is determined to build on Mayo’s quarter-final win over Tyrone

Mayo's Cillian O'Connor has insisted that their single-point All-Ireland quarter-final win over Tyrone - their toughest test of the year so far - can propel them to greater glory.

Stephen Rochford's men now face surprise package Tipperary in tomorrow's semi-final, knowing that they have got themselves back into a good place after old enemies Galway foiled their bid to clinch the Connacht title for the sixth consecutive time.

For the Ballintubber man, the leading scorer in the All-Ireland series for the past two years and currently just behind Dublin's Dean Rock with 2-25 to his name, the immediate glow of victory over the Red Hands was special.

"Any time you win a quarter-final or a big game in Croke Park, there's a buzz, there's a great feeling off it," he said.

"It was satisfying to put on our longest period of good football, probably our most consistent performance this year, even if it was a little bit patchy, when we needed it.

"Doing it against a team like Tyrone, who have been playing so well throughout Ulster, the McKenna Cup and the league,and who have been a strong, form team, just added to it all.

"There was a real sense of relief and satisfaction for about 15 minutes after the game."

O'Connor insists that the nature of the game, nip and tuck with scoring close throughout, was essential to the Mayo effort as a decent margin for Tyrone might have been insurmountable.

He explained: "Maybe because of the calibre of the opposition, we knew anything less than that at this time of the year was probably going to give you an extra couple of points of a deficit that you are probably going to be unable to claw back.

"If we let them take the lead and pull away from us, we knew it was going to be hard to get back ahead of them, so maybe that explains our focus at the start of the game."

This year, Mayo have been forced down the road of the qualifiers. They produced a shaky performance in getting over Fermanagh - helped by a dubious penalty decision from match referee Joe McQuillan - and followed it up with triumphs of varying degrees of control over Westmeath and Kildare.

Although the road is longer and has more bends, O'Connor believes it has proved to be character forming.

"It is maybe easy to say it was just about getting back to Croke Park and that that's what the qualifiers are for, but we were trying to play as consistently as we could," he said.

"We wanted to put on as complete a performance as we could against Fermanagh. It wasn't a light switch that we were flicking on and off but possibly somewhere in our subconscious when we went ahead of Kildare, maybe that's why we let them back into the game.

"Allowing the momentum to swing back to the opposition is a dangerous habit to get into."

Mayo are now in their sixth consecutive All-Ireland semi-final. Seldom have they faced opponents as unfancied as Liam Kearns' Tipperary, but O'Connor insists they won't allow hubris to damage them.

"Before we had our boots off, the focus had already turned to Tipperary in terms of planning for training sessions and recovery sessions, video analysis sessions, everything shifted to Tipperary before we'd left the dressing room," he added.

"Straight away Stephen and the lads were banging onto us about Tipperary before we'd even got onto the bus."

Belfast Telegraph

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