Poor Donegal ripped apart
Donegal 1-10 Mayo 4-17: Shock and awe. For so long Mayo's stomach for a fight has been questioned. Not now. Not after putting 4-17 past the meanest defence in the land and tearing down walls to reach the All-Ireland semi-final, where they will face Tyrone.
The record for a winning margin in the All-Ireland qualifiers belongs to Tyrone for their 19-point trouncing of Fermanagh back in 2003.
Mayo came close to breaking that here, Donegal tagging on a goal and a few points while the game was in garbage time.
How good were Mayo? Astonishingly so. How appalling were Donegal? Something similar.
It had taken 16 previous Championship matches for four goals to be accumulated against Donegal under Jim McGuinness' watch.
That was doubled in 45 blistering minutes.
While Mayo punished them on the scoreboard, Aidan O'Shea destroyed the Donegal kickout. He fielded no less than nine kickouts cleanly, a seriously impressive figure.
Donal Vaughan acted as a creative dynamo and the ball skills of the Mayo attack were phenomenal.
It is a rarity that a Gaelic footballer would score a hat-trick of goals in a match, but Cillian O'Connor has just put two back-to-back, nailing 3-4 here to go along with his 3-3 against London in the Connacht final. Donegal were flat. Awfully so and this now raises the question of the enormous physical toll they are reputedly putting themselves under.
The ‘all stick and no carrot' approach produces tired minds and bodies, and the champions did not get the breaks they enjoyed last year with their injuries mounting up. This was a sight of a team hitting the wall.
There was a realisation that they had nothing in the legs when Mayo ran up 1-3 in the opening six minutes, the goal coming when a high ball in from the excellent Keith Higgins was spilled by Eamonn McGee and Kevin McLoughlin played O'Connor in for his first goal.
Between the eighth and 17th minutes, Donegal clawed four points back but when Alan Dillon put Vaughan through and he evaded Paul Durcan's lunge to slot home, it broke Donegal.
It took 31 minutes for them to record their next score with a David Walsh point, Mayo pouring on the pain with an impressive 2-8 in that same period.
When Donegal began to build from the back, Mayo turned them over brilliantly.
A remedy was sought when Karl Lacey was sent on for Anthony Thompson, but he never looked at all fit to play at that level. Martin McElhinney and Walsh were introduced at half-time but Mayo were not in the mood of letting them back into it.
Vaughan knifed through the defence and laid a goal on a plate for O'Connor on 40 minutes and the Ballintubber man completed his hat-trick five minutes later when Andy Moran's shot was palmed away by Durcan, only for O'Connor to clinically dispatch the rebound.
Eamonn McGee then let his frustrations get the better of him when he stamped on the back of Enda Varley's neck while he lay on the ground.
Linesman Maurice Deegan spotted it however and Joe McQuillan sent the Gweedore man off.
James Horan ran the bench, Donegal grabbed a few more scores and Colm McFadden planted a goal to achieve a measure of respectability.
But by the time Jim McGuinness jogged down the touchline to congratulate and shake the hand of his opposite number James Horan, Mayo had clearly been installed as the new favourites for Sam Maguire. Next up for Mayo? Tyrone. It's about to get feisty.
DONEGAL: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; F McGlynn, Declan Walsh, A Thompson; N Gallagher, R Kavanagh; R Bradley, R McHugh, M McHugh (0-2); P McBrearty, M Murphy (0-6, 4f, 1 x 45), C McFadden (1-0). Substitutes: K Lacey (0-1) for Thompson [23mins], M McElhinney for N McGee, David Walsh (0-1) for Bradley [half-time], L McLoone for Kavanagh [42m], M Boyle for McGrath [60m]
Yellow cards: McGrath [34m]
Red card: E McGee [52m]
MAYO: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan (0-1), D Vaughan (1-0), C Boyle (0-1); A O'Shea, S O'Shea (0-1); K McLoughlin (0-1), C Barrett (0-1), A Dillon (0-2); C O'Connor (3-4, 2f, 1 x 45), A Freeman (0-2), A Moran (0-1). Subs: C Carolan for Cunniffe [26m], R Feeney (0-1) for Dillon [46m], E Varley (0-1) for Moran [49m], D Coen for O'Connor [54m], K Keane (0-1) for Boyle [57m]
Yellow cards: A O'Shea [10 & 70m], Keegan [71m]
Red card: A O'Shea [70m]
Referee: Joe McQuillan [Cavan]
Belfast Telegraph Digital