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Aidan O'Shea says maintaining Mayo's 21-year run in Allianz Football League Division 1 was a big incentive as a last-gasp Kevin McLoughlin point earned a 0-13 0-13 draw with Donegal at Ballybofey to keep them up and relegate their hosts.
The 2016 and 3017 All-Ireland finalists Mayo, minus the injured pair Lee Keegan and Cillian O'Connor, opened up a 0-5 0-1 lead early on, but Donegal were not giving up their top-flight status without a fight and a rush of seven points - including two each from Patrick McBrearty and Eoghan Ban Gallagher - gave the hosts an 0-9 0-6 lead at the break.
The lead was still three points with just five minutes remaining but Mayo rallied and McLoughlin leveled from 45 metres with his weaker right foot in a dramatic finale.
Centre forward O'Shea admitted that the long unbroken top-flight status was on the players' minds in a desperate closing stages.
"It was important for us," he told RTE Sport. "All the young players have only ever known Mayo playing in Division 1.
"We are the longest county in Division 1 and we wouldn't want to see ourselves drop to Division 2. You could see that from our performance today. Thankfully Kevin got it over the bar.
"We knew that Donegal at Ballybofey was going to be a tough game we needed a good start and we did it, but we let it slip very quickly with seven points on the bounce, so delighted to still come out with a draw.
"People know what we are like by now at this stage of the season. It is hard to keep us down, especially when our backs are against the wall."
Unbeaten Galway will face Dublin in the league final next Sunday after beating relegated Kildare 0-16 0-10 at St.Conleths Park.
After an even start, the Tribesmen kicked three unanswered points, including an impressive effort from former League of Ireland star Padraic Cunningham to open up an 0-8 0-5 lead at the interval.
The visitors continued to dominate in the second period with a brace from Sean Armstrong allowing them to go six ahead.
Eanna O'Connor, Paul Cribbin and Paddy Brophy all scored to keep winless Kildare in touch, but they couldn't find the goal they needed to threaten a shock win and Cian D’Arcy, Adrian Varley, Frankie Burke and Michael Daly all came off the Galway bench to extend the winning margin.
Monaghan denied Dublin top spot with a shock 2-12 to 0-17 win over the All-Ireland champions at Croke Park
A four-point burst from Dubs opened up an early lead before Vinny Corey pulled it back with a 13th minute goal as the sides went in at the break tied at 0-8 1-5.
Dubs substitute Colm Basquel helped restore a two-point home lead with just four minutes to play before Jack McCarron set up a grandstand finish with a delighful chip over Evan Comerford to score a second goal.
Brian Fenton levelled but there was still time for Fintan Kelly to secure Monaghan a memorable win - their first over Dubs at Croke Park.
While Dublin await Galway in next Sunday's decider, Monaghan will head off for their Ulster SFC opener against Tyrone in buoyant mood.
Tyrone beat Kerry 1-16 to 0-14 in a dead rubber at Healy Park.
Three points from Lee Brennan enabled Tyrone to take a 0-10 to 0-9 lead at the break.
Kerry kept in touch in the second half, three times pulling the scores level, but they fell off the pace late on and after Ronan O'Neill missed a penalty for the hosts, Cathal McShane palmed into the net with just two minutes remaining to seal the win.
Roscommon returned to Allianz Football Leagues Division 1 with a 0-17 1-11 win over Cork at Dr Hyde Park.
Diarmuid Murtagh was the match-winner with five points [three frees] as the Rossies held on despite being reduced to 13 men with the late dismissals of Ultan Harney for a second yellow and Cathal Creggs' black card.
Roscommon scored five unanswered points to open up a 0-7 0-2 lead before Peter Kelleher found the net after 20 minutes to signal a Cork recovery.
The scores were tied at the break and they were still on level terms before Mark Collins edged Cork in front for the first time.
However, Roscommon finished the stronger and a Murtagh-inspired four-point salvo in the closing stages secured the hosts promotion.
Image: Inpho/ Tommy Dickson
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