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All Ireland Senior Football Semi Final: Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-15

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Match Report Summary

Lightning does strike twice. Mayo are involved in yet another All Ireland Football Semi-Final replay next Saturday. After a heartbreaking replay reversal against Kerry last year, it would have being accepted for Mayo to accept defeat heading into the last ten minutes. Dublin courtesy of Kevin McManamon with an instinctive finish to the net had given Dublin a seven point lead and appeared to be cruising entering into the final ten minutes. The Hill was in full voice, celebrations were in full flow from the Dublin fans and it looked curtains for Mayo but credit the team from the West to have the resolve, character and sheer balls to come roaring back into this contest at the death. Cillian O’Connor placed balls and his emphatic penalty gave Mayo the lifeline required, albeit have to credit Donal Boyle for a lung bursting run into the Dublin box for the penalty award. Andy Moran provided the composure at the death to draw Mayo level and cue a manic five minutes of injury time. Stephen Cluxton had the chance to rip Mayo hearts with a late injury time free but the ball went wide and cue the replay.

The last ten minutes of this contest were exhilarating but the remainder had a distinctly flat feel  to it. Both teams setup extremely defensively and the enormity of the fixture got to several players from each side. The decision to introduce Drake into the Mayo ranks did not work. The player who played as a defensive sweeper worked hard but his inclusion appeared to make his colleagues around him distinctly unsettled in terms of their positioning. This uncertainty led to Ciaran Kilkenny getting ample space to kick some lovely scores. Dublin always appeared to have the upper hand in the opening period after Diarmuid Connolly dispatched Dublin’s first goal from the penalty spot after ten minutes. It was an emphatic strike. Mayo goalkeeper Robbie Hennelly had not a hope of saving it. It was a hammer blow for Mayo who had started the game on the front foot. Tom Parsons continued to win and distribute ball effectively with Lee Keegan and the ever hard working Diarmuid O’Connor prominent during this spell providing support for the player in possession. Dublin to their credit refused to panic and after the penalty grew into the contest. Kilkenny’s open play scores helped Dublin to extent the lead to four points and Mayo were extremely dependent on Cillian O’Connor’s free taking. The Mayo forward was lights out on his frees and he had to be to keep Mayo in the contest. Dublin led by three points at the break and may have felt a touch disappointed that the gap was not more considering their domination in the middle of the opening half. Their forward line was performing well with Andrews and Brogan dangerous inside.

Mayo will rue that they did not drive their early second half dominance with a couple of additional scores. They came out with renewed vigour and intent. Parsons and Seamus O’Shea in midfield started positively and provided the platform for Mayo’s forward line to create scoring chances however the statistic of fourteen misses from twenty chances will not go unmissed by Mayo management this week. Several misses lacked composure and the ball into Aidan O’Shea was far from ideal. The Breaffy man won his ball but considering Dublin’s strategy of having at least three players on him when with the ball, it was a difficult day for O’Shea to make the required impact. Mayo’s inability to not take their scores looked to have bit them again once Dublin struck for their second goal. It was a goal which Mayo will look back on with disappointment. Hennelly did superbly to save the initial effort after Dublin created a player overlap inside but Mayo failed to clear the ball and McManamon took full advantage. It looked like the knockout punch. Mayo were on the ropes but they fought back dramatically. An exceptionally busy weekend for GAA HQ next weekend with this replay and the All Ireland hurling final on consecutive days. It is a nice problem for Croke Park, supporters and GAA neutrals to have and the pre-game comments will be interesting heading into the contest. Mayo’s running lines caused Dublin problems while Dublin will look at vulnerabilities in the Mayo full back line as an area of promise for next weekend.

Flash Points

There were plenty of talking points from this game. The spotlight will be firmly on the man in the middle tonight. I sincerely hope that the Sunday Game tonight review some of the contentious incidents from this afternoon. Joe McQuillin appears to officiate Dublin quite a lot and Dublin players know what they can or cannot do. The black card debate will rage on into the week. The decision to not black card Cian O’Sullivan for a blatant shirt pull in the first half smacked plenty of people in the face; the first set being the GAA congress who passed the introduction of the black card and secondly for the GAA neutral who want to see consistent refereeing decisions. No complaints on the Dublin penalty award but why was Jason Doherty not punished for the indiscretion leading to the penalty award? Aidan O’Shea could not buy a free today. The decision not to penalise Phil McMahon in the first half when the Breaffy man won possession and was dragged to the ground in the Dublin penalty area was incredibly harsh. Mayo’s tacking style got on the wrong side of the referee in the first half but it changed significantly in the second half. McQuillin was pinging Dublin more and the black card awards will enrage Dublin. McAulay’s black card was harsh and it cost Dublin a primary ball winner for Cluxton on the kickouts. Bastick’s involvement came to an end early, another black card whereby on another day a yellow card would be merited. Cian O’Sullivan again blatantly playing the player and not the ball should have issued a black card but it failed to materialize. Dublin will contend on Aidan O’Shea clash with McMahon midway through the second half – the hits from both teams at times were devastating evident in Vaughan’s shoulder injury and O’Carroll’s ten stitches to a facial wound which looked more at home in an UFC event. McQuillin had a difficult afternoon but some of the decisions contrary to what the GAA President wants to say have to be discussed. It is a free country to speak about these things. There is a lot at stake for these two teams today and one of those decisions could have cost them big time. Both teams will look for clarification on tackling and black card implementation after today. Diarmuid Connolly’s straight red is a huge loss for Dublin. His personal foul count and lip to the match officials, he was walking the tightrope. Johnny Cooper’s challenge on Diarmuid O’Connor in the first half? Outrageous challenge.

Replay Venue

Mayo and Kerry football fans must be laughing with the irony of Croke Park head office on the “needs and ticket demand” as the driver to use Croke Park next weekend for the replay. It is a right decision but last year – the same logic went out the window and a trip to the Gaelic Grounds for the love of the US dollar and collegiate football game which let us be frank is not a long term return of investment. Wonder if it was not Dublin involved, would there have being an inkling that the replay would be switched to a regional venue like Thurles?

Minor Game

Massive props to Tipperary for a fantastic win over a gallant Kildare team in the curtain raiser. Jack Kennedy was the standout player by a country mile. His ability to run with the ball and dispatch points from long range were a joy to watch. The win justifies Tipperary’s decision to invest in football in the county? U21 and Minor final appearances this season is a remarkable achievement. Tipperary’s game plan was structured, no naivety in their approach which did roll into the cynical with professional fouls but I think Tipperary learned that lesson from Tyrone in the U21 Football final earlier this season. Kildare lacked the marquee inside forward to score while Tipperary had potency inside with at least three goal opportunities created in the hour of play. The Tipperary red card was merited but it made Tipperary even more determined to win this contest. Kildare tried as they might could not conjure a goal at the death and it was Tipperary who actually finished the stronger. Tipp minor double? They will be underdogs in both deciders but rest assured that Galway and Kerry will have to bring their ‘A’ game to beat this well drilled Tipperary minor setup. Great day of sport. Roll on next weekend.