All Ireland Senior Football Final Reflections

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Twenty-four hours after the showcase event for Gaelic Football and we have to do it all over again as Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor came up with a clutch forty meter point to setup a replay at Croke Park on October 1st. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action and wonders if Mayo have missed their chance or can they drive on and get over the finishing line?

Bizarre Opening Half

If anyone would have said that Dublin’s much vaunted forward line would be held scoreless in the first thirty minutes of this final and that Dublin would be leading at the break by five point, someone would have thought that you were on another planet. Mayo were their own worse enemy in that opening period. Their physicality and intensity in the tackle caused numerous turnovers but their high tempo frenzied approach did leave gaps defensively. Some people will say that the two Mayo own goals were unfortunate but the goals highlighted lapses of concentration and game management defensively from the Westerners. Kevin McLaughlin as a sweeper failed to sense the danger for the opening goal, his positioning was not ideal when the ball was launched into the Mayo full back line, anticipation to the danger was poor and who was he actually picking up when Brogan’s wayward shot came to him is anyone’s guess. The second Dublin goal was a class Connolly long range pass but Boyle’s lapse in ¬†concentration not identifying that a Dublin player was behind him was fatal; his actions to get back were too late. Two lapses; two key moments and two goals which derailed Mayo’s fine start to this final. Andrews’ cameo with two quick fire points from play added insult to injury. Five points down at the half was harsh considering their defensive dominance where Harrison was exceptional. Durcan and Higgins were to the fore and Lee Keegan was busy taking Connolly off his stride.

Disjointed Dublin

Dublin manager Jim Gavin pulled no punches in his post-game comments; Dublin are lucky to be still in the championship. I cannot recall a display which was as disjointed from Dublin in recent years; did the Kerry win take a lot out of the side mentally and physically? The back line and midfield lines were decent for Dublin. The real issues came in the forward line units where there was little continuity in their game to unlock the Mayo defense. McMenamin struck an isolated figure during his final appearance. Paul Flynn worked hard but offered little in attacking moves. Ciaran Kilkenny aside, none of the Dublin forward line were getting into the contest in that opening period. Dean Rock had initial struggles in his free taking but he slotted over his first point after thity minutes, he grew into the contest. Brogan was well marshalled by Harrison in the corner. The malfunctioning performance of Dublin’s forward line raises questions but surely Dublin have the analytical and organizational nous to rectify the forward line performances. Dublin will look at the goal chances created in that opening period where quick ball disposals opened Mayo defensively only for Clarke produce two excellent saves. Dublin’s back line performance was the highlight. 0-15 points conceded and the likes of Davy Byrne and John Small stepped up massively. James McCarthy’s black card was a joke call and decisive at the death as McCarthy’s forward runs would have killed the clock down. Cluxton’s kickouts were scrutinized by Mayo’s pressing high up the pitch but no glaring mistakes. Dublin will rarely have a worse day in the office, expect a more efficient performance. Does Gavin ring the changes or maintain faith in his misfiring forward unit? Interesting times ahead.

Black card debacle

Please GAA. Can we stop this black card debacle? As the likes of McAuley and O’Connor were getting away with deliberate black card offenses, it would have being interesting to have got the thoughts of Tipperary footballer Robbie Kiely whose black card against Mayo a couple of weeks looks even more ridiculous now. There is no consistency in the ruling. Martin Carney passed the comment during commentary that McAuley would get away with it because the referee gave an early black card to a Dublin player. Enough said. Whoever is the match referee assigned to the replay should leave the black card in the dressing room area and let the players play football albeit the amount of thumping off the ball from both sides off the ball was embarrassing. Lane was given little support from his umpires and his linesmen made the black card decision which was wrong. I felt sorry for the Cork official but the black card ruling is an utter nonsense and needs to be clarified. Third man tackle needs to be penalized but the tackle and what constitutes a black card is utterly confusing. If in doubt, do not issue a black card. Can the referee ask for replay footage to make a call? Sin bin should be introduced for the third man tackle. Any tackle indiscretion like trips and pulling back should be a yellow card with a warning that any other offense will mean a second yellow card. Do we introduce a foul count (four) for a player with two fouls for a deliberate foul such as a trip or pulling back the player? The current ruling is not working.

Croke Park – Ice Rink

The pitch conditions when rain hits HQ is a source of great concern. Bastick was the most relieved man in Croke Park. The Dublin player clearly picked the last kick-out off the ground and should have being a free in for Mayo. The indiscretion exposed more the pitch conditions than the match official ruling. The pitch conditions made the game into a lottery and players struggled to get their footing or balance to shot from distance. The weather was inclement but any rainfall seems to reduce contests at HQ to mediocre debacles. Do not get me wrong, the final was exciting but the standard of fare produced was well below the standard. Weather played a part but the pitch surface was not ideal on the day. For the tremendous surroundings of HQ, Croke Park’s pitch continues to cause issues for elite GAA players particularly when wet conditions prevail, something needs to be done in the off-season.

Do Mayo have the leaders on the park to win Sam?

Fair play to Killian O’Connor. The player has being strangely subdued this season but when the chips were down, the star forward produced with a sensational equalizing point. Andy Moran provided good leadership in his cameo but the O’Shea brother performances will be a concern for Mayo. Aidan O’Shea struggled to get into the game and his game management before the equalizer was poor; a speculative long range effort was never going to cut it. Seamus O’Shea’s distribution at times was awful and Mayo need to correct this. Mayo are going to need several players to step up to the plate in the replay. Mayo’s back line were gallant throughout but the forward line lacked creativity and pace to unlock the Dublin rearguard. Lee Keegan needs to provide an attacking dimension to his play; his close attentions with Connolly though effective nullified Mayo’s ability to score from long range. Rochford realizes that the quality of play needs to improve considerably in two weeks; Dublin will be a different animal and it is up to Mayo to bring something different to the table to upset Dublin’s quest of retaining Sam Maguire. An intriguing two weeks awaits in both counties.