The final whistle spoke volumes. Dublin players and management rejoicing on the hallowed turf as Mayo players slumped to the ground in sheer disappointment. Lee Keegan was distraught; Mayo threw everything and still for the second year in a row came up short in the championship minutes in the final quarter. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.
This was a final yet again where Dublin had to stay patient and persevere in the midst of a Mayo onslaught. Con O’Callaghan gave Dublin a dream start; exposing fragile Mayo full back line play to create the space to slot past David Clarke. Mayo were looking down the barrel but the team from the West refused to panic and hit the next four points.
Dublin had issues in the middle third in the opening period. Parsons, O’Shea’s and McLaughlin were all prominent and distributing fast into Andy Moran who scored a quick three point salvo. Furthermore, Jason Doherty got in on the act with a quick brace of points. Mayo could do no wrong midway through the opening period. Dublin’s full forward line were being starved of possession.
Mayo were two points clear just before the interval. Dublin got a vital lifeline when McQuillan adjudged an infringement which Dean Rock slotted over. It was a 50/50 call. Mayo fans were incensed. Dublin left the field a point down and probably fortunate to be only down by the solitary point. Mayo had left everything on the field in that opening half, the pace and tempo surely could not continue.
Dublin started the second half in ominous fashion, several middle third possession wins setting up two quick scores to go in the lead. Mayo were ponderous with ball distribution, slow buildup play and the quick distribution to Moran was cut out. Mayo needed a shot in the arm and Jason Doherty had a glorious goal opportunity; well saved by Cluxton. Mayo did score a point from a free ensuing this play but it was a key moment. Mannion immediately had Dublin up the other end of the pitch and forced a superb save from Clarke. A point was scored in the resultant play; another key turning point.
However, in the cold light of day; the sequence of events which led to the red cards are the decisive talking points. John Small in another era would have being applauded for the shoulder on Colm Boyle but on a yellow, the player was gone but the actions of Mayo player Donal Vaughan defied logic; ran twenty yards to get involved, shunted Small to the ground; third man in; striking action — red and to compound matters, a scoring opportunity for Mayo was negated. Incredibly reckless action from Vaughan and one that will haunt him and the team for some time to come.
Dublin got out of jail with this sequence of events but they were powerless when Moran and Keegan combined for the Westport clubman to dispatch to the net. The goal was superbly worked; Keegan’s run from deep leaving Kilkenny in his wake. Moran with composure to hold the ball and then pass to Keegan; the strike was sublime. Game on. Mayo were leading with fifteen minutes left; time for cool heads. Nope.
Mayo were defensively naive in the final quarter. Dublin were able to pinpoint long range passes into the full forward line; no decision from the line to deploy sweepers to cleanup. The decision of Cillian O’Connor to withdraw to the defense caused more problems for Mayo; no genuine outlet when Moran went off. Dublin’s forward line were really fancying the task; Mayo were going man to man. All Ireland’s are lost with such naivety.
Dublin to their credit and their squad depth came to the fore. McMenamin and Connolly were excellent in their second half cameos. Both scored inspirational points and Connolly won the vital free which setup Dean Rock for the game winner. Scully unlucky to not start was superb along with Cormac Costello who was the hero last year. Bernard Brogan selfless running off the ball caused Mayo defensive headaches. Dublin’s squad mantra was to the core. Mayo’s lack of squad depth was exposed in the final quarter.
Boyle and Moran had little more to give but the replacements lacked poise and composure in vital stages. Loftus coughing up ball in a good scoring position for Mayo. Full forward threat was finished as soon as Moran was subbed as O’Connor was playing in the middle third. Coen was decent but the other subs did not make an impact. O’Connor’s free miss into injury time; both Loftus and Drake not sensing the possibility of a rebound were static. Dublin cleared their lines and took full advantage.
Mayo’s kick-out strategy was tested in the closing exchanges. Dublin pushed up on Clarke and Mayo blinked. Mayo’s middle third did not contest the last three Mayo long kickout’s from Clarke. They abandoned the initial jumper / second ball winning tactic that had served them so well. It gave Dublin a platform to win this game late and their brilliance was to the fore with the last five minutes; scored the free and then killed the game with passing game as Mayo were chasing shadows.
Dublin have won this championship with several new leaders emerging from the panel. McCarthy was superb all season. O’Callaghan and Mannion with their pace, speed and scoring ability. Scully’s pace and work rate to the fore. When you decide to put the likes of Brogan, McMenamin, Connolly, MacAuley on the bench, enough said. Dublin are here for many years to come and it will take an exceptional side to beat them in the championship.
Mayo. Where now? Serious soul searching again required by management and players. Self inflicted wounds again. Donal Vaughan will only know why he did what he did. Mayo’s shot selections in the opening period which were wides were crucial, thinking of chances spurned by Durcan, Keegan, O’Connor and Moran in the opening period. If two of those scores go over, half-time would have being different.
The Mayo squad depth was exposed in the final quarter. Dublin produced the big guns and Mayo management put on underage talent wholly unproven in this championship. It was decisive. Mayo need to cultivate the recent U21 All Ireland team and blood players into the starting lineup. It is the only way that they can do; increase squad panel strength. Mayo had several standouts. Higgins, Keegan, Parsons, Doherty were excellent. Andy Moran was heroic and was their star man. Hard to see how Mayo pick themselves from another devastating reversal.