It was a disappointing day for Mayo fans yesterday. Michael Farrell reports…
Dublin claimed their second All-Ireland title in three years with a one point victory over Mayo over in Croke Park yesterday.
As the score line of 2-11 to 1-14 suggests it was a tight game, but given their second half performance, it was one Dublin deserved to win.
It was Mayo who started the better with an early point by Andy Moran followed up with scores from Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan and Cillian O’Connor with Diarmuid Connolly grabbing a solitary score for Dublin.
Disaster struck in the 16th minute when Dublin plundered a goal through Bernard Brogan. Brogan, who finished the game with 2-3 to his name finally hitting top form in this year’s championship.
The manner of the goal will be sure to give Ger Cafferky, Rob Hennelly and the Mayo fans nightmares, especially after the long ball trauma inflicted on them in previous finals.
Mayo came straight back at Dublin kicking four of the next five points, dispelling any doubts of a collapse. They didn’t have it all their own way though with goalkeeper Hennelly having to make a couple of fine saves, in particular blocking Michael Dara MacAuley’s goal-bound shot.
Dublin cut Mayo’s lead to a single point at half time with a fisted point from Eoghan O’Gara and a 45’ from Stephen Cluxton. It was an error strewn first half with nerves getting to both sets of players, but it was Mayo you felt who should have made more of their dominance.
The intensity was ramped up again in the second half, which could be seen clearly from the suspicious looking cut on Philly McMahon’s eye. Cillian O’Connor may have been lucky not to get sent off for a second All-Ireland final in a row, considering the blood on his jersey and his close proximity to the incident.
The Dubs tied the match early in the second half with a deflected point from Eoghan O’Gara that Rob Hennelly somehow managed to keep out of his net. The Dublin forward line then really started to show their class with excellent scores from Bernard Brogan, Paul Flynn and Paddy Andrews.
The game looked to be going away from Mayo, but they grabbed a lifeline in the 50th minute when Andy Moran rounded Stephen Cluxton to finish into an empty net.
The scores were level at 1-09 apiece when Andy Moran and Jonny Cooper collided heavily off the ball. This was to prove vital for Dublin as Cooper’s replacement Denis Bastick made a surging run through the Mayo defence laying off the perfect ball to Brogan. Brogan made no mistake and re-opened a three point lead.
The Mayo forwards were struggling, with their scores coming only from two O’Connor frees. A point from a Brogan free left two points between the sides before Ger Brennan landed a massive score to extend Dublin’s lead.
This Dublin team have been lauded as football’s white knights over the summer, but there was no pure football on show in the last five minutes with Dublin’s repeated cynical fouling stopping any Mayo attacks into goal territory.
O’Connor and Cluxton traded frees and with the game deep into stoppage time, Mayo tried to engineer a goal, but all they got for their efforts was a 21 yard free. With most of the Dublin team on the goal line, O’Connor took the sensible option and tapped the ball over the ball.
Mayo were hoping for one last possession of the ball, but referee Joe McQuillan blew the final whistle with 74 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock.
Mayo will feel hard done by considering the cynical play Dublin resorted to in the last ten minutes, but they can have no complaints. Andy Moran was the only Mayo forward to score from play, discounting the effort from auxiliary half back Keith Higgins. Compare this with the 2-5 from play the Dublin forwards got and it’s easy to see why Dublin ran out winners.
It’s hard to know will this Mayo team be back. They lack a Ciaran McDonald or even a Conor Mortimer in their forward line. Despite all James Horan’s work the same old frailties remain. They still suffer under the high ball and some of their forwards still fail to show up in Croke Park. Maybe their winning minor team of the day will provide the marquee forward they are missing.
Despite the last five minutes of the game, the team who played the best football this year won the title. Seeing as the blanket defence became the norm after Tyrone’s and Armagh’s wins in the early Noughties, let’s hope we see the other counties using Dublin’s expansive model as a template next year instead.