Disappointing Dubs down and out
Mayo 0-19 Dublin 0-16:A whirlpool of an All-Ireland football semi-final, which finally found an outlet, saw Mayo – who had seemed to be out of reach midway through the second half when holding a 10-point advantage over defending champions Dublin – manage to scramble over the line at Croke Park to set up a unique final showdown with Donegal.
With a crowd of 81,364 barely able to catch breath amid a stirring fightback by Dublin, which ultimately fell short, Mayo booked a first All-Ireland final appearance since 2006. For long periods, Mayo – with some excellent point taking from play – dominated, but they were rocked out of their comfort zone by Dublin's flurry of eight unanswered points that left them grateful to hear referee Joe McQuillan’s final whistle some seven minutes into injury time.
"We're delighted to get out of there," admitted Mayo manager James Horan afterwards.
His side inflicted most of the damage in the first-half and led 0-12 to 0-6 at the break. The Dublin defence, especially the full-back line, was torn apart by the free-moving Mayo attack, that gave an exhibition of point-taking with all six starting forwards getting on the scoresheet.
Indeed, Dublin – who briefly claimed the early advantage with two pointed frees from Bernard Brogan before playing second fiddle to the westerners – failed to score for a full 18 minutes at one juncture of the opening half as Mayo responded with five straight points to establish an advantage they were never to relinquish.
Paul Flynn did crash one effort off the crossbar but, for the most part, all of the good football was played by Mayo with Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran dominating at centrefield.
In a desperate effort to rescue the game, Dublin manager Pat Gilroy introduced Alan Brogan, who had struggled with a groin injury since the Leinster final win over Meath, at half-time. Brogan had been named to start but failed a fitness test and his place went to teenager Ciarán Kilkenny. Brogan replaced captain Bryan Cullen at halftime but the gamble failed and he only managed to last 17 minutes before being replaced himself by Kevin McManamon.
Ironically, McManamon’s introduction coincided with Dublin’s resurgence. Mayo – playing with greater intensity and fluidity – had stretched into a seemingly unassailable lead with a run of five successive points from Cillian O’Connnor (three), Richie Feeney and Alan Dillon to move into a 0-17 to 0-7 lead.
Dublin’s comeback was launched by a 45 from Stephen Cluxton and the holders were to kick eight unanswered points and reduce the deficit to two points before Mayo, who went 22 minutes without a score, calmed their own nerves with an O’Connor pointed free in injury time.
Although Bernard Brogan responded with a free for Dublin, substitute Seamus O’Shea kicked his side’s 19th point of the game to put a three-point gap between the sides and Mayo then packed the defence to ensure Dublin couldn’t get the goal they needed.
Gilroy had nothing but praise for his players afterwards and felt they did not get the breaks on the day.
“Things ran away from us part the last five minutes of the first half,” he said. “We done alright until then, but in fairness the effort to get back was phenomenal. We felt we needed to get a goal (late on), they decided to concede frees rather than let us through there."
Donegal, he added, “kicked some incredible scores today. They did that in the league as well so it was no surprise.”
Dublin – S Cluxton (0-3, all 45s); M Fitzsimons, R O’Carroll, C O’Sullivan; J McCarthy, G Brennan, K Nolan;
E Fennell, D Bastick; P Flynn (0-2), MD McAuley, B Cullen; C Kilkenny (0-3), D Connolly (0-2), B Brogan (0-6, all frees). Subs – P McMahon for Fitzsimons (half-time), A Brogan for Cullen (half-time), K McManamon for A Brogan (52 mins), C Dias for Fennell (71 mins)
Mayo – D Clarke; K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Barrett; B Moran (0-1), A O’Shea; K McLoughlin (0-2), J Doherty (0-1), A Dillon (0-3); E Varley (0-2, one free), C O’Connor (0-7, three 45s, three frees), M Conroy (0-1). Subs – R Feeney(0-1) for L Keegan (14 mins), A Freeman for Varley (45 mins), J Gibbons for Feeney (60 mins), S McHale for Keane (65 mins),
S O’Shea (0-1) for A O’Shea (70 mins), P Gardiner for Freeman (75 mins).
Referee- J McQuillan (Cavan)