Brogan hits high notes as Mayo left singing the blues
The wait goes on for Mayo as Dublin are left as the last men standing
Bernard Brogan celebrates his second goal against Mayo. Photograph: Dara MacDonaill
Improvise, adapt, overcome. After a season of poetry, Dublin’s All-Ireland victory was brass-tack prose, for no other reason but that it had to be. The summer’s last set-to was tough and it was brutal, with hits of tectonic weight an all sides. But when it was done and they had completed the bodycount, Jim Gavin’s team were 2-12 to 1-14 winners over Mayo. The best find a way.
You pick and you plan and you imagine any and all scenarios but as Gavin admitted afterwards with a hearty puff of the cheeks, you don’t foresee having all your substitutions made after just 53 minutes. You don’t reckon on having to see out a knife-edge final with a third of your team variously lame and lamented. Or if you do, your plan can’t extend far beyond prayer and good living.
But Dublin came through. They endured. For the third game this summer, they overturned a half-time deficit. For the fifth time in six games, they scored more goals than their opposition. As ever, they scored more off the bench as well. Add it all up and the sum of their parts was more than Mayo’s, just as it’s been more than the sum of everyone else’s.
“We pulled through games this year already that had been close and we’ve come from behind,” said Bernard Brogan, scorer of 2-3 in his best display of the championship. “We just stuck to our gameplan and came out on top. That is what has worked for us all year. We never panicked. That is the one thing with Jim, he has had that calm around the place. No one ever panics.”
The 82,274 who flowed through the gates didn’t get their shoot-out. This was a day of heavy artillery shelling rather than pistols at dawn. Under an incongruous sun for September’s fourth Sunday, the frenzied pace took its toll on both sides and by the end Dublin were essentially playing with 13 players having used up all their subs.
Rory O’Carroll was concussed, Eoghan O’Gara had a torn hamstring. Add in a gash in Philly McMahon’s cheek, a Scooby-Do black eye for Jonny Cooper and a foot injury that Michael Darragh Macauley had carried from the first half and Dublin were travelling pretty light by that point.
Gavin was unapologetic about the rugby tackles at the end, pointing instead to a free count that went 32-12 against them across the course of the game.
“That’s just beyond me,” said Gavin. “I can’t understand that. I really can’t. That’s one of the very disappointing things. Not only were we playing Mayo but we were playing the referee as well. The players were frustrated. That free count is just not acceptable.
“Anybody here can ask me are Dublin a cynical team and we’re not. We play the game with certain values in the squad and we play the game the way we believe it should be played. At the end, that was just Dublin players getting frustrated. For the whole game, there is a double count going against us. All the time. And it’s not only today. We probably held our counsel for most of the games but that has been the trend in all the games.”
Yet for all that, Mayo were the ones surrounding Joe McQuillan after he blew the final whistle.
As Cillian O’Connor lined up a 21-metre free deep into injury-time, he could be seen asking McQuillan how long was left. Clearly under the impression that there was time for more than just the kick-out, he tapped it over. But the whistle went as Stephen Cluxton’s kick-out landed.
“When you ask the ref how long is left, when you ask him twice and he tells you there’s at least 30 seconds left after the score, that’s a little disappointing,” said James Horan. “But, look, that’s neither here nor there. The game is over, we were beaten so, yeah, we’re very disappointed.”
In any critical analysis though, the closing 30 seconds is a MacGuffin. Mayo didn’t lose because the referee blew the final whistle when he did. They lost because for the long periods of the first half when they dominated the game, they didn’t make anywhere near enough hay.
They started like demons. They pushed Dublin back and turned them around. They led 0-4 to 0-1 after 15 minutes and when Brogan flicked the first of his goals over Rob Hennelly’s head soon after they replied with the next three points on the bounce. But their biggest lead was three points and between the 25th minute and the 43rd, they didn’t score. In fact Andy Moran’s point in that 25th minute was their last one from play all day.
“We had enough ball to win the game,” said Horan. “We just made too many mistakes and had too many turnovers. I think it’s that straightforward. We dominated the first 15 minutes but we didn’t get the score return we possibly should have. We had too many wides. It was closer at half-time than it should have been. In the second-half when we were attacking, we just made some poor decisions at times and it eventually cost us.”
That’s because when they weren’t scoring, Dublin were. Not heavily but just enough to inch them ever onward. O’Gara made a fine contribution off the bench, stitching points either side of half-time. Paddy Andrews and Paul Flynn lofted key scores to put Dublin ahead.
And when Moran hauled Mayo back into it with a goal to draw the sides level at 1-9 apiece with 20 minutes to go, Dublin just steadied, settled and went up the other end to bang in one of their own. Denis Bastick ghosted through the middle of the Mayo defence and did the one thing Dublin have taken fire for not doing all year. He drew his man and fed Brogan on the edge of the square, leaving him to palm a simple goal.
From there, it was a matter of picking a weapon and standing a post. If it wasn’t quite how they’d have envisioned it, there won’t be many in the capital complaining this morning.
Dublin’s All-Ireland. Any way they had to.