Dublin have to sweat for victory as Mayo wilt in the heat
Jim Gavin’s men happy to win ugly as the long wait for Mayo continues
Dublin’s Bernard Brogan celebrates winning the All-Ireland senior championship football final. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-14: Continuing to show the greatest economy in modern All-Ireland history – four final wins by an aggregate five points – Dublin crowned an exceptional season with the county’s 24th title.
On a sweltering afternoon the championship showpiece was claustrophobic, intense and exciting but it disappointed those who had hoped for a firework display between the best teams of the year.
But it wasn’t just the temperature – more associated with a good July – that made Jim Gavin’s team sweat for the honour, which rounded off the county’s first league and championship double since 1976.
As in the semi-final against Kerry, Dublin started poorly and their prospects could have been a speck on the horizon by half-time but again kept afloat by an early goal against the run of play, they got to the break trailing by just a point.
Having taken an apparently firm grip on the match in the third quarter, the Leinster champions found themselves pegged back by a Mayo goal against the run of play and although they kept the margin at a goal until injury-time, injuries had effectively reduced them to 13 players – Eoghan O’Gara damaged a hamstring, having menaced Mayo from his first-half introduction and Rory O’Carroll was visibly dazed after a collision with Enda Varley with all replacements used – for the closing 10 minutes and they just about held on to win a second Sam Maguire in three years, a feat not achieved since the 1970s.
Like any team chiselling achievement out of adversity, they needed big performances and just about found them after the calamitous opening quarter. Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs in the second half were pin-point in their accuracy and helped resource the come back as well as protect ball in the fraught closing stages. His two dead-ball kicks were vital in a one-point victory.
Cian O’Sullivan came into the match strongly at centrefield and when required, dropped back to corner back for fire brigade duty after Jonny Cooper’s departure with concussion at the end of the third quarter. James McCarthy had his best match of the summer once he too had settled, his fast breaks helping to create attacks and his tireless running giving Cluxton a target at the end when legs were tiring and the match still in the balance.
Michael Darragh Macauley likewise recovered from a static start to get his motor running and launch the pile-driver runs that have characterised his season. Rory O’Carroll gave little change throughout to Alan Freeman and and had to stay on the field when injured in the fraught closing minutes.
Above all Bernard Brogan, a championship of fits and starts behind him, built on the improvement of the semi-final with a match winning contribution of 2-2 from play.
The first goal in the 16th minute vital breathing space in the opening onslaught: a sprightly leap under Paul Flynn’s great, pumped kick and Ger Cafferkey – whose effort and overall effectiveness probably deserved better than an eight-point invoice – was caught between his man and his goalkeeper as Brogan deftly flicked home.
It was just respite at that stage. Mayo opened up with all the dynamism that had characterised what was until yesterday a season of great promise. Just as they had hustled All-Ireland champions Donegal into oblivion in the quarter-final they hit Dublin with a high-tempo pressing game but couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard.
Keith Higgins – who put in a blameless afternoon between attack and defence – was denied by a fraction, confirmed by Hawk-Eye, within 30 seconds of the start and from then on Dublin didn’t appear to know quite what to do about it. They weren’t getting forward to put pressure on Mayo and apparently jittery in the maelstrom their deliverance from further damage wasn’t really any of their doing. Mayo squandered chances: seven wides in the first half plus some poor distribution left the door open for their stricken opponents.
Finals throw up unexpected heroes and Mayo captain Andy Moran, a hard summer of much-debated, underwhelming form behind him, chose the biggest stage to give his best display. A total of 1-2 was begun in the fourth minute with the opening point and he also drew two converted frees.
For Dublin Ger Brennan, at sea with many of his colleagues in the opening quarter and maybe edging close to substitution, dug in after the break and kicked a miracle point in the 65th minute to keep Mayo at arm’s length.
Mayo’s decision to start Cillian O’Connor with his shoulder problems was partly vindicated in that although not at his best in open play his place kicking was customarily high-yield - eight from 10 – but the two missed were the first opportunities and he will have been disappointed with them.
The big hitters on either side in the Footballer of the Year stakes didn’t advance their cases as expected. For instance Aidan O’Shea wasn’t the force of nature hoped for at centrefield but his brother Séamus put in another good shift.
It was the half backs as usual who performed best. Lee Keegan had a terrific first half, kicking two points, and held Diarmuid Connolly well over the 70 minutes whereas Colm Boyle held the centre of the defence as reliably as he had all year and didn’t allow Dublin a foothold on the 40. In the second half he persevered when the team was low on inspiration.
It was a sobering afternoon for the high-profile rookies on the Dublin team. Ciarán Kilkenny, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey were all replaced – only Mannion was injured – and although Kilkenny had a number of chances he didn’t get on the score board and was replaced by Dean Rock who mightn’t have added to his impressive scoring totals for the summer but was involved and busy.
But Dublin’s fabled bench had a less obvious impact than on the scoreboard. As they arrived and raised the tempo they increasingly tied up Mayo’s half backs – the team’s main source of creativity – and this was seen in the fact that Moran’s goal was the only score from play for the Connacht champions.
The end game was tense and fractious. Proponents of the “beautiful game” for much of the year, Dublin showed themselves as willing as anyone else to commit calculated fouls to forestall attacks and slow the game.
They were however, deserving winners and Mayo found themselves reliving the familiar nightmare of continuing to run the clock on what will in 2014 be a 63-year gap since their last All-Ireland, now extending to a quarter of a century of seven fruitless finals.
DUBLIN: 1. S Cluxton (0-2, 45 and free); 2. P McMahon, 3. R O’Carroll, 4. J Cooper; 5. J McCarthy, 6. G Brennan (0-1), 7. J McCaffrey; 9. C O’Sullivan (0-1), 8. MD Macauley; 10. P Flynn (0-1), 14. P Andrews (0-1), 12. D Connolly (0-1); 13. P Mannion, 11. C Kilkenny, 15. B Brogan (2-3, 0- 1 from free).
Subs: 25. E O’Gara (0-2) for Mannion (16 mins), 20. D Daly for McCaffrey (half-time), 26. D Rock for Kilkenny (42 mins), 22. K McManamon for Andrews (49 mins), 17. D Bastick for Cooper (53 mins).
MAYO: 1. R Hennelly; 3. G Cafferkey, 2. T Cunniffe, 4. C Barrett; 5. L Keegan (0-2), 7. C Boyle, 6. D Vaughan; 9. S O’Shea (0-1), 8. A O’Shea; 10. K McLoughlin, 11. K Higgins (0-1), 12. A Dillon; 13. C O’Connor (0-8, all frees), 14. A Freeman, 15. A Moran (capt; 1-2).
Subs: 24. M Conroy for Freeman (27 mins), 22. C Carolan for Cunniffe (half-time), 25. E Varley for Dillon (56 mins), 20. B Moran for S O’Shea (60 mins), 26. J Doherty for A Moran (68 mins).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).
Yellow cards: O’Gara (48 mins), O’Carroll (61 mins), Daly (65 mins), McManamon (69 mins), Brennan (71 mins). Â Mayo: Keegan (22 mins), Boyle (68 mins).
Red cards: None