Dublin may lose Stephen Cluxton for key Tyrone clash
Dublin goalkeeper sent off after 28 minutes of Mayo clash after kicking Kevin McLoughlin
Referee Cormac Reilly shows a straight red card to Dublin captain and goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton at Croke Park. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Summertime begins – and if or when these teams meet again before the season ends then I predict a riot. They smashed each other with football at Croke Park on Saturday night, and all that was missing in the end was the tear gas and Molotov cocktails.
There were some heavy casualties, too, especially for Dublin. Goalkeeper and captain Stephen Cluxton is facing at least a one-match ban for his infantile kick on Mayo’s man-of-the-match Kevin McLoughlin, resulting in a straight red card after 28 minutes. And forward Paul Flynn was later taken to hospital after sustaining a suspected concussion.
Mayo’s wounds are purely psychological, after witnessing their apparently comfortable winning margin disappear in the closing minutes, as Dublin substitute Eoghan O’Gara fired two stunning goals into the Hill 16 end. No one in the crowd of 22,697 saw that finish coming – but Mayo will rue leaving a player like O’Gara unmarked at closing time.
Dublin very nearly stole the game completely, only for Jack McCaffrey’s effort at the death to drift wide. Anyway, while heavyweight rematches rarely live up to the hype, this was a brilliant exception.
Dublin manager Jim Gavin could hardly contain his delight afterwards but didn’t condone the clear breach of discipline from his captain.
“Stephen tripped him, and we can’t have any complaints about that,” mused Gavin. “We all make mistakes in life, and the most important thing is to learn from them, grow from them . . . . ”
If Cluxton is cited for a category three infraction (to kick or attempt to kick an opponent with minimal force) he's facing a minimum one-match ban. But if cited for a category four offence (to kick an opponent either with force or causing injury) the punishment is at least two matches.
Replacement goalkeeper Sean Currie had the proverbial nightmare, even Gavin admitting he had “one or two areas to improve”, but everything else about Dublin’s performance satisfied him: “We’re trying to create great opportunities in games, to be down for 14 men, for large portions of the game, and still create those opportunities, from a coaching perspective, is very, very satisfying. They’ve great commitment, and resolve, never to quit. That was in them last year and they certainly haven’t lost it.”
Alan Brogan, Kevin McManaman and later Diarmuid Connolly did a fine job over the 70 minutes, with McManaman’s typically daring goal on 56 minutes ultimately bringing Dublin back into a game.
Mayo manager James Horan was critical of the performance of match referee Cormac Reilly. Jason Doherty did have a goal disallowed on 60 minutes, but replays showed he picked the ball off the ground, and while Colm Boyle was black carded on 21 minutes, his foul on Alan Brogan was clear.
But Horan agreed Mayo should have closed out the game. “To concede three goals, and we were very poor in the way we conceded them, is disappointing. We tried to drive it on, as best we could, from midfield on, but probably dropped back at bit.”
McLoughlin hit 1-3, his first half goal building the advantage that on most other occasions might have seen Mayo hold out. Cillian O’Connor’s calm free-taking also kept Mayo in front for much of the second half, and substitute Mickey Sweeney made no mistake with his chance on 64 minutes, from close range, thanks to a pass from McLoughlin, who robbed Rory O’Carroll.
Even without O’Gara’s ferocious finish Dublin would still have been satisfied enough, Cormac Costello (who started in place O’Gara) showing up for plenty of early ball, scoring three points from play.
Mayo will also be satisfied by the performance of O’Loughlin in particular, his goal on 24 minutes coming off a half broken-down ball between Rory O’Carroll and Alan Freeman, with O’Loughlin sweetly finishing, low and left past Cluxton. It would have been the goal of the match had O’Gara not intervened at the end to ensure Dublin keep their unbeaten run over Mayo from last year into 2014. At least for now.