Wasteful Mayo fail to get through blue wall

 

Dublin 1-9 Mayo 1-8:WHETHER DUBLIN paid a visit to the shrine in Knock on their weekend tour of Mayo is unclear, but as Pat Gilroy reflected on the metropolitans’ first win in the county since 1992, he attributed much of it to higher powers. “Blessed to get out with a win,” he said, standing in a Baltic breeze.

And it was true that Dublin won a tough, scrappy match that was characterised by flabbergasting Mayo wastage. John O’Mahony will rummage through the details of 18 wides to find the clues as to why Mayo relinquished their perfect league record.

But afterwards, in a sunny if viciously cold McHale Park, he was more concerned by the broken elbow that forced Peader Gardiner off after just five minutes and could leave the Crossmolina man out for up to three months.

“That is just registering on the Richter scale for us now,” he said. “Look it. We had 70 per cent of the possession, but we just didn’t take the chances.

“But we have been putting over some good scores this year and, the way that Dublin play, you will get chances in certain situations, but we took some wrong options. We will have to show a sharper eye against Derry next week.”

Dublin, though, could not have been any more economical. They hit just three wides, with the lone second-half transgression coming from the boot of Conal Keaney.

That was Keaney’s one mistake.

The full forward made a storming impact when he came into this game, joining Bernard Brogan off the bench to form the attacking axis. He set Brogan up for Dublin’s 52nd-minute goal by winning a high ball and flicking a quick pass to Brogan, who was smart out of the traps and slid a cool shot beneath David Clark.

Keaney tackled hungrily, earned himself a booking and kicked a fine point on 62 minutes to give Dublin a 1-9 to 1-6 lead and control of the game.

By this stage, Mayo faced the problems of playing into a stiff breeze and a packed Dublin defence, as well as coping with an off-day for their scoring men.

They seemed determined, too, to prove they could run the ball through the wall of sky-blue defenders that formed and reformed as Mayo tried to push through with decreasing rates of success. Gilroy acknowledged Dublin are bringing a lot of players behind the ball, but claimed it is happening by accident rather than design.

But although he was mildly happy with the win, he expressed concern about their lack of authority in midfield and at the volume of chances Mayo created.

Still, there were further signs of the development of Dublin. Michael Fitzsimons had a sticky afternoon on Aidan O’Shea, marking the big Breaffy man tightly and repeatedly knocking the ball out of his hands.

Paul Flynn had an impressive match, and it was notable that all of the Dublin scores were created from play, with Eamon Fennell’s solo burst from midfield the pick of the first half and McConnell landing a couple of peaches in the second.

The Dublin full-back line was organised and honest, their lone mistake being their over-judicious attention to O’Shea who broke down a ball from Aidan Higgins which Enda Varley took on the run to hit a fine, 50th-minute goal.

That gave Mayo a 1-5 to 0-5 lead and, given their form of late, they might have been expected to push on.

Keith Higgins was terrific once again, so it was ironic his 51st-minute mistake, when he was mugged by the Dublin forwards after trying to do too much with the ball, led to an important Dublin point.

Elsewhere, Andy Moran and Donal Vaughan were busy as ever and Séamus O’Shea got through an amount of work. But, as a team, Mayo could not find their game.

This win leaves Dublin in a healthy situation and Gilroy will doubtlessly continue his series of auditions as the clock ticks on towards the championship.

Five of the six starting forwards scored from play, and David Henry can hardly be blamed for not completing the flush as he was too busy helping out his defensive colleagues. It was as well that Dublin’s finishing was so ruthless given the paucity of their attacks.

They are a physically powerful team and by the end of the match the Mayo men were almost out of ideas as to how to get past the sky-blue wall.

Mayo’s plans were disrupted by the early departures of Gardiner and McGarrity, also injured in the opening exchanges. The return of one of the oldest Mayo blights, poor shooting, was the other talking point for green and red fans. They registered 10 wides in the first half which varied from missed frees to wild shot-selection.

Alan Freeman was unlucky with two of the frees he missed in the first half.

They kept pressing until the last, with Andy Moran driving a 20-yard free towards the goal with the last kick of the match. But what would have been a famous winner was flicked over by a Dublin hand, and so the Dubs took the rocky road justifiably pleased with an honest afternoon’s work.

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; P Conlon, M Fitzsimons, P McMahon; P Casey, C O’Sullivan, G Brennan; E Fennell (0-1), R McConnell (0-2); A Hubbard (0-1), P Flynn (0-1), K Bonner (0-1); D Henry, M McAuley (0-1), K McManamon (0-1). Subs: K Nolan for Conlon (35 mins inj), B Brogan (1-0) for McManamon (47 mins), D McGee for Fennell (50 mins), C Keaney (0-1) for Henry (50 mins), B McManamon for Hubbard (57 mins).

MAYO: D Clarke; D Vaughan, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; P Gardiner, T Howley, K McLoughlin; T Parsons, R McGarrity; A Moran (0-2, 1f), S O’Shea (0-1), T Mortimer; E Varley (1-3, 3f), A O’Shea, A Freeman (0-2, 2f). Subs: C Barrett for Gardiner (7 mins inj), N Douglas for McGarrity (20 mins inj), B Kelly for Mortimer (60 mins), C Mortimer for Freeman (64), M Sweeney for A O’Shea (68).

Referee: P Fox (Westmeath).