Dublin bench is springboard for third-quarter dismantling of Mayo

McMahon adds to excellent defensive display on Aidan O’Shea by scoring 1-2

Dublin 3-15

Mayo 1-14

Gathering dust in future record books, this All-Ireland semi-final might look predictable: Mayo again coming up short and Dublin finding exhilarating responses.

Yet the statistics won’t convey the watershed moments in which Mayo, with gathering momentum, could have driven on to win or a fast-deflating Dublin could have slumped to defeat.


One of the hardest things for any team is to resist momentum. Dublin manager Jim Gavin knows all about pulling out of tailspins in his aviation career but on the field over the past nine days he has seen his team in serious trouble.

On Saturday evening Dublin somehow managed to resist the pull of gravity and soar clear in a final quarter that saw a number of the team’s strengths re-stated in convincing terms.

Two goals in little over 60 seconds – one scored and the other created by Bernard Brogan – turned the match on its head by the 57th minute, and by the end Dublin had bounced back from a four-point deficit in the 54th minute to out-score Mayo 3-5 to 0-2 in the final quarter.

It has been a while since there has been opportunity to sit back and admire the power of Dublin’s bench, coming into clutch situations and enabling the team to go up the gears.

Big impact

On Saturday all of the replacements brought in around the three-quarter mark made a big impact.

Michael Fitzsimons’s artful tackling comes without the reckless aggression that sometimes compromises Dublin defenders and his contribution was very effective.

Michael Darragh Macauley gave as good a display in a big match as has been seen since his Footballer of the Year performances of 2013.

And Kevin McManamon’s Midas touch was again in evidence with a third goal off the bench in his last five big All-Ireland matches. His relieving 60th-minute run down the Cusack Stand side of the ground showed another aspect of the value of his work and dynamism.

Alan Brogan was energetic and involved in the build-up to the vital first goal after coming in for Paul Flynn, worryingly out of sorts for someone who gave an encouragingly familiar championship display in the drawn match.

This was a super occasion. Mellow autumn sunshine gave the ground traditional championship illumination after a summer of depressingly poor weather.

There was a vibrancy to the packed stadium after the late-night intrigue that had freed Diarmuid Connolly to play. In the end he wore 18 and started.

As the teams were read out Connolly's name provoked pantomime booing from Mayo supporters. Dublin fans reciprocated when Cillian O'Connor and Lee Keegan, both at the scene of Connolly's red card, were announced.

The Dublin player was very quiet, however, just as Keegan had been 12 months ago when cleared of a red-card suspension also in highly controversial circumstances before the 2014 replay against Kerry.

Rory O’Carroll, his fitness suspect after having to miss virtually the entire match the previous week, added to the melodrama by only appearing as the 14 Dublin players marched past the Hogan Stand tunnel.

Surprisingly after all the tactical analysis of the first match, the opening half did not differ much from the previous week. Mayo were cautious on the Dublin kickout, opting perhaps surprisingly not to pressurise Stephen Cluxton after his traumatic final 10 minutes in the drawn match.

Mayo’s big idea of the summer – the deployment of Aidan O’Shea at full forward – didn’t enjoy much more success than it had the first day out. In fact Philip McMahon, who again marked him, was on the short list for Man of the Match after an excellent defensive display complemented by a staggering total for a inside defender of 1-2.

It might have been 2-1 had a goal chance been converted in the first half after Bernard Brogan took the lid off the Mayo defence, placing McMahon clear in behind the cover in what was a premonition of the Connacht champions’ vulnerability to goals.

The first half was livelier and more entertaining than in the drawn match. Paddy Andrews took the scoring honours for Dublin, kicking three beautiful points from play and giving Keith Higgins a collector's item of a roasting. For Mayo Diarmuid O'Connor compiled the same score and made his presence forcefully felt.

Yellow card

His brother Cillian was also in the zone, getting a yellow card for clattering into Cluxton as early as the 12th minute, a couple of minutes after coolly finishing a spell of sustained possession by Mayo.

The sides were level seven times in the first half, but McMahon’s was the only real goal chance.

The period of the match that will haunt Mayo most is the third-quarter when they appeared to have established control. Dublin managed only one point, a free from Dean Rock, as their opponents chalked up 1-2.

Cillian O'Connor got the goal after Andy Moran, in another buzzing cameo off the bench, ran at the defence, and O'Connor showed great close control to jink through, throw a dummy and kick to the net as he fell. It was a perfect antidote to the worry of losing Séamus O'Shea to a black card for roughing up Jonny Cooper off the ball in retaliation for a push.

Mayo did not dominate centrefield as thoroughly as in the first match and O’Shea’s departure did not help.

Dublin's goal followed an incomplete kickout by Hennelly, which was snapped up and run in on goal by Brian Fenton. His shot was a bit wild but Bernard Brogan was – as ever – well positioned on the edge of the square to redirect the ball into the net.

Brogan now went to work in polishing off Mayo, squirming past Cafferkey to tee up the incoming McMahon for the second goal and a 2-12 to 1-12 lead.

The match wasn’t gone from Mayo, but the force had swung dramatically behind Dublin.

Ruthless dispatch

The grace note came in the 66th minute when the exceptional Fenton took the ball and precisely released McManamon who did what he does, crashing the ball into the net to complete the ruthless dispatch.

Mayo? Five successive years of tangling with the game’s elite has left them with a heartbreaking catalogue of two lost finals and three semi-finals, two of which were positioned on sufficient of a knife-edge to require replays.

What has emerged is a team of phenomenal desire but whose determining characteristic has become a manic refusal to go down easily, undermined by an almost equally stubborn disinclination to dispatch wounded opponents.

They have played four semi-finals in the past 12 months. In all of them they have held the score-board initiative at advanced periods of the match but not one of them have been clinically concluded.

At the end Aidan O’Shea took time to shake hands with as many Dublin players as he could locate. It was a touch of class from someone who must have been heartbroken.

Some 36 years ago Dublin beat Mayo in a semi-final replay only to lose the final to Kerry.

They get the chance to redress that balance in just under a fortnight.

DUBLIN: 1 S Cluxton, 2 J Cooper, 3 R O'Carroll, 4 P McMahon (1-2); 5 J McCarthy (0-1), 6 C O'Sullivan, 7 J McCaffrey; 8 B Fenton (0-1), 9 D Bastick; 10 P Flynn, 18 D Connolly, 12 C Kilkenny (0-2); 13 D Rock (0-2 frees), 11 P Andrews (0-5), 15 B Brogan (1-1). Subs: 21 M Fitzsimons for J Cooper (44 mins), 23 MD Macauley for D Bastick (46 mins), 14 A Brogan for P Flynn (52 mins), 24 K McManamon (1-1) for D Rock (54 mins), 22 E Lowndes for D Connolly (68 mins), 26 J Small for B Brogan (71 mins)

. MAYO: 1 R Hennelly; 6 C Barrett, 2 C Cafferkey, 4 K Higgins; 3 D Vaughan, 5 L Keegan (0-1), 7 C Boyle; 8 S O'Shea, 9 T Parsons; 10 D O'Connor (0-2), 19 B Moran (0-1), 12 K McLoughlin (0-1), 15 J Doherty; 11 A O'Shea (0-1), 14 C O'Connor (1-6, 5 frees). Subs: 20 P Durcan (0-1) for D Vaughan (33 mins), 21 A Moran (0-1 free) for S O'Shea (38 mins black card), 26 A Freeman for B Moran (55 mins), 13 D Drake for 7 C Boyle (59 mins) 22 S Coen for 9 T Parsons (65 mins), 24 M Ronaldson for 12 K McLoughlin (70 mins). Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times