Never say die Mayo come back from dead against Dublin

Connacht champions rescue draw in All-Ireland semi-final with glorious last stand

City and country will meet again next Saturday in Croke Park. Shades of 1985 as Dublin and Mayo clattered into one another in an absorbing and bruising All-Ireland semi-final which reached a breathless crescendo.

Not for the first time in recent years Mayo footballers showed they have no idea of how to accept they are beaten. They rescued this one with all the madness in their souls. It finished level – Dublin’s 2-12 to Mayo’s 1-15 – and safe to say ticket sales will be brisk for next weekend’s late matinee.

The last 10 minutes of this full house semi-final were an exercise in the kind of glorious last stands which have become the Mayo football trademark.

Just when everyone in the stadium believed the match was winding down – the Dubs seven points ahead with nine minutes to go and starting to have some fun – Mayo came roaring back.

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Supporters in the upper house of Croke Park looked down to see men felled with cramps and fatigue, gasping for oxygen and water. And that was just in the ard comhairle. What was happening out on the football field was on an entirely different plane.

Red card

Referee Joe McQuillan was at times like a zookeeper who arrived at work to find all the cages open. He flashed nine cards, with Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly shaking his head after earning a 74th minute red card, which, as it stands, will see him miss the replay. So many people were focused on the impromptu wrestling match between Connolly and Lee Keegan that they missed the play leading to a late free with which Dublin could have won it. Stephen Cluxton, Dublin’s ice-cool goalkeeper, demonstrated a rare concession to mortal nerves, sending the kick wide at the Hill end.

The emotions of the blue fans were shredded at this stage as they had watched Dublin’s handsome lead evaporate through a blazing 1-4 from Mayo in the last 10 minutes.

They will meet again on the eve of the All-Ireland hurling final: the hurling purists will be aghast at the idea of the green sward being subjected to a football stampede. Croke Park will be busy. The All-Ireland summer has arrived at last.

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is a features writer with The Irish Times