Own goals, replays and that GPS: A look back at Dublin’s steps towards five in a row

Diarmuid Connolly scores his side’s first goal past goalkeeper David Clarke during the 2016 final replay. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

On Sunday Dublin will take on Kerry with a chance to make history beckoning. A victory for Jim Gavin’s men and they will become the first team ever to win five All-Irelands in a row. It was back in 2015 that the remarkable odyssey began so here we take a trip back down memory lane with some of the best writing from each of Dublin’s triumphs.

2015: Dublin claim 25th All-Ireland as they beat Kerry in festival of errors, by Seán Moran

Dublin’s Rory O’Carroll and Darren Daly celebrate at the final whistle after Dublin’s win over Kerry in 2015. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Dublin’s Rory O’Carroll and Darren Daly celebrate at the final whistle after Dublin’s win over Kerry in 2015. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Dublin 0-12 Kerry 0-9

Croke Park surfed the blue wave, as Dublin celebrated an All-Ireland victory as sweet as it was unsightly. Undermined by the torrential rain, which together with a nervousness that appeared to afflict both teams led to a high error count, it was the lowest scoring in 12 years with few players able to give of their best.

Although Dublin were clearly the better team they didn’t manage to translate that onto the scoreboard and ended up under the additional downpour of dropping ball, as Kerry frantically threw everything at securing the late goal that might have turned the match on its head.

Video review suggests that Rory O’Carroll was lucky not to concede a penalty in the 70th minute when appearing to pull down Kieran Donaghy, as a ball dropped into the Dublin square.

The win was sweet because it was the first time Dublin have beaten Kerry in three successive championship encounters (after 2011 and ‘13) and two successive final contests.

Furthermore Jim Gavin’s team have been living on the edge since losing their 2013 crown to Donegal last year and they went into the final under the shadow of suggestions that they’d lost their nerve and would struggle. They must have been among the most questioned bookies’ favourites going into a final.

In the end the disappointment was far more profound for Kerry, who never performed - as acknowledged by manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Their highly regarded attack never got traction (literally, on the ice-rink surface) and were well contained by Dublin’s defence.

More disastrously - especially on a day when Stephen Cluxton’s kick-out yips intensified - their centrefield of David Moran and Anthony Maher, by consensus the best in the country, malfunctioned and was outplayed by Dublin’s less heralded unit of Denis Bastic, Michael Darragh Macauley and especially newcomer Brian Fenton, whose movement and hard work were invaluable on such an awful afternoon.

Fifteen seconds into his first All-Ireland final he kicked a point and hit the post with a goal attempt in the 47th minute.

In fact although Cluxton had a nightmare with kick-outs - pressurised by Kerry and unable to take his customary quick re-starts - Dublin’s statistics were better than Kerry’s with just seven out of 19 lost compared with 10 from 24.

This was an impressively gritty performance from Dublin because they must have known as the chances went a-begging in the second half - 10 wides - that they were leaving themselves very vulnerable going into the last 10 minutes but they continually pressed, undaunted by the growing apprehension beginning to grip the blue hordes.

They worked hard though. Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Flynn and Ciarán Kilkenny were well on top of the Kerry half backs and maintained the pressure regardless of the setbacks.

Their composure shone through in the two last points, stretching the lead to three and four points. The first saw Paul Flynn, industrious and reliable after a difficult season, start and finish the move with a great ball to Fenton and super support work to complete the 1-2 and score.

The second represented a four-point turnaround.

Kieran Donaghy had been introduced in the 50th minute and the dropped Kerry captain caused difficulty for Dublin even if his presence as usual appeared to encourage Kerry to treat him as a new Plan A rather than an optional Plan B.

Aside from the penalty claim, Donaghy set up Killian Young, breaking from the back, for a one-on-one goal chance in the 67th minute but the wing back slipped and lost the ball. James Mccarthy intervened to clear and within seconds Alan Brogan, just in as a replacement, was advancing down the left wing weighing up options left and right like a quarter-back.

Having held on in the face of a retreating defence he decided to go for the point himself and flighted over a vital score - a four-point turnaround in less than a minute.

Dublin’s defence was the bulwark of the victory. The spine of O’Carroll and Cian O’Sullivan, who overcame his hamstring injury, was secure although Paul Geaney started well and kicked two from play in the first 26 minutes. O’Carroll though commanded his square well.

O’Sullivan organised the backs with the usual authority although Kerry didn’t test his mobility until bringing on Darran O’Sullivan in the second half, which prompted a switch with Jack McCaffrey.

James O’Donoghue kicked three points but was fading when replaced in the 61st minute although with the team needing a goal, his presence might have been useful particularly as Colm Cooper was struggling.

Philip McMahon marked Cooper so comprehensively that he actually out-scored his much decorated opponent with a first-half point.

James McCarthy, Rory O’Carroll and Philly McMahon tackle Kieran Donaghy during the 2015 final. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
James McCarthy, Rory O’Carroll and Philly McMahon tackle Kieran Donaghy during the 2015 final. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

That was the last score before the break and concluded the most significant scoring sequence in the match, as the winners went from 0-4 each to an interval lead of 0-8 to 0-4: other scores from Bernard Brogan, snapping up a loose ball and firing over, Jack McCaffrey starting and finishing a move from his own defence and Paddy Andrews, again the most threatening of the full forwards, finishing a fine move by Bastic and Dean Rock with a run past Fionn Fitzgerald and point.

If they nearly won it in the second quarter, they nearly lost it in the third. The best goal chances came when Andrews caught, turned and fired just inches outside the post and then Fenton.

Kevin McManamon was on at the interval and ran hard at Kerry albeit without the usual return.

But the pressure told in the end, as history beckoned and Dublin followed.

DUBLIN: 1. Stephen Cluxton (0-1, free); 2. Jonny Cooper, 3. Rory O’Carroll, 4. Philly McMahon (0-1); 5. James McCarthy, 6. Cian O’Sullivan, 7. Jack McCaffrey (0-1); 8. Brian Fenton (0-1), 9. Denis Bastick; 10. Paul Flynn (0-2), 11. Diarmuid Connolly, 12. Ciarán Kilkenny; 15. Bernard Brogan (0-2, one free), 14. Dean Rock (0-2, both frees), 13. Paddy Andrews (0-1).

Subs: 25. Kevin McManamon for Rock (half-time), 24. Michael Darragh Macauley for Bastick (40 mins), 22. Michael Fitzsimons for Cooper (49 mins), 26. John Small for McCaffrey (53 mins), 21. Darren Daly for O’Sullivan (61 mins), 18.Alan Brogan (0-1) for Fenton (67 mins).

KERRY: 1. Brendan Kealy; 2. Fionn Fitzgerald, 3. Aidan O’Mahony, 4. Shane Enright; 5. Jonathan Lyne (0-1), 6. Peter Crowley, 7. Killian Young; 8. Anthony Maher, 9. David Moran; 12. Donnchadh Walsh, 11. Johnny Buckley, 10. Stephen O’Brien; 13. Colm Cooper, 14. Paul Geaney (0-2), 15. James O’Donoghue (0-3).

Subs: 22. Darran O’Sullivan (0-2) for O’Brien (half-time), 20. Bryan Sheehan (0-1, free) for Buckley (44 mins), 17. K Donaghy for Geaney (50 mins), 23. Paul Galvin for Moran (57 mins), 19. Paul Murphy for O’Mahony (black card, 59 mins), 21. Barry John Keane for O’Donoghue (61 mins).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).

2016: Dublin and Mayo to do it again after tense All-Ireland Final draw, by Gavin Cummiskey

Kevin McLoughlin of Mayo scores an own goal during the 2016 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final between Mayo and Dublin at Croke Park. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Kevin McLoughlin of Mayo scores an own goal during the 2016 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final between Mayo and Dublin at Croke Park. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Dublin 2-09 Mayo 0-15

Awful spectacle devoid of the usual misery or joy, for anyone, as Dublin and Mayo must renew this bitter rivalry on Saturday week, October 1st.

Nobody deserved to win it but Cillian O’Connor ensured Mayo would not lose it.

The weather hardly helped but the familiarity of these two rivals ruined any chance of a proper game of football.

It was compelling but oddities prevailed over this affair. Let us present some evidence: It took Dublin 29 minutes, via a heretofore malfunctioning Dean Rock, to kick a point. His 93 percent scoring return is well gone. By then Mayo had kicked two goals, both just happened to be into their own nets.

Also by then James McCarthy’s race was run, black carded for an off the ball yet lightweight bash into Cillian O’Connor. Paddy Andrews arrived to settle drenched Hill nerves (plenty of Mayo heads up there, having arrived early and held their ground) with two pretty points.

Technically, Rock left the field at half-time with 1-2 as Dublin presented at 2-4 to 0-5 lead but the real statistic from Barney’s son was 0-2 converted efforts from six looks at the posts.

Odd barely covers it.

They talk about a Foxford curse. Misty rain presented Mayo with a genuine chance to unlock Dublin’s airtight defence, where Cian O’Sullivan was again magnificent. Aidan O’Shea had nothing but slippery paws whereas O’Sullivan must have dipped his fingers in glue before throw-in.

Scores came from unlooked places – Tom Parsons early on, Donal Vaughan raiding forward, Jason Doherty hitting a beauty.

But the goals will haunt them if they lose the replay. As Dublin poured forward on nine minutes Lee Keegan dragged Diarmuid Connolly to earth in similar fashion to what we saw during last year’s semi-final.

The officials missed it (they were both booked later but largely cancelled each other out) as play rolled towards the Mayo square.

Bernard Brogan, nothing like his usual self, scuffed at it but the ball still needed Kevin McLoughlin’s help to raise a green flag. The second was equally calamitous; Connolly’s laser-quick free found Rock, who fumbled in the wet, only for Colm Boyle to accidentally finish into the Canal End goal.

Then, and only then, this final settled into a normal looking football match. The arrival of Andrews helped. John Small got on a heap of ball.

Mayo kept pace. When they returned after the break only victory consummed their minds. Five points were gathered as Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran came to life. Dublin, eventually, responded with point from Brian Fenton and Rock.

Suddenly, Moran had a sight of goal. He hit it pure but it flew over the bar.

One point game, 15 minutes to play, Dublin in sight of retaining Sam for the first time since 1977.

Turnovers ruled the contest, big tackles too, as powerful men skirted the line between possession and fouling. Heavy contact saw Kevin McManamon, Aidan O’Shea, Michael Darragh MacAuley and Boyle see yellow.

All in the game.

As energy reserves decreased the younger generation took hold. Fenton and Kilkenny seemed to be everywhere. Mayo warriors like Keith Higgins and Vaughan refused to grant them space to conjure a score.

Seven minutes to go and David Byrne lost possession to Kevin McLoughlin. Seconds later Alan Dillon was levelling matters up.

Diarmuid Connolly misses with a late free during the 2016 final against Mayo. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Diarmuid Connolly misses with a late free during the 2016 final against Mayo. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

The 82,257 crowd were gripped by tension, groaning with each new error.

Turns out Small had a point in him after all that heavy lifting.

Dublin by one and hanging on.

Dean Rock rediscovered his mojo. Dublin by two. Connolly grabbed the kick out. Dublin by three.

And like that, Mayo’s agony seemed all that remained.

Unless the officials go and do something crazy, like announcing seven minutes of injury time, Dublin would be free.

During the seven minutes of injury time, O’Connor made it a one point game once again.

The lack of composure all over the field was astonishing.

Dublin opted to strangle the clock rather than Mayo. Kilkenny owned the ball for much of it, but seven minutes is an awfully long time to have to kill. Especially when O’Connor only needed one look at the posts.

When he got it, he delivered.

A draw so, numbness prevailed. No winner.

DUBLIN: S Cluxton, P McMahon, J Copper, D Byrne, J McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, J Small (0-01), B Fenton (0-01) MD MacAuley, P Flynn, K McManamon, C Kilkenny, D Rock (0-05, 4f), D Connolly (0-01), Bernard Brogan.

Subs: P Andrews (0-02) for McCarthy (BC 24), P Mannion for McManamon (46), M Fitzsimons for Macauley, E O’Gara for Brogan (61), D Daly for Byrne (66), D Bastick for Flynn

MAYO: D Clarke, B Harrison, D Vaughan (0-02), K Higgins, L Keegan, C Boyle, P Durcan (0-01), S O’Shea, T Parsons (0-01), K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, D O’Connor, J Doherty (0-01), A Moran (0-02), C O’Connor (0-07, 5f)

Subs: A Dillon (0-01) for S O’Shea (55), C Barrett for Boyle (58), B Moran for Dillon (66), S Coen for D O’Connor (66), E Regan for A Moran (71), C Loftus for Regan (78).

Referee: C Lane (Cork).

2016 replay: Dublin retain All-Ireland title after epic struggle with Mayo, by Gavin Cummiskey

Diarmuid Connolly scores his side’s first goal past goalkeeper David Clarke during the 2016 final replay. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Diarmuid Connolly scores his side’s first goal past goalkeeper David Clarke during the 2016 final replay. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Dublin 1-15 Mayo 1-14

What a cruel and wonderful GAA world we live in. Dublin have retained the All-Ireland. The first county to keep Sam Maguire since Kerry in 2007.

There’s so much more: this modern dynasty have now surpassed the great side Kevin Heffernan offered to Hill 16 in the 1970s.

These Dublin boys have four All-Irelands since 2011. Heffo’s unsmiling men only won three.

Sons passing out their fathers. As it should be.

“This is what football is all about,” said Philly McMahon. “Two teams bringing the best out of each other.”

It is football but this was a war.

And another All-Ireland final to haunt Mayo people. The decision by manager Stephen Rochford to drop his No 1 David Clarke from draw to replay back-fired spectacularly.

But first: black cards exist.

Come to the 36th minute with us: Diarmuid Connolly is apoplectic.

Screaming at Maurice Deegan. “A card! A ******* card!” Connolly is roaring and gesturing, inches from the referee’s beak. The Stradbally man seemed genuinely frightened. Of course he was nothing of the sort.

Scroll down for more Connolly.

Presumably Deegan has had nightmares about All-Ireland final replays descending into open warfare like this did in a 44 minute first half.

Chaos was only marginally replaced by a marvellous sporting spectacle.

The stadium shook.

Anyway, Deegan was not afraid to brandish his notebook. Jonny Cooper – with 19 minutes clocked and well on his way to being man of the match – walked for grabbing Donal Vaughan’s ankle.

Dublin under Jim Gavin don’t mess about. David Byrne instantly raced into the fray to ensure Cillian O’Connor didn’t have a blade of grass to himself. Rapid thinking from the Gavin machine.

Poor Lee Keegan. A while before his black card, Keegan took an awful belt from his old pal Connolly that Tyrone linesman Sean Hurson could not have missed. Hurson also saw John Small haul down Andy Moran. We know because he told Deegan about it.

Maybe the referee wanted to see his black cards for himself.

Keegan walked after 35 minutes when another dodgy Hennelly kick out (scroll down for more Hennelly) that Dean Rock, the unerring Dean Rock, broke for the onrushing Connolly.

Keegan dragged him down. Diarmuid went apoplectic as their engrossing mano-a-mano came to a premature conclusion.

Rock brought his tally to 0-8 with his sixth free. Barney’s son was himself again. Almost flawless, finished out with 0-9. Gave Keith Higgins an awful time. Especially after his two scores from play.

The animosity born of familiarity reached a new low here.

But all 82,249 of us loved it.

Denis Bastick sons Aidan in the Sam Maguire after Dublin beat Mayo in the 2016 final replay. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Denis Bastick sons Aidan in the Sam Maguire after Dublin beat Mayo in the 2016 final replay. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

We should tell you about the game itself, the reel of scores and eventually Deegan’s spray of three yellow cards just before they disappeared under the Hogan stand.

There was even a preamble littered with rumours. Some true, some not.

Bernard Brogan had been dropped for Paddy Andrews while Paul Flynn moved to midfield instead of Michael Darragh MacAuley as Paul Mannion also started. Byrne made way for Michael Fitzsimons, who was superb at corner back and was named man of the match.

All six of them eventually ran about this vast green field.

Most surprising of all was Hennelly in the Mayo goal as Clarke was dropped. Dublin hammered Mayo for his inaccurate kick-outs.

They also started like the juggernaut they are. Rock had 0-3, ignoring a goal opportunity, before Mayo could draw breath while Kevin McManamon dismissed his form from the last day with a typically efficient score.

Mayo were being overrun. Of course they know not how to die. They responded with 0-4 of their own. Cillian O’Connor refused to blink from frees, until he did when it mattered most (scroll down), while Andy Moran turned Cian O’Sullivan inside then out to kick a gorgeous point.

Dublin eased clear again – Rock, always Rock – until Keegan told Connolly he’d be back in a second. The wing back suddenly appeared on Aidan O’Shea’s shoulder, after the otherwise anonymous Breaffy giant got in front of O’Sullivan, to slide a lovely shot into Stephen Cluxton’s right corner.

0-8 to 1-5. All square and pandemonium was promised. You could see it brimming all over the place.

Rock made it 0-10 to 1-5 after Keegan exited the stage. O’Connor kept Mayo apace to leave one between them at the break.

Then Connolly met Donal Vaughan. Connolly clipped him, Vaughan turned and took a run at Connolly. It was like a lorry smashing into a wall. Vaughan didn’t reappear for the second half.

Deegan had his head turned as another mill broke out 50 metres away when Small body slammed himself onto O’Connor.

Deegan talked to his officials before flashing three yellows. Wise decision. The officials needed the break as much as the players.

What a game.

Mayo came back for the second half possessed with the zeal of champions. Diarmuid followed his brother Cillian onto the score sheet.

Rock responded.

Then Flynn lobbed a ball towards Andrews that any intercounty goalkeeper worth his jersey should handle without fuss.

Hennelly dropped it. Not finished yet, Hennelly pulled down Andrews.

Penalty. Black card number three. In came David Clarke but Connolly’s penalty was perfect. Same spot Keegan put his goal.

Dublin by three now.

Of course O’Connor responded for Mayo.

The tension was unbearable. Brogan arrived.

McManamon hared up field and looked certain to deliver one of his Croke Park specials until Brendan Harrison picked his pocket.

Mayo refused to go quietly. Never. After a scoreless nine minutes Kevin McLoughlin pointed. Then Patrick Durcan hit one from the gods.

But Brogan gave Dublin a two-point lead with 54 minutes played.

The champions have ammunition the likes of which Gaelic football has never seen. Cormac Costello came in from the cold to land two quick points.

Dublin by three. 10 minutes to play.

Ball after ball was dropped into Aidan O’Shea but each time he was hounded by blue clad men and disposed.

Mayo had to rely on O’Connor frees as Dublin kept closing the door in their face.

He made it a two-point game as they turned into the home straight.

Through it all Gavin sat serenely in his control chair, occasionally talking into his microphone or Mick Deegan’s ear as the selector raced about with orders.

It was militaristic.

Flynn gave O’Connor his easiest chance of all when jumping into a throw-up.

66th minute: Dublin 1-14 Mayo 1-13. Strap in.

All Mayo now. Conor O’Shea, the youngest of the three brothers all out there together, took aim but the ball only found Cluxton’s gloves.

Watching through fingers now, Fitzsimons made a block he knew nothing about to deny McLoughlin.

Dublin kept playing the Dublin way. Byrne put a foot pass across his own defence neatly onto Brian Fenton’s chest.

Just as six minutes of injury time was announced, Costello lashed over his third point despite a Mayo man hanging from him.

Calling Mayo chokers feels wrong. But we saw it again. O’Connor brought it back to the minimum before fate, yet again, the ’51 curse, whatever you like, came back at them.

Costello fouled Patrick Durcan from behind. Free from wide on the left, about 40 metres out.

O’Connor stepped up. No good.

Dublin survive a thriller as Mayo return to dark rooms in their house of pain.

“This is for everybody,” said Connolly. “Ah, just put it in the corner and walk away. We weren’t going to defend the All-Ireland we were going to attack it and win it.”

This they did.

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, P McMahon, J Cooper; J McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, J Small; B Fenton, P Flynn; C Kilkenny, K McManamon (0-1), D Connolly (1-1); P Mannion, D Rock (0-9, seven frees), P Andrews.

Subs: D Byrne for Cooper (21, black card), B Brogan (0-1) for Andrews (47), MD Macauley for Mannion (52), C Costello (0-3) for McManamon (56), E Lowndes for Small (60), D Daly for O’Sullivan (72).

MAYO: R Hennelly, P Durcan (0-2), K Higgins, B Harrison; L Keegan (1-0), C Boyle, D Vaughan; S O’Shea, T Parsons; D O’Connor (0-1), K McLoughlin (0-1), J Doherty; A Moran (0-1), A O’Shea, C O’Connor (0-9 all frees).

Subs: S Coen for Keegan (35+1, black card), B Moran for Parsons (35+8 - h/t, blood), C O’Shea for Vaughan (h/t), D Clarke for Hennelly (41, black card), B Moran for A Moran (55), A Dillon for Doherty (60), C Barrett for Boyle (71).

Referee: M Deegan (Laois).

2017: Dean Rock’s late point leaves Mayo in the hardest place of all yet again, by Malachy Clerkin

Fans react after Dean Rock scored the winning free kick in the 2017 final against Mayo. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Fans react after Dean Rock scored the winning free kick in the 2017 final against Mayo. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Dublin 1-17 Mayo 1-16

It came down, as it almost always does between Dublin and Mayo, to one kick. Dean Rock, 40 metres out from the Davin goal on an angle, and all the chips in the middle of the table. By the fans’ reaction behind the goal shall ye know the story. Dublin champions for the third year running, Mayo on their knees, desolate once again.

An All-Ireland final that flipped and flopped like a freshly-caught fish again found this pair with nothing between them. The game had everything – a goal apiece, an incredible save apiece, a red card apiece, scores chiselled from rock on both sides. In the end, Dublin took one more chance than Mayo did. It’s a killer for the men from the west but there it is.

We know what these games are by now. We takes various truths to be self-evident when Mayo and Dublin meet.

Edgy? Check. The tension in Croke Park was thick as treacle before throw-in and nothing happened to dilute it as we went on.

Physical? Check. Joe McQuillan had five yellow cards dished out even before half-time.

Close? Checkety-check. They were level 11 times and the early goal from Con O’Callaghan was the one time in the game either side were more than two points ahead.

That goal, a thrilling run that skinned Colm Boyle setting up a deftly-flicked finish past David Clarke in only the second minute, was O’Callaghan’s answer to everyone who warned that for all his brilliance this summer, he hadn’t come up against anything like the Mayo defence yet. The rest of the first half was Mayo’s answer in turn.

It was, in effect, almost a carbon copy of the first half of last year’s drawn final. That one aberration apart, Mayo were comfortably the better side all the way to half-time. They didn’t panic, they didn’t fold, not that anyone who has watched them over the past few years could have imagined they would. Instead, they scored the next three points to draw level and held Dublin scoreless for the rest of the opening quarter-hour.

Above all, they minced the Dublin midfield. Aidan O’Shea was a constant menace around the middle third, catching some kick-outs, breaking others, finding runners. Stephen Cluxton couldn’t get a long kick-out away and if Dublin can’t do that, Dublin have no platform.

Mayo nailed a point from Donie Vaughan straight from a kick-out, one for Kevin McLoughlin after Tom Parsons robbed James McCarthy at the end of a 60-metre chase. Lee Keegan dropped one short after O’Shea had murdered another kick-out. Mayo were humming, Dublin were scratching their heads.

And yet, and yet. Mayo, just as in the first half last year, didn’t make their superiority pay on the scoreboard. They had five wides in the first half and dropped two balls into Cluxton’s chest. Keegan’s one, for instance, ended in an Eoghan O’Gara point at the other end. On a day of inches, Mayo coughed up a yard right there.

Ciaran Kilkenny battles with Donal Vaughan and Lee Keegan during the 2017 final. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Ciaran Kilkenny battles with Donal Vaughan and Lee Keegan during the 2017 final. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Picking out Keegan feels harsh, incidentally. He did his ritual wiping job in erasing Ciarán Kilkenny from the game and got forward in the second half for a goal of goals. But this was a day when the game spared no one.

Mayo’s inability to push on meant that they got to the break only a point ahead, 0-9 to 1-5. It left Dublin in the game even though the champions were mistake-ridden and toothless in attack. Jim Gavin’s decision to name such a star-studded bench hadn’t paid off and it was obvious half-time would see changes.

Paul Flynn was already on the pitch, an early replacement for the injured Jack McCaffrey. Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McManamon came out for the second half. Dublin upped their energy level and reeled off three quick points with only a Cillian O’Connor free in response from Mayo. The third – a bustling McManamon effort from a Connolly pass – was exactly the sort of thing Dublin had been missing in the opening half.

But Mayo are Mayo. An O’Connor free drew them level at 0-11 to 1-8 with 43 minutes on the clock and soon after Jason Doherty got in one-on-one with Cluxton. Andy Moran, who was having another phenomenal afternoon, dished off a neat pass for the onrushing Doherty but his shot was kept out by Cluxton’s legs.

In the melee that followed, the Dublin goalkeeper fouled Doherty and Mayo came away with a point but it felt like half a loaf. That was until Dublin did the same at the other end, Paul Mannion drawing a save from David Clarke before collecting to come away with a consolation point.

This was a magnificent game now. Brian Fenton chipped a point to edge the Dubs two ahead, O’Connor nipped a free to keep Mayo breathing. Dublin were on top though and when McCarthy galloped through for an athletic score, it looked ominous for Mayo. But they came again and Keegan got in for his goal, again linking with the excellent Moran.

Keegan’s goal came on 54 minutes and brought the house down, sending them 1-12 to 1-11 ahead. But Mayo missed their next chance, an Aidan O’Shea effort that went narrowly wide and soon Connolly levelled the game for the eighth time with an incredible effort as half the Mayo defence hung off him.

So here we were, exactly where we thought we’d be. An hour gone in the All-Ireland final and the sides level at 1-13 apiece. It was going to come down to nerve and the benches, essentially.

Mayo pushed on, Valhalla calling them home. O’Connor got out in front of Philly McMahon for a leader’s point, and followed up with a free when Keegan was fouled on the edge of the large square. It meant that with 63 minutes on the clock, Mayo had a two-point lead. They couldn’t have asked for more.

But Dublin are Dublin, too. Mannion skinned Brendan Harrison to nail a point at the other end, McCarthy ran off Bernard Brogan’s shoulder for an equaliser. Draw game, anyone’s game. Rock skated along the endline to put the Dubs ahead, O’Connor banged a huge one to level it again.

The board went up – six minutes of injury-time. There were two more chances, a free on both sides. O’Connor’s was far more difficult, from out on the left. Agonisingly, it came back of the post. Rock’s wasn’t straight-forward in the circumstances but it was bread and butter by his standards.

He ate it up and Dublin were champions.

DUBLIN: 1 S Cluxton (capt); 4 M Fitzsimons, 2 P McMahon, 5 J Cooper; 3 C O’Sullivan, 6 J Small (0-1), 7 J McCaffrey; 8 B Fenton (0-1), 9 J McCarthy (0-2); 15 D Rock (0-7, three frees), 11 C O’Callaghan (1-0), 10 C Kilkenny; 13 P Mannion (0-3), 26 E O’Gara (0-1), 14 P Andrews.

Subs: 22 P Flynn for McCaffrey (9 mins), 25 K McManamon (0-1) for O’Gara (half-time), 19 D Connolly (0-1) for Andrews (half-time), 17 B Brogan for Flynn (65 mins), 12 N Scully for O’Callaghan (68 mins), 20 C Costello for Mannion (74 mins).

MAYO: 1 D Clarke; 6 C Barrett, 2 B Harrison, 18 P Durcan; 5 L Keegan (1-0), 7 C Boyle (0-1), 4 K Higgins; 8 S O’Shea, 9 T Parsons; 10 K McLoughlin (0-2), 11 A O’Shea, 3 D Vaughan (0-1); 13 J Doherty (0-2), 14 C O’Connor (capt; 0-7, four frees), 15 A Moran (0-3).

Subs: 12 D O’Connor for S O’Shea (51 mins), 19 S Coen for Boyle (56 mins), 23 C Loftus for Moran (63 mins), 20 D Drake for Doherty (70 mins), 22 D Kirby for McLoughlin (75 mins), 17 G Cafferkey for Higgins (76 mins).

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).

2018: Dublin the invincibles weather Tyrone storm to go four-in-a-row, by Keith Duggan

Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion take in the celebrations after the 2018 final win over Tyrone. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion take in the celebrations after the 2018 final win over Tyrone. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dublin 2-17 Tyrone 1-14

Seamus Darby better dust down those giant-slaying boots. Dublin have completed a fourth successive All-Ireland title with a rampant performance against Tyrone and now the fabled five will become the story of next season.

The Ulster men threw everything at this but finished, like Mayo and Kerry before them, standing in a group watching Dublin celebrate and wondering what can be done about the power, skill and extraordinary will of Jim Gavin’s metropolitan team.

It was a strange, frantic game, this, bracketed by Tyrone surges but dominated, in the main, by Dublin’s composure and athleticism, football skills and relentlessness for the first to 78th minute.

They are a phenomenon and show no sign of slackening. By the time their only perceived vulnerability under the high-ball had been exposed, the day was already won. A long ball into the square drew a rash foul on Colm Cavanagh by Philly McMahon. Peter Harte converted the 69th minute penalty to send a tremor of rebellion and renewed faith around the ground. But the truth was that Dublin had been in control since they quelled the Ulster uprising in the opening quarter.

What a bewildering first half it must have been for Tyrone. A fortnight of plotting and planning and incantations of self-belief in the training centre of excellence up in Garvaghy produced a stunning opening 15 minutes when they tore into the three-times champions with something of the old brilliant disrespect.

For that while, it appeared as if Mickey Harte had concocted yet another September spell as the Ulster team raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 15 minutes. And Dublin looked ordinary- mortal- during that same period.

Dean Rock struck two wides from frees he ordinarily converts in his sleep. Stephen Cluxton pinged two restarts straight over the sideline. And there were other peculiar sights: James McCarthy taking a ball from the skies and coughing it up under fierce pressure from white shirts. Philly McMahon was given the same treatment minutes later.

In contrast, Tyrone were moving the ball up the field with fast, considered passes. Tiernan McCann’s ninth minute point was emblematic of this golden spell; a lovely, measured ball from Niall Sludden to the dynamic Mark Bradley, a half-swivel and a quick pass to the Killyclogher man, who chipped a score.

John Small tackles Peter Harte during the 2018 final. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
John Small tackles Peter Harte during the 2018 final. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Three minutes after that, they moved the ball through the Dublin XV with three passes; a clever pass from Ronan McNamee and a quick transfer from Conor Meyler to Peter Harte, who found himself on his wrong foot. That wide was one of Tyrone’s six during that blistering spell: all of those needed to go over.

Still, at 0-5 to 0-1 after the first quarter, the conviction and composure of Tyrone’s play was enough to cause a few questions and doubts to materialise in the soupy afternoon. What if Dublin were complacent? What if they couldn’t get out of third gear? What if Tyrone and Mickey Harte just have the Indian sign on the aristocracy when it comes to September? For a few moments, this All-Ireland final- the least anticipated football showpiece ever- seemed to be entering the realm of fantasy.

And then Ciaran Kilkenny scored a point. It was nothing flashy; a McCarthy catch at midfield and the Castleknock man finished with economy. But now the Dubs were facing Niall Morgan’s goal and the avenues open to him for the first quarter were closed. He delayed his first kick-out, restarted and tried to find a white shirt with a short restart. Fatally, the ball found its way into Kilkenny’s hands.

Within five minutes, Dublin had hit Tyrone with 1-3. Paul Mannion, taking a heavy tackle as he went to finish that Kilkenny steal, shook himself down and delivered a venomous penalty. Dean Rock flashed two menacing points. Now, Kilkenny, Mannion and Con O’Callaghan were buzzing with adrenaline and a visible certitude- a sense of normal service resumed - had settled over Croke Park, The Hill found its voice.

Dublin suddenly owned the ball. A sublime bit of ball skill by O’Callaghan exposed Tyrone’s last line again: the Cuala man had the strength and poise to absorb a heavy challenge, get back up and float a handpass for Niall Scully to bat into an empty net. The Tyrone men were still sucking oxygen after the intensity of their opening salvo, could only look at the score board and wonder. Already, the pale blue shirts had stretched into the distance, racing towards that fourth All-Ireland.

Tyrone kept chasing but in the second half, the spaces opened up to facilitate the kind of lighting attacks that Kilkenny enjoys and, in the 51st minute, a sumptuous period of keep-ball completed with one of those nonchalant points that have become the trade mark of Brian Fenton.

Dublin had all day on the ball now while at the other end, Tyrone’s attacks were becoming frayed and pressurised and increasingly scarce. And when they needed to, Dublin brought all 15 players inside their own 65. There was no way Tyrone were going to peg Dublin back with points. And the champions didn’t give them a single clear look at goal.

There was nothing much but for the Tyrone crowd -and the country at large- to sit back and marvel at a team for the ages. The old warriors, McManamon and MacAuley came in to add a bit of brio and a couple of insurance points. It was a procession in the end. There was nothing to suggest that they won’t be stronger and more inventive next winter, with the five-in-the-row prize now looming on their horizon. Invincible.

DUBLIN: 1 S Cluxton; 2 P McMahon, 3 C O’Sullivan, 4 E Murchan, 5 J Small, 6 J Cooper, 7 J McCaffrey (0-1); 8 B Fenton (0-2), 9 J McCarthy; 10 N Scully (1-0), 11 C O’Callaghan, 12 B Howard (0-1); 13 P Mannion (1-1, pen), C Kilkenny (0-3), D Rock (0-7, 3 frees, 1 50).

Subs: 19 C Costello for 10 N Scully (53 mins), 25 K McManamon (0-1) for 13 P Mannion (58 mins), 20 D Daly for 4 E Murchan (59 mins inj), 23 E Lowndes for 6 J Cooper (64 mins), 24 MD McAuley (0-1) for 15 D Rock (67 mins),

TYRONE: 1 N Morgan, 2 M McKernan, 5 T McCann (0-1), 3 R McNamee, 4 P Hampsey (0-1), 18 R Brennan, 10 M Donnelly, 8 C Cavanagh, 9 C McShane (0-2); 11 N Sludden, 12 K McGeary (0-1), 13 M Bradley (0-2), 25 C Meyler, 7 P Harte (1-1, free, pen), 15 C McAliskey (0-3, 1 free).

Subs: 17 L Brennan (0-3 frees) for 25 C Meyler (40 mins), 6 F Burns for 11 N Sludden (46 mins), 14 R Donnelly for 12 K McGeary (49 mins), 20 H Loughran for 12 K McGeary (49 mins), 26 R O’Neill for 15 M Bradley (63 mins).

Referee: C Lane (Cork).