Dublin 1-11 Mayo 0-8
This pair. If Dublin and Mayo could be classed as a couple, then they make Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen appear like boring suburbanites in comparison. Referee Barry Cassidy was loudly jeered at the full whistle by the aggrieved locals in the crowd of 15, 148, deeply unhappy with his efforts to police a game that spat with a kind of low-grade antagonism ever since Mayo lost Jordan Flynn early in the first half.
But it finished in a familiar way: Ciaran Kilkenny running the show in that inexhaustible way of his, James McCarthy loping up for the usual score and Dublin exhibiting the quality of which they are most proud: their ability to kick-and-catch and keep possession in the opposition half. The All-Ireland champions won comfortably.
Beforehand, the visiting fans hung a banner over the Mitchells’ clubhouse hailing ‘Jim Gavin’s mighty Dubs.” It was an impudent move and an appropriate reminder that the Dubs own the land just now. The manager may have departed but the old hallmarks - the composure, the patience, the dogged work rate - were all in evidence on a squally night in the west.
It was easy in the end for Dublin, who worked 14-man Mayo to the bone throughout the second half after gaining a crucial advantage from Dean Rock's 45th minute goal. It was a moment of classy improvisation from the Ballymun man, who sprinted to meet Kevin McManamon's crossed ball and just flicked it past Rob Hennelly from an acute angle. That goal came when Mayo had fallen into one their periodic scoring funks, unable to threaten from long distance, missing two frees and sucked far deep downfield.
But there was something kind of uncompromising about Mayo here, too. James Horan showed faith in the younger kids: Oisin Mullin was outstanding in the full back line, James Carr kicked a monster first half point and Flynn will have further chances in this league.
It was five apiece at half time: if the radio voices were describing it as delicately poised, then it was only delicate aspect of the entire evening. That half revolved around the red card issued to Flynn in the 14th minute. The Crossmolina man met Dublin's John Small, who was advancing at a rate of knots, and made a hash of timing his tackle. He caught the Dublin defender too high and while there was no malice in the challenge Flynn left himself at the referee's discretion. Cassidy, possibly sensing the heightening tension and wildness creeping into the moist night, decided on the sternest measure.
This, of course, only increased the tension and made Cassidy public enemy number one. Mayo now had a cause and a task that had suddenly dramatically difficult. So they went into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead before giving up two easy frees to Dublin.
As has happened in the past, these two teams managed to headlock each other into a series of poor decisions, rushed passes and individually excellent defensive plays. Dublin had five first half wides: Mayo, unsurprisingly, went two better.
Aidan O’Shea was a late inclusion to the starting team and from the outset he seemed in a mood to right every wrong and slight that had been visited on his county. He opened the scoring in the first minute. He spent a lot of his evening bullocking through the unfashionable quarters of MacHale Park and coming away with a wealth of ball. The Breaffy man in this form is always good crack and the home crowd falls into immediate symphony with his surges and rampages.
At one stage, Horan returned him to his former posting as conventional full forward and immediately, the Dublin full back line sat up to attention.
But that was in the opening half. O'Shea was called to the bench after 50 minutes with not much left to give. Colm Boyle had also departed then after rolling his ankle. Mayo managed just one point in 30 minutes of play and by then, the game was long up. Paul Mannion was introduced even as the visiting Dub fans celebrated Rock's goal, increasing the options for the champions.
There was a retro’ look about Dublin here with McManamon full of running and McCarthy increasing prominent as the night wore on. By the end, Mayo struggled to lay a finger on Kilkenny as he directed Dublin through their slow-slow-quick give and go attacks which created a series of late scores. The show goes on.
Dublin: 1 E Comerford; 3, D Byrne, 4 R O'Carroll, 23 M Fitzsimons; 5 J McCarthy (0-2), 6 J Small (0-1), 7 E Murchan; 8 B Fenton, 9 B Howard; 10 N Scully (0-1), 11 P Mannion, 12 C Kilkenny (0-1), 13 K McManamon (0-1), 23 D O'Brien (0-1) 14 P Andrews, 15 D Rock (1-3, 0-2 frees). Substitutes: 11 P Mannion for 21 C McHugh (45 mins), 20 L Flatman for 4 R O'Carroll (48 mins), 26 P Small for 13 K McManamon (56 mins), 18 A Byrne (0-1) for 23 D O'Brien (57 mins), 25 C O'Shea for E Murchan (72 mins),
Mayo: 1 R Hennelly; 2 P O'Hora, 3 O Mullin, 4 B Harrison; 5 M Plunkett, 6 C Boyle, 7 P Durcan; 8 S Coen, 9 D O'Connor (0-1 free); 10 F Boland (0-2), 22 A O'Shea (0-1) 11 R O'Donoghue, 12 J Flynn; 13 K McLoughlin, 14 J Carr (0-1), 15 J Durcan (0-2, 0-1 free). Substitutes: 23 L Keegan for 6 C Boyle, 27 T Conroy (0-1) for 14 J Carr (half time), 13 K McLoughlin for 11 R O;Donoghue 18 J McCormack for 22 A O'Shea (54 mins), 24 C Loftus for 15 J Durcan (62 mins),
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).