Stephen Rochford happy Mayo can learn from Dublin defeat
Jim Gavin’s side would have won by plenty more at McHale Park if they had needed to
Dublin’s Paul Mannion gets a way from Eoin O’Donoghue of Mayo during Saturday’s Allianz Laegue game at MacHale Park. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Mayo 0-12 Dublin 2-10
Mayo and Dublin have put themselves so generously in credit with their summer encounters through the past decade that we can easily forgive Saturday night’s stinker in Castlebar. In front of 15,313 frozen souls in MacHale Park, they served up a turgid, one-sided affair that told everyone precisely nothing. The league is the league is the league.
This was never a contest in any meaningful sense, with Dublin a goal up after 80 seconds and Mayo spluttering in their wake for the rest of the night. The margin was four in the end, only because Dublin weren’t of a mind to insist on it being bigger. Lee Keegan returned for Mayo, Diarmuid Connolly came off the bench for the Dubs, Mick Fitzsimons saw a straight red late on for a poorly-timed leap at Aidan O’Shea that turned into a stud-raker. Otherwise, it was small earthquake in chilly Castlebar, not many hurt.
Both teams pretty much downed tools after Niall Scully punched Dublin into a 2-9 to 0-8 lead 10 minutes after half-time. Neither side scored from play from there to the end of the game – one team didn’t have to, the other didn’t have it in them. It was turgid stuff.
“Our first-half performance gave us a platform, we had 1-9 on the board at half-time,” said Jim Gavin afterwards. “And they came out in the second half and played very much a containment game, they went very defensive and we probably mirrored that. We held onto the ball and held them scoreless from play and scoreless altogether for nearly 30 minutes. It was a matter of running the clock down really.
“If they had pushed on, it might have created more chances for them but we were very conscious of what the scoreboard was telling us. Dublin had more points on the scoreboard so that was the most important thing.”
Although there was never any particular suspense about the outcome, there were flashes of an engaging contest in the opening half. Mayo’s propensity for conceding early goals against Dublin was part of their undoing again, this time Paul Mannion roofing his early chance even before the tannoy man had a chance to let us in on the four Dublin changes. Mannion was ravenous all night but especially so here, latching onto a lovely John Small pass after 70 seconds and leaving Eoin O’Donoghue in his vapours before planting his shot above Rob Hennelly.
This has become a fairly chronic habit for Mayo in matches against Dublin. That’s four out of their past five games against Gavin’s side where they have conceded a goal inside the opening 10 minutes. On three of those occasions, the goal was the first Dublin score of the game. It’s not like the gradient isn’t steep enough already.
From there, Dublin did as Dublin do. Mayo were able to tip a score here and there but never managed to put two together back-to-back. Of Mayo’s seven first-half points, five were replied to by Dublin in the very next attack. Mannion, Dean Rock, Ciarán Kilkenny and Brian Fenton were all as sharp as they needed to be to tilt the table Dublin’s way. Nobody plays arm’s length football better than Gavin’s side.
If Mayo were going to make a game of it, they had to do the damage straight away after the break. And they had their chances – Adam Gallagher was put in on goal by Jason Doherty almost immediately but his attempt at a curled finish didn’t threaten Stephen Cluxton’s left-hand post. Keegan, Stephen Coen and Doherty all missed good chances in the third quarter, just when Dublin were losing interest. That was the time to make them pay but Mayo couldn’t get it done.
Instead, Niall Scully rose highest to tip home a lofted Rock handpass on 46 minutes, beating Kevin McLaughlin and Hennelly to the punch and putting Dublin 2-9 to 0-8 ahead. Whatever fizz was left in Mayo went flat immediately, game-set-match with still a good 25 minutes to go.
Mayo toiled away but couldn’t shoot. Three different players missed frees for them – Cillian O’Connor can’t get back quickly enough. They have a mini-league against the teams around them to stay up: Kildare followed by Tyrone followed by Donegal. They will, in all likelihood, be okay.
“Just after half-time we created a really good goal chance and didn’t take it,” said Stephen Rochford. “Maybe we would have asked Dublin more questions if we had. But we coped quite well. There was plenty of learning there for new guys. There are some positives and still a number of things we’ll be working on, but the league has a number of objectives and one of them tonight was to win two points and we didn’t do that.
“For the last few years our winters have been a bit longer because of our summer exploits so we are going to be that bit slower out of the blocks than other teams. So that definitely has an effect.”
MAYO: Rob Hennelly (0-1, free); Caolan Crowe, Ger Cafferkey, Eoin O’Donoghue; Colm Boyle, Michael Hall, David Drake; Stephen Coen (0-1), Lee Keegan (0-1); Kevin McLoughlin (0-2), Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor; Jason Doherty (0-3, 0-3 frees), Andy Moran (0-1), Adam Gallagher. Subs: Seamus O’Shea for Gallagher, 54 mins; Fergal Boland for O’Connor, 61 mins; Conor Loftus (0-3, 0-3 frees) for McLoughlin, 61 mins; Sharoize Akram for Drake, 66 mins; Danny Kirby for Doherty, 70 mins.
DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Darren Daly, Mick Fitzsimons, David Byrne; James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper, John Small; Brian Fenton (0-1), Michael Darragh Macauley; Brian Howard, Ciarán Kilkenny (0-2), Niall Scully (1-0); Paul Mannion (1-1), Kevin McManamon, Dean Rock (0-6, 0-4 frees). Subs: Diarmuid Connolly for Macauley, 54 mins; Colm Basquel for Mannion, 54 mins; Cian O’Sullivan for Small, 54 mins; Ciaran Reddin for Howard, 61 mins; Paddy Small for Cooper, 64 mins; Emmet Ó Conghaile for Fenton, 69 mins.
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)