These two find points hard to come by


NFL DIVISION ONE Mayo 0-9 Dublin 0-9ON A TURBULENT day in James Stephens Park, two teams flirting with relegation clashed spiritedly and finished reasonably content to share the honours.

Division One has quickly developed into a two-tier form guide, with Kerry, Galway and Derry displaying thoroughbred qualities which the other teams have neither the hope nor, perhaps, the interest, in emulating right now. Dublin and Mayo are at roughly the same point of development and here, they shared similar traits in terms of willingness and athleticism and, at times, promising, hard running attacks which culminated in terrible finishing.

Dublin, aided yet again by another first half westerly wind, came out of the dressingroom in no-nonsense mood and rattled over five points in 17 minutes, to which Mayo could muster no response.

The Dubs hit something of a wall after that, labouring as they managed another four points over the course of the match. Yet, the last of these was a coolly fisted score by Conal Keaney that put the visitors 0-9 to 0-8 and left the home crowd silent.

Mayo had made most of the running in the second half and yet looked set to lose.

Had they lost, they might have pointed to a series of baffling refereeing decisions which seemed to confuse players from both sides and which coach John O’Mahony suggested afterwards should merit “an in-depth analysis.”

They deserved the equalising score, which came courtesy of a nimble pass in traffic by Kieran Conroy, perfectly placed in front of Aidan O’Shea. The former minor sensation had the poise to check out goal options on both his right and left side before opting to arc the ball over the bar.

It was a brave point and, significantly, it took the youngest Mayo man on the field to illustrate the importance of clear and calm decision-making. Mayo traipsed off relieved and Dublin were content they had responded positively to last week’s lesson at the hands of Derry.

“The main thing was the performance was a hell of a lot better,” said a very relaxed Pat Gilroy afterwards. “We still made far too many mistakes, but as the ground hardens up our football will get better.

“It was very difficult to shoot, even with the breeze. All the wides we had, I think that is something that will get better. I don’t bother myself with things like relegation. If we had lost that, it was still a good performance from us.”

For the record, Dublin fired 11 first-half wides during a period of domination. For 15 minutes, they physically overwhelmed Mayo and played some bright football, running the ball out of attack, everyone looking to get on the ball and alert to one another.

Blaine Kelly won four tough possessions early on, Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan landed two showpiece points and, against the wind, Mayo took a while to get to grips with things.

It wasn’t until Alan Dillon made a crafty run and chipped a nice point on 26 minutes – Mayo’s first score – that they tapped into their own game and trailed by just 0-4 to 0-6 at the break.

The relocation of the returning Mark Ronaldson as a sweeper was one of several interesting dimensions to the Mayo formation. Andy Moran operated at left half back and was a prominent figure during Mayo’s second half surges.

Tom Cuniffe had a strong match at number six and, once again, Ronan McGarrity slowly but surely exerted a heavyweight influence on the match. Liam O’Malley was lively at corner back and Alan Dillon led the way in the fundamental business of sticking the ball over the bar.

Mayo’s attacks are characterised by a kind of anxiousness just now, but there is a sense about them that it is going to click into place sooner or later.

The Dublin project is bigger in scale. The Kilmacud Crokes gang are expected to show up for training on Tuesday night.

The return of the club giants means competition for places can only grow, but the form of emerging players such as Denis Bastic and Ger Brennan, the fact Ross McConnell is enjoying life at midfield and the fact so many boys of summer are still waiting in the wings will have encouraged Gilroy as he prepares for Westmeath.

The big Vincent’s man cheerfully dispelled rumours that one J Sherlock, the eternal boy of summer, had been dropped off the panel. “No, he’s not. Ye can ring him and ask him,” he laughed.

Mayo head down the N17 to meet old rivals Galway in what may well be a dress rehearsal of the big match in the West this year.

MAYO:D Clarke: L O’Malley, C Cafferky, C Barrett; P Gardiner, T Cuniffe, A Moran; P Harte (0-1), R McGarrity; B Kelly, T Mortimer, A Dillon (0-5, three frees); C Mortimer (0-1 free), A O’Malley (0-1), M Ronaldson. Subs:K Conroy for C Barrett (21 mins), A Kilcoyne for B Kelly (half-time), A O’Shea (0-1) for A O’Malley (48 mins)

DUBLIN:M Savage; D Henry, D Bastic, A Hubbard; B Cullen, G Brennan, B Cahill; C Whelan, R McConnell; D Connolly (0-4, two 45s); K Bonner, D Lally; B Kelly (0-2), C Keaney (0-1), B Brogan (0-2, one free). Subs:A Brogan for B Brogan (46 mins), D Daly for G Brennan (52 mins), S Ryan for K Bonner (63 mins), J O’Connor for R O’Carroll (67 mins), B Brogan for D Lally (70 mins)

Referee:P Hughes (Armagh).