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O'Gara goals rescue Dublin draw in thriller

Saturday, March 29, 2014

ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION I: DUBLIN 3-14 MAYO 2-17

It was an incredible game, very different to last year's All-Ireland final between the two teams, but proof surely that this pair remain the teams to beat in the race for Sam Maguire, and before that, the Allianz Football League title.

Dublin and Mayo played out a sensational draw in their crucial Division I encounter at Croke Park on Saturday night, with three late Dublin goals, two from substitute Eoghan O'Gara, rescuing them what had looked for long stages like a very unlikely draw.

The first-half sending off of goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton for an off the ball incident had seriously affected Dublin, and Mayo led 1-9 to 0-8 at half-time following four unanswered points before the break.

Although Dublin were spirited in the third quarter, the game looked to be heading away from them, especially when Mayo opened up a six-point lead by the 55th minute.

A brilliant goal from Kevin McManamon on 57 minutes sparked a Dublin fight-back, but substitute Mickey Sweeney found the net for Mayo with five minutes to go to leave them five ahead and seemingly beyond Dublin at last.

O'Gara had different ideas though. The full-forward, originally down to start but replaced in the starting line-up by Cormac Costello before coming on for him in the second half, smashed in two brilliant goals in the last few minutes to secure a vital draw for Dublin.

His first cut the gap down to one, but then Mayo went three ahead once again in injury-time. His second goal was a cracking finish to the roof of the net with time almost up, as dramatic a finish to the game as one could hope for. Dublin even had a late chance to win it, but Jack McCaffrey's shot with the last kick of the game drifted wide.

It was an incredible game, very different to last year's All-Ireland final between the two teams, but proof surely that this pair remain the teams to beat in the race for Sam Maguire, and before that, the Allianz Football League title.

Mayo led 1-9 to 0-8 at the end of a first half packed full of incident. Dublin raced into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead following points from Cluxton ('45'), Paddy Andrews and Alan Brogan, but Mayo hit back with three from Cillian O'Connor (2) and Donal Vaughan to get level after 11 minutes.

The sides remained level at 0-5 apiece at the midway point, both of them having spurned goal chances but then things seemed to be going Dublin's way when Mayo's Colm Boyle picked up a black card and Dublin went two clear with scores from Costello (free) and Brogan.

Things changed dramatically in the final ten minutes of the half though. Just after Dublin went two ahead, Mayo got in for a crucial goal. Aidan O'Shea's long ball in was broken by Alan Freeman into the path of McLoughlin, and his finish was sweet and low to Cluxton's right.

Things got worse for Dublin when Paul Flynn was forced off with an injury on 26 minutes, and then dramatically, Cluxton was red-carded on 30 minutes following an off the ball incident with McLoughlin. Mayo kicked four without reply then, with O'Connor, Vaughan and Keith Higgins all on target, to go in in charge.

Dublin rallied in the third quarter, but Mayo held them off, with O'Connor's eminence from frees, and the continuing excellence of McLoughlin, who finished with 1-3, leaving them 1-14 to 0-11 ahead with 55 minutes played.

However, McManamon's goal on 57 minutes - a brilliantly dinked effort over Rob Hennelly - left Dublin three behind. Mayo still led by two with 64 minutes played, and Sweeney's well-taken goal on 65 minutes - following a bad mistake from Currie with a short kick-out - left them five clear with five to go.

No sooner had Sweeney seemingly put Mayo out of sight though, and O'Gara had the ball in the net for Dublin, finishing sweetly after a fine pass from McCaffrey.

It looked like Mayo had finally done enough to take the win when they responded to the O'Gara goal with two points from O'Connor, leaving them three ahead again. But with time almost up in injury-time, O'Gara took a fine cross-field pass, and hammered the ball into the roof of the net to rescue a draw in spectacular fashion.

Both teams are tied on seven points going into the final round of fixtures next weekend when Dublin travel to Omagh to take on Tyrone, and Mayo entertain Derry at Elverys MacHale Park.

***

Scorers for Dublin: E O'Gara 2-0, K McManamon 1-2, C Costello 0-4 (1f), A Brogan 0-2, D Connolly 0-2 (1f), S Cluxton 0-1 (1 '45'), P Andrews 0-1, P Flynn 0-1, J Whelan 0-1

Scorers for Mayo: C O'Connor 0-8 (5f), K McLoughlin 1-3, M Sweeney 1-1, D Vaughan 0-2, A Moran 0-1, K Higgins 0-1, J Gibbons 0-1

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O'Carroll, D Daly; J McCarthy, T Brady, K Nolan; MD Macauley, C O'Sullivan; P Flynn, A Brogan, D Connolly; K McManamon, C Costello, P Andrews. Subs: J Whelan for P Flynn (27), S Currie for T Brady (31), N Devereux for P Andrews (HT), J McCaffrey for C O'Sullivan (HT), D Nelson for D Daly (51), E O'Gara for C Costello (58).

MAYO: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, B Harrison; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; A O'Shea, J Gibbons; K McLoughlin, K Higgins, J Doherty; A Moran, A Freeman, C O'Connor. Subs: S McHale for C Boyle (Black Card, 21), D Drake for B Harrison (HT), M Sweeney for A Freeman (48), T Parsons for A O'Shea (58), E Varley for G Cafferkey (58), S O'Shea for J Doherty (68).

Attendance: 22,697

Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)

***

Report: Arthur Sullivan




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