All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin overwhelm Mayo
All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final
DUBLIN 3-14 MAYO 1-10
By John Harrington at Croke Park
Dublin blitzed Mayo with a devastating scoring burst at the start of the second-half to secure their place in the All-Ireland Final and keep alive their five-in-a-row dreams.
It looked like a shock might be on the cards when Mayo led by two points at half-time, but a very different Dublin re-emerged from their dressing-room.
They hit an unanswered salvo of 2-6 in the first 12 minutes of the second-half to kill the match in typically ruthless fashion and remind everyone why they’re arguably the greatest team to ever play the game.
Until then it looked like we were witnessing yet another entry into the canon of great Dublin-Mayo matches. Before a ball was even kicked, there was intrigue.
Mayo made three changes to the team named in the programme as Donal Vaughan, Matthew Ruane, and Diarmuid O’Connor came in for Kevin McLoughlin, Fergal Boland, and Darren Coen.
Just as interesting were the manner in which James Horan moved his chess-pieces around the board.
Patrick Durcan was pushed up to wing-forward to take care of Jack McCaffrey, Ruane was giving a man-marking role on Brian Fenton, and Aidan O’Shea was deployed in a sweeper role.
The match-ups were always going to be crucial in this match, and for the record, here’s how they shaped up from the outset.
David Byrne v Cillian O’Connor, Michael Fitzsimons v James Carr, Jack McCaffrey v Patrick Durcan, James McCarthy v Diarmuid O’Connor, John Small v Fionn McDonagh, Brian Fenton v Matthew Ruane, Michael Darragh MacAuley v Seamus O’Shea, Niall Scully v Donal Vaughan, Con O’Callaghan v Lee Keegan, Brian Howard v Stephen Coen, Paul Mannion v Brendan Harrison, Dean Rock v Chris Barrett, and Ciaran Kilkenny v Colm Boyle, with Aidan O’Shea and Jonny Cooper sweeping for their respective teams.
It was Mayo who effectively dictated those match-ups thanks to the domino effect of the specialised man-marking roles Durcan, Ruane, and Keegan were carrying out, and they set the tone in more ways than that in the early running.
The sight of Dublin forwards having to run back deep into their own half to track the bombing runs of Mayo defenders became a common one and testified to the fact that Mayo were setting the agenda.
Cillian O’Connor opened the scoring after two minutes with a long-range free, and then a minute later Seamus O’Shea scored a nice point from play with the outside of his right boot.
Mayo were dominating possession and hassling and harrying Dublin to great effect when they didn’t have the ball.
Dublin hadn’t experienced this sort of intensity all year, and it seemed to take them aback.
Eventually though they started to find some semblance of a rhythm and two Dean Rock frees had drawn them level by the 11th minute.
James Carr then landed a classy point for Mayo, but when Paul Mannion then scored two in a minute Dublin supporters must have hoped their team were now starting to hit their stride.
Instead it was Mayo who found another gear as they hit the next three points in a row as two from Cillian O’Connor sandwiched one from the increasingly influential Patrick Durcan.
Then came an eight minute period of scoreless, yet incredibly intense play as both teams had long periods of possession yet couldn’t find a scoring breakthrough.
Already every turn-over felt like a big one, and there was a suffocating intensity about the defending at both ends of the field.
A Dean Rock free eventually broke the mini deadlock, but then Mayo enjoyed another good spell as Colm Boyle drove over a brilliant point from long-range and then Patrick Durcan landed his second of the day.
Dublin had the last say of the half, a fine Brian Howard point, but as the Mayo players headed for the dressing-rooms with a 0-8 to 0-6 lead, the standing ovation they received from their supporters testified to how happy the Westerners were with their lot at that stage.
How quickly things then turned though at the start of the second-half.
Dean Rock converted a free immediately after throw-in and then a minute later Con O’Callaghan scored his and Dublin’s first goal of the match when he profited from a Lee Keegan slip and finished coolly.
Dublin had suddenly caught fire. Niall Scully scored a point when he looked like he might get a goal and then Paul Mannion hit two points and Dean Rock another free in the space of a couple of minutes.
A drowning Mayo were then sunk completely when O’Callaghan scored his second goal of the match.
It was even better than the first, as he turned Keegan inside out before finishing emphatically to the back of the net.
Dublin could do no wrong now and Paul Mannion in particular was coursing with confidence as he landed a brilliant fifth point of the day from wide on the right.
Trailing now by ten points, Mayo had no option but to gamble, and so pushed Aidan O’Shea into full-forward.
He made an immediate impact as he set up Lee Keegan for a well-taken goal, but still you never felt this would be the spark to ignite an unlikely comeback.
So it proved, because as the game opened up Dublin were content to pack their own half of the field and hit Mayo clinically on the break.
Brian Fenton hammered another nail in their coffin when he raced through and slammed home Dublin’s third goal and then would have hit their fourth six minutes later but for a brilliant Rob Hennelly save that tipped his shot over the bar for a point.
The game pretty much petered out from there to the finish, with the next loudest cheer saved for Diarmuid Connolly’s introduction as an injury-time substitute.
The fact that they could afford the luxury of keeping him on ice until then underlined just how comfortable the second-half had been.
There was one last insult to be added to Mayo’s injury as Cillian O’Connor was red-carded near the end for an off-the-ball altercation with David Byrne.
After such an impressive first-half, it was a desperately disappointing way for it all to end for the Connacht side.
As for Dublin, they march on resolutely towards their date with destiny.
If they can reproduce their second-half performance for the duration of the All-Ireland Final, they’ll surely write their name in the history-books as the first team to win five-in-a-row.
Scorers for Dublin: Dean Rock 0-6 (6f), Con O’Callaghan 2-0, Paul Mannion 0-5, Brian Fenton 1-1, Niall Scully and Brian Howard 0-1 each.
Scorers for Mayo: Cillian O'Connor 0-3 (2f), Lee Keegan 1-0, Patrick Durcan 0-2, Colm Boyle, James Carr, Stephen Coen, Seamus O'Shea, Fergal Boland 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; David Byrne, Jonny Cooper, Michael Fitzsimons; Jack McCaffrey, James McCarthy, John Small; Brian Fenton, Michael Darragh MacAuley; Niall Scully, Con O’Callaghan, Brian Howard; Paul Mannion, Dean Rock, Ciaran Kilkenny. Subs: Cian O’Sullivan for Michael Darragh MacAuley (50), Eoin Murchan for John Small (63), Cormac Costello for Paul Mannion (66), Philly McMahon for Jonny Cooper (69), Diarmuid Connolly for Niall Scully, Paddy Andrews for Con O’Callaghan (both 71)
MAYO: Robert Hennelly; Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Stephen Coen; Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Patrick Durcan; Aidan O’Shea, Seamus O’Shea; Fionn McDonagh, Donal Vaughan, Matthew Ruane; Cillian O’Connor, Diarmuid O’Connor, James Carr. Subs: Keith Higgins for Donal Vaughan (29), Kevin McLoughlin for Fionn McDonagh (50), Andy Moran for James Carr (52), Eoin O’Donoghue for Colm Boyle (58), Tom Parsons for Seamus O’Shea (61), Fergal Boland for Diarmuid O’Connor (68)
Ref: Conor Lane (Cork)