ANOTHER All-Ireland final heartbreak for Mayo as their earlier form deserted them in a tense and error-ridden conclusion to the season in Croke Park. Dublin were full value for their victory, without playing wonderfully, but they covered the basics more efficiently and essentially made less mistakes.
If there was an area that proved critical it was Dublin’s dominance of their own kick-outs, with Mayo continually outwitted and conceding vital possession. The other telling difference was Dublin’s greater firepower. Three of their attack were taken off, though Paul Mannion’s withdrawl was due to injury, and yet they still showed more teeth than Mayo up front.
The chief scorer was Bernard Brogan who finished with 2-3, all but one point from play, while Eoghan O’Gara came off the bench to clip two points. But for three dramatic saves from Robert Hennelly Mayo would have been in deeper trouble but they were pressing for an equaliser to the final whistle.
That whistle was the subject of some controversy as Cillian O’Connor appeared to consult referee Joe McQuillan as he lined up to take a free with the allocated minimum of four minutes additional time almost up. With Mayo two down the took the point. But McQuillan sounded the whistle after Stephen Cluxton’s kick-out dropped in the middle of the field.
This is their second All-Ireland win in three years, a strike rate not seen since the 1970s and caps a magnificent season.
It wasn’t the classic we’d hoped for as both teams looked nervous. O’Connor, who went through the game unscathed despite a recent shoulder injury, was lively from play in the early stages but he missed two frees before finding his range.
Mayo’s best play was in the first half when they had most of the ball but led by only a point at the interval. Their eight kick outs to 14 from Dublin gives an accurate impression of the thrust of the attacking play. The problem was that they had a 50 per cent conversion rate and Cluxton’s kick-outs went short or middle distance and mostly into Dublin hands.
At the other end Dublin had their problems too. Mannion limped off after 15 minutes and free attempts from Connolly and Cluxton went wide from good positions. Another three point efforts dropped into Hennelly’s hands. The Mayo goalkeeper will be unhappy with the goal conceded to Brogan in the 16th minute, resulting from a route one approach, Brogan getting a touch while contesting with Hennelly and Ger Cafferkey.
That score brought Dublin level, 1-1 to 0-4, and came against the run of play. Eight minutes later Hennelly intervened with a fine save to thwart Ciaran Kilkenny. And soon after he had to leave his goal to block a goal attempt from Michael Dara Macauley.
Mayo took off Alan Freeman and sent in Michael Conroy but offered no real goal threat. Their response to the goal was impressive, however. Seamus O’Shea pointed from the next play, O’Connor nailed a free and Lee Keegan had his second from play, careering up from wing back. Andy Moran kicked his second and Mayo went 0-8 to 1-2 clear after 26 minutes.
They faded from there to the break, failing to add to their total. Cluxton landed a ‘45’ and on the brink of half-time O’Gara fisted over. Mayo had never been led, and they went in with a 0-8 to 1-4 advantage.
Dublin took over after the break and went in front for the first time in the 38th minute. Excellent scores from Paddy Andrews, Paul Flynn and Brogan saw them move three clear, before a goal from Andy Moran in the 49th minute raised Mayo’s hopes.
But Dublin hit back within three minutes, Brogan set up by sub Denis Bastick and palming to the net. O’Connor’s frees kept Mayo in the game but Moran’s goal was their sole score from play after half time. They were second best and this will be added to all those other chapters of disappointment back to their last win in 1951.
Scorers: Dublin – B Brogan 2-3 (0-1 f); S Cluxton (f, 45), E O’Gara 0-2; G Brennan, C O’Sullivan, D Connolly, P Andrews, P Flynn 0-1. Mayo – C O’Connor 0-8 (0-8 fs); A Moran 1-2; L Keegan 0-2; S O’Shea, K Higgins 0-1.
Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O’Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, G Brennan, J McCaffrey; MD Macauley, C O’Sullivan; P Flynn, C Kilkenny, D Connolly; P Mannion, P Andrews, B Brogan.
Subs: E O’Gara for Mannion (inj 15 mins); D Daly for McCaffrey (half-time); D Rock for Kilkenny (42); K McManamon for Andrews (49); D Bastick for Cooper (inj 52).
Mayo: T Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, C Barrett; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; K McLoughlin, K Higgins, A Dillon; C O’Connor, A Freeman, A Moran.
Subs: M Conroy for Freeman (26 mins); C Carolan for Cunniffe (half-time); E Varley for Dillon (55); B Moran for S O’Shea (59); J Doherty for A Moran (68).
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).