Hat-trick for Connolly in goals feast
Allianz football league div 1
Dublin hit an exhibition match scoreline but still felt largely frustrated at the end, while Mayo scored enough to win most games comfortably, but still left Croke Park empty-handed.
That's the tale of a strange game which produced a combined total of
7-28, a return which both sets of defenders would rather not be reminded about. But they most assuredly will by managers Pat Gilroy and James Horan, although both will also be interviewing others as there was considerable evidence to suggest that all the blame for the high concession rate couldn't be solely attributed to the back six. "If we defend like that in the summer, we won't be mapped," said Gilroy whose frustration was understandable. He had watched his rampant attackers raid the Mayo bank so often in the opening 25 minutes it looked as if they might yield a record haul, but then had to endure the sight of his own defence being swamped by a green-and-red revival tide which threatened to wash Dublin away.
So, what had been responsible for the remarkable turnaround which took Mayo from 14 points down after 23 minutes to being level after 45 minutes?
Gilroy had no doubts as to the reason for Dublin's implosion. "Pure laziness. If you don't track back, that's what happens at this level," he said.
Truly, an unusual game where the scoring sequence defied logic.
Dublin won the first 23 minutes by 4-4 to 0-2; Mayo won the next 22 minutes by 3-9 to 0-4; Dublin won the final 25 minutes by 0-7 to 0-2. The first two segments were quite bizarre, with either side enjoying a level of dominance rarely seen at inter-county level.
Mossy Quinn thumped home Dublin's first goal in the sixth minute and Diarmuid Connolly followed up with further goals in the 16th, 18th and 23rd minutes, en route to a personal tally of 3-3, all from open play.
The Mayo defence were so far off the pace in that period that it looked as if they had been hit by tranquilising darts. Nor were they any sharper in attack, having missed at least five good chances.
A 4-4 to 0-2 scoreline was embarrassing for Mayo, but, in fairness, they showed commendable courage to begin a revival when they might just as easily have folded their tents and settled for a thrashing.
"When you look at where we were at that stage and where we were in the second half, it was encouraging. We didn't work nearly hard enough in the opening period and if you do that against top-class teams, you pay the price," said Horan.
Having built up a 14-point lead, it was understandable that Dublin wouldn't maintain the high pressure rate, but neither should they have switched off to a degree where Mayo were allowed to haul themselves level.
Mayo's recovery began with a five-point burst, followed by a 33rd-minute goal by Jason Doherty, who is creating an excellent reputation as an opportunist finisher. Still, when Dublin took a 4-8 to 1-9 lead into half-time, they might have felt that the second half would be a comfortable stroll in the pleasant spring sunshine.
Instead, it took a dramatic twist as a second goal from Doherty (40) and one from Alan Freeman (42), and points by Aidan Campbell and Andy Moran levelled it up (4-8 to 3-11).
Briefly it looked as if Dublin might suffer the ignominy of losing a game they had led by 14 points, a thought that presumably acted as a catalyst for them to refocus and get back to the basics which had served them well early on.
That involved a greater work ethic, slicker combination play and a good finishing touch which would prove decisive. They scored five unanswered points between the 51st and 58th minutes in an outbreak of productivity which ultimately decided the game.
Mayo pressed on, but the energy expended in the comeback depleted their reserves and Dublin finished the stronger to maintain their 100pc record from five games.
They improved their average strike rate to an impressive 2-14 per game, but their average concession rated drifted up towards 1-14. In effect, Dublin have become a high-return, high-spend economy, with the latter certain to occupy Gilroy and his fellow ministers over the coming weeks.
"I'd be happy with our scoring rate but some of the other stuff was awful. When you get the chance to keep opponents down, you've got to take it. We've a lot to work on," said Gilroy.
Dublin will be doing that from a privileged position at the top of Division 1, where one point from their remaining two games against Down and Galway would probably be enough to earn them a place in the final for the first time since 1999.
As for Mayo, their focus will be solely on avoiding relegation when they engage Cork and Monaghan in their final two games.
Horan left Croke Park talking more of the positives accrued in the comeback than the negatives which cascaded down in torrents in the first 25 minutes.
"It took huge courage to come back the way we did so that's a good sign. We'll keep on working. We're not playing like we can over the full 70 minutes," he said.
Like Gilroy, he has defensive issues to deal with, but will be encouraged by the continued excellence of Doherty in attack while Freeman was an able accomplice yesterday.
Dublin's attacking strength was underlined by a 4-15 return which was achieved without Bernard Brogan, who missed the game due to travel problems on his return from the St Patrick's Day celebrations in America.
His fellow strike force ensured that he wasn't missed which was just as well on a day when the defence took their biggest hit since last year's Leinster semi-final against Meath.
Yesterday's attendance of 18,960 was down from 23,720 who watched Dublin play Kerry in their last Saturday night match. Dublin officials believe close on 30,000 would have been there had they been allowed to play the game last Friday night. Still, a combined total of 77,708 have watched Dublin's three home games so far in the Spring Series.
Man of the Match: Diarmuid Connolly
Scorers -- Dublin: D Connolly 3-3, M Quinn 1-7(7f), K McManamon 0-2, MD Macauley, A Brogan, D Nelson 0-1 each. Mayo: J Doherty 2-0, A Freeman 1-3, A Campbell 0-3 (2f), R Feeney, A Moran, A Dillon (2f) 0-2 each, P Gardiner 0-1.
Dublin -- M Savage 6; D Daly 5, S Murray 5, P Brogan 6; P Casey 5, G Brennan 6, D Nelson 6; D Bastick 6, M Macauley 6; P Flynn 6, K McManamon 7, B Cahill 6; T Quinn 7, D Connolly 9, A Brogan 6. Subs: P McMahon 5 for Daly (ht), B Cullen 7 for Macauley (42), K Nolan 6 for Casey (47), P Andrews 7 for Flynn (60), P Burke for A Brogan (69).
Mayo -- R Hennelly 6; T Cunniffe 5, C Barrett 5, K Higgins 6; R Feeney 7, G Cafferkey 5, K McLoughlin 6; R McGarrity 6, T Parsons 5; A Campbell 6, A Dillon 7, A Moran 7; P Gardiner 6, A Freeman 8, J Doherty 8. Subs: J Kilcullen 6 for Parsons (43), A Kilcoyne 7 for Campbell (55), C Hallinan 6 for Cafferkey (56), J Burke for McLoughlin (65).
Ref -- M Deegan (Laois)