Monday 27 February 2017

Mayo spring O’Shea to deny Dubs

Patrick Harte of Mayo leaps alongside Dublin's Ross McConnell during their game in Ballina
Patrick Harte of Mayo leaps alongside Dublin's Ross McConnell during their game in Ballina

JUST as well Mayo and Dublin weren't auditioning for the All- Ireland talent show, because they wouldn't have got a vote for entertainment from the 2,500 hardy fans who attended James Stephens Park, Ballina yesterday.

A low-scoring, turgid affair ended appropriately with honours shared, leaving both sides still hoping to avoid relegation.

Mayo had to save the day with a last- minute point by substitute Aidan O'Shea, and considering Dublin could have been out of sight long before then, his equaliser was a welcome relief for home fans.

Credit to O'Shea. He was on the Mayo U-21 team who saved themselves from certain defeat with a late goal against Roscommon and then won in extra-time on Saturday, so his double-duty weekend proved fruitful.

Positives

The respective managers, John O'Mahony and Pat Gilroy, did their best to take positives from the encounter but neither was unduly concerned about League form or the outcome.

O'Mahony's quirky one-word response to a query as to whether he felt it was a point gained or lost said it all: "Battle."

"We had to batten down the hatches and come up with an equaliser at the end, which was a great tribute to young Aidan O'Shea, considering the week he has had.

"I thought that we came to grips with the fact that Dublin were dominating possession, that they were physically stronger than us. I think we showed a unity of purpose," he said.

Dublin made it particularly hard for themselves after a wind-assisted first half left them leading by only two points -- 0-6 to 0-4 -- at half-time. Considering they started brightly and positively, and were five points up without reply after 16 minutes, the Dubs had more to be disappointed about it than Mayo, but then, as manager Gilroy keeps reminding us, it's all about the bigger picture.

"The main thing to take from it was that the performance was a hell of a lot better than the last day. Our workrate was better in all sectors throughout the game. We still made far too many mistakes, but I feel as the ground hardens up our football will get better," he said.

Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly, with two each, and a score by Blaine Kelly had the Dubs in cruise control early on.

The telling statistic, though, was the wide count. Dublin had 11 wides compared to Mayo's one in the first half, and had the visitors scored five or six of those, Mayo wouldn't have had a chance of a comeback.

Dublin's poor shooting, and Mayo's scrappy passing and faulty decision making within scoring range contributed to the low scoring, but then, just like the 46A bus, when one comes along, two or three more quickly follow.

Such was the case with Mayo when they finally got on the scoresheet.

Alan Dillon, the bright spark of the home team attack, claimed his county's opening point after 26 minutes.

Austin O'Malley added another a minute later and two minutes after that a Dillon free yielded Mayo's third point.

Connolly scored one off the ground from a '45' for Dublin's sixth point before Conor Mortimer, who was kept well in check for most of the match, got Mayo's fourth from a free two minutes from half-time.

Dublin found themselves on the receiving end of a much improved Mayo in the second half.

Pat Harte, with a fine long range shot from the wing, scored the first point of the second half within two minutes of the re-start, and two points from Dillon, one from a free, had them level 0-7 to 0-7 in the 49th minute.

Almost simultaneously, Dublin's Ger Brennan was sent off on a yellow card offence.

Brennan was adjudged to have made contact with a Mayo tackler as they contested possession. He was replaced by Darren Daly from the Dublin development squad.

Alan Dillon put Mayo ahead from a free for the first time in the game on 53 minutes, but Connolly scored a great point from a '45' against the wind to equalise six minutes later.

Almost nine minutes elapsed before Conal Keaney fisted over what seemed to be a winning point for Dublin, but then up popped O'Shea in the last minute to get the final score of the game.

Scorers -- Mayo: A Dillon 0-5 (0-3f), A O'Malley, C Mortimer, P Harte, A O'Shea 0-1 each. Dublin: D Connolly 0-5 (0-2 '45s'), B Brogan 0-2 (0-1f), B Kelly, C Keaney 0-1 each.

Mayo -- D Clarke; L O'Malley, G Cafferky, C Barrett; P Gardiner, T Cunniffe, A Moran; P Harte, R McGarrity; B Kelly, T Mortimer, A Dillon; C Mortimer, A O'Malley, M Ronaldson. Subs: K Conroy for C Barrett (19); A Kilcoyne for B Kelly (38); A O'Shea for A O'Malley (49), B J Padden for A Kilcoyne (64).

Dublin -- M Savage; D Henry, D Bastick, A Hubbard; B Cullen, G Brennan, B Cahill; C Whelan, R McConnell; D Connolly, K Bonner, D Lally; B Kelly, C Keaney, B Brogan. Subs: A Brogan for B Brogan (47); D Daly for G Brennan (y/c 49); S Ryan for K Bonner (62); T Quinn for B Kelly (65); J O'Connor for R McConnell (68); B Brogan for D Lally (69).

Ref -- P Hughes (Armagh).

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