Dubs topple Mayo in titanic encounter
Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30
In a pulsating battle, swamped in a tempest of tension and downright hostility, Dublin emerged victorious in a fiercely fought All-Ireland Final replay.
For Dublin it's back-to- back titles - the first since 1977. For Mayo, beaten by a solitary point, Croagh Patrick is still a heartbreak hill.
Replays rarely live up to their hype - but this one had a greater fury than the first match two weeks ago.
The 1-15 to 1-14 scoreline doesn't tell the story of this pulsating drama. Dublin ditched their talismanic forward Bernard Brogan - and Mayo had dropped their goalkeeper from the drawn game, David Clarke, and replaced him with back-up keeper Rob Hennelly.
Brogan ultimately came on and played a key role - while Rob Hennelly had the cruellest of days.
His confidence was shattered early as the Dubs attacked his kick-outs with venom. Then came the moment that he will want to forever erase: a blunder under the high ball and then a despairing foul by the replacement keeper meant a black card for him and a penalty that Diarmuid Connolly would not miss.
The turning point of the game.
Such was the fury of the tackling and off-the-ball challenges the referee was brandishing black and yellow cards with alacrity.
The crucial moment in the first half came in the 17th minute: a sublime goal for Mayo by Lee Keegan - having blind-sided his arch-nemesis Diarmuid Connolly. Keegan, who was having a fine game, was soon black-carded after a bad Hennelly kick-out led to a rash challenge.
Of course tensions would boil over, and a triplet of yellow cards followed an unsavoury brawl at the end of the first half. At least two might have been red.
On the resumption after half-time, Mayo signalled their intent with a Cillian O'Connor point in the second minute. Mayo couldn't really get a break, yet with dogged determination they dug in. It was epic stuff as a pewter sky over Croke Park gave a portent of the storm to come
Hill 16 favourite Bernard Brogan replaced Paddy Andrews as Dublin began to look at their super strong subs bench. A scoring lull for Dublin followed - until Brogan announced his return to the scoring sheet in the 54th minute, making it a two-point game once again.
Dublin crept ahead. But Mayo refused to lie down and by the 70th minute were still only a point behind.
With the announcement of six minutes of added time the game was on a knife edge. Cillian O'Connor had a chance to draw and send the game to extra time - but the ball slipped wide and it was Dublin's day.
The Mayo boys were in tears. Rob Hennelly was inconsolable and marksman Cillian O'Connor, who had been so deadly during the game, will rue that missed free till the end of days.
Stephen Cluxton becomes the first Dublin captain to lift Sam three times.
When he and Rob Hennelly lined up to meet the president before throw-in, neither could have imagined that one would be blessed with triumph, the other cursed with disaster.
Dublin supporter Aine Curtin from Castleknock was one of those toasting the blues last night.
"It's amazing. I thought 'here we go again' and it was heading for extra time, so when the free went wide, the relief was something else.
"It was a while then before the ref blew it up, so the nerves came back a little bit but it was worth it all in the end.
"On to a bar now and then Coppers later."
Yesterday was the first time Dublin have won an All-Ireland final replay, having previously lost the first ever replayed final to Cork in 1894.
It took them 140 minutes across two games to see off a valiant Mayo side. The teams played almost another half of football on top of this if you were to count all the stoppage time that was added in the drawn first final and the replay.
The Dubs on the Hill were beside themselves with emotion as Cluxton lifted the trophy Paidi O Se used to call "the cannister". Sam was staying in the capital for another year.
"The penalty swayed it our way and Mayo threw it away really," said Dubs fan Eoin Cashman from Ballyboden.
"We were on the Hill and it was crazy at the end. The drama was something else."
It is that drama that has Mayo fans searching, wondering what went wrong.
"We put it up to Dublin," said Roisin O'Toole-Deehan from Ballintubber. "Mayo were just as good as them.
"We don't want to believe in the curse but you cannot ignore it. After that you would be tempted to think there is something in it.
"Getting so close, being that close so often and always coming away gutted is a horrible feeling. I thought we deserved to win."
Dublin will host a homecoming celebration in Smithfield Plaza today. The team will arrive at around 4.30pm.
The event will be family-friendly and alcohol-free.