Ruthless Dublin drive Mayo back to house of pain
All-Ireland SF semi-final: Dublin 3-15 Mayo 1-14
Forget curses and hoodoos, ill-luck and bad karma - none of them have anything to do with Mayo's continued failure to end their All-Ireland torment.
The reality is much simpler - they aren't good enough. Opportunity to reach the All-Ireland final knocked loudly on Saturday evening and, while Mayo were at home, they couldn't locate the key to open the door.
As they delayed and dithered, opportunity took itself next door, where Dublin offered it the warmest of welcomes.
And so ended another tortured season for Mayo while Dublin booked a place in the final for the third time in five seasons. They did it by exploiting the uncertainty which infected Mayo's play once they surged four points clear in the third quarter.
A four-point lead is a substantial advantage in the modern game, but only if it's built upon. Instead, Mayo scored only two points - both from frees - in the final 20 minutes while conceding 3-4, all of which came from open play.
The goals came from Bernard Brogan, Philly McMahon and Kevin McManamon, each typifying in its own way the difference between the teams.
Mayo had no poacher to match Brogan, whose nose for goal took him sniffing in the red zone where he connected with Brian Fenton's shot as it whizzed across the square in the 55th minute.
Neither did Mayo have a defender who did anything like as much damage as Philly McMahon. He scored 1-2, the goal coming shortly after Brogan's strike.
McMahon was left unmarked as he galloped in to flick Brogan's cross to the net. Where was the Mayo cover? If their forwards were playing deep - as they did regularly - it shouldn't have come as a surprise to them when Dublin defenders popped up close to Robert Hennelly's goal.
Dublin's third, rifled home by Kevin McManamon the 66th minute, showed up another significant difference between the teams. Together with fellow subs Michael Darragh Macauley and Alan Brogan, he exerted a real influence on the game with his powerful running causing panic in a tiring Mayo defence.
Alan Brogan's vision and positioning caused Mayo a different type of problem while Macauley's energy around midfield was hugely important in changing the possession balance in the final quarter.
It was a period in which Seamus O'Shea was badly missed by Mayo. He was sent off on a black card in the 39th minute after throwing Jonny Cooper to the ground as the pair clashed near the sideline.
It was an impetuous act by O'Shea but a yellow card would have been the appropriate punishment. Instead, Eddie Kinsella waved black and Mayo were left without their best midfielder.
Still, they improvised well for a period which yielded a goal from Cillian O'Connor in the 43rd minute. They could have had a second goal a minute later when Lee Keegan sprinted through but, uncharacteristic of one of the highest scoring defenders in the game, he checked his stride, aimed for a point but only managed to drop the ball into Stephen Cluxton's hands.
It was a let-off for Dublin but they were still looking very edgy when Patrick Durcan pointed to give Mayo a four-point advantage (1-12 to 0-11) after 53 minutes.
Up to then, Dublin had scored only one point in the second half and took another a minute to add their second when James McCarthy sauntered forward to fire over.
It was the start of Dublin's match-winning surge, a process made all the easier by Mayo's ghastly defending.
Defensive uncertainty had dogged them throughout the campaign, including in Connacht where Galway and Sligo scored two goals each.
Dublin took Mayo for two goals in the drawn semi-final and the malaise got considerably worse on Saturday as Mayo caved in completely in the final quarter.
And so, after an eventful week where Dublin's stubborn pursuit of a reprieve for Diarmuid Connolly hit the jackpot at a DRA session late on Friday night, Jim Gavin's men have set up the big date with Kerry.
Connolly took his place on the team but made little impact, which was scarcely surprising, given the turbulent events leading up to the game.
As Dublin begin the busy build-up to the final, Mayo are left to reflect on another devastating setback. They played very well at times in the first-half, which finished level on 0-10 each, and in the third quarter, but failed to maintain it once Dublin re-booted their systems heading into the final quarter.
Mayo should have been further ahead at that stage but they also needed to be far more secure defensively.
For the second year in a row, they conceded three goals in a semi-final, making defensive adjustments a priority for the 2016 re-launch.
Scorers - Dublin: P McMahon 1-2; P Andrews 0-5; B Brogan, K McManamon 1-1 each; D Rock (2f), C Kilkenny 0-2 each; B Fenton, J McCarthy 0-1 each.
Mayo: C O'Connor 1-6 (0-5f); D O'Connor 0-2; K McLoughlin, B Moran, A O'Shea, L Keegan, P Durcan, A Moran (f) 0-1 each.
Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O'Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, D Bastick; P Flynn, D Connolly, C Kilkenny; B Brogan, D Rock, P Andrews.
Subs: MD Macauley for Bastick (44), M Fitzsimons for Cooper (44), A Brogan for Flynn (51), K McManamon for Rock (53), E Lowndes for Connolly (68), J Small for B Brogan (71).
Mayo: R Hennelly; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; D Vaughan, L Keegan, C Boyle; S O'Shea, T Parsons; D O'Connor, A O'Shea, K McLoughlin; B Moran, C O'Connor, J Doherty.
Subs: P Durcan for Vaughan (34), A Moran for S O'Shea (39 b/c), A Freeman for B Moran (54), D Drake for Boyle (60), S Coen for Parsons (65), M Ronaldson for McLoughlin (70).
Ref: E Kinsella (Laois).