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Monday 19 February 2018

Fans can't turn away from ugly but compelling 'Gubu' match

Aidan O'Shea of Mayo at the final whistle Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Aidan O'Shea of Mayo at the final whistle Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

It was an exorcism playing out on a cliff edge. Ugly, uncomfortable and a horror to watch.

Yet, such a strangely compelling sight that you couldn't tear your eyes away, as Mayo wrestled against the hideous inner demons that have stalked them for the last 65 years, and Dublin struggled with a writhing Medusa whose existence they had comfortably forgotten.

The GAA have purchased a farm in Naul
The GAA have purchased a farm in Naul

Is it ever wise to interrupt such an exorcism for a two-week break? Shouldn't such a battle be fought to the death, no matter the result?

Amid the heaving post-match crush as fans from both sides poured out of Croke Park simultaneously, the eyes of a Mayo man met those of an elderly Dub.

"We have to sit through another 70 minutes of that," ventured the Dublin man.

Both men grimaced as they parted, already trying to blot out the horrors they had just witnessed on the battle field.

"Gubu," was how RTÉ's Colm O'Rourke dubbed it at half-time.

"Grotesque" certainly sums up the two Mayo own-goals and it was undeniably "Unprecedented" to witness the crumbling of a Dublin side which had so superbly beaten Kerry.

Referee Conor Lane was kept busy Picture: Sportsfile
Referee Conor Lane was kept busy Picture: Sportsfile

"Bizarre" is a pretty good description of the shambolic, fumbling game that it turned out to be from both sides and, yes, it was absolutely "Unbelievable" that the men from the West did not finally pull a long-awaited All-Ireland win out of the bag when Dublin was on its knees.

Mayo, God help us.

Throw in the bus strike that's threatened for the day of the replay and having to fork out another costly ticket and there could be screams for a long-running and very expensive tribunal.

On the walk up to Croker, the Dub fans talked tactics while the red and green army were more about the existential philosophy, a strangely grim sight as they traversed the streets of the city.

One fan unfurled the flag and silently stalked in military fashion up through North Circular Road before roaring: "Hup Mayo!"

There was a bit of a flap in Croke Park as the number one supporter went unaccountably AWOL. Taoiseach Enda Kenny was supposed to get the media lift up to the fifth floor for some pre-match food but could not be traced.

A Mayo fan celebrates after his team score a late point Picture: Sportsfile
A Mayo fan celebrates after his team score a late point Picture: Sportsfile

But a bit of magic was what was sadly lacking yesterday and it only turned out that he had taken an alternative route.

Before the throw-in, former Miami Dolphin Roberto Wallace took to the pitch to talk about how he had ended up trading places with Mayo and Breaffy star Aidan O'Shea, who went across the water to try his hand at American football as part of TV show 'The Toughest Trade'.

"Mayo treated me like a rock star," enthused Wallace.

He said he preferred the Gaelic ball because "when it bounces, you know where it's going to go".

"Mayo for Sam," he concluded, as the crowd went wild with ecstasy.

Dublin fans accept a draw Picture: Sportsfile
Dublin fans accept a draw Picture: Sportsfile

The Hill and beyond may have been a sea of blue, but the roar was with Mayo, the fans having finally found their voice. The Dubs had a hard time getting a look in and even the tattered bodhráns could not be heard.

A banner in the crowd read: "We want to party with Marty and take home Sam."

The boys in blue were chasing their 26th title and Mayo hungry for their fourth, yet this was only the third time the two sides had met in an All-Ireland final.

It should have been a classic - but it was far too strange and rough a contest for that. A peculiar, mortified silence settled as Mayo conceded two own-goals in the space of the first 11 minutes, that old familiar sense of doom and dread creeping in again.

Even the blue army found it hard to delight in two substantial freebies. Meanwhile, their own players were flailing wildly on the pitch and points seemed impossible to come by.

The downpour of softly drenching rain didn't help as slipping and sliding the players turned desperate.

At half-time, it was 10-5 to Dublin, when Mayo should have been clearing a space on the mantel for Sam, having scored two goals and four points in the first 30 minutes - only the two goals were hit squarely between the wrong posts.

But then the Dubs had their own worries, losing James McCarthy to a black card.

The attendance figure of 82,257 was announced and the floodlights were switched on.

A dirty second half finished in despair and a scoreline of 15-all.

"But at least there'll be 6,000 extra tickets next time," said a practical punter - with no minors playing next time.

Irish Independent

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