Thursday 26 April 2018

The Blues' bottle is back as a wave of goals swamps the green and red

Diarmuid Connolly
Diarmuid Connolly
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

'I won't give you my name," explained Vinny, moments after surrendering his Christian one. He didn't want to appear disloyal to his county, but he feared for Mayo. On the train to Dublin that morning, he had listened to the bright chatter of the green and red pilgrims as they travelled hopefully once again. Much of the talk centred around how best to deploy their half-man, half-skyscraper Aidan O'Shea, and around the Dracula-like revivification of Dublin forward Diarmuid Connolly in the dead of the night.

Vinny was a small boy when Mayo last tasted victory in 1951, and he's learned to read the runes since then. "We should've finished them off last week when they fell asunder," he reckoned. "Dublin won't be so obliging today, unless their nerves are gone on them."

It was a conundrum chewed over by both sets of supporters as they settled into their seats in Croke Park. The Dublin nerve. The Blues' bottle flew away on them in a torrid final 15 minutes last Sunday.

There was an extra crackle in the air. The 11th-hour reinstatement of Connolly after his tumultuous tour of the GAA's appeals alphabet (from CCCC to CHC, CAC and DRA) had added extra spice to already piquant footballing fare.

The Hill was a stormy swell. Unlike Mayo who travel in hope, the Dubs surf into Croker on a wave of pride, profanity and porter.

Deafening noises had greeted both teams as they scampered on to the pristine turf which showed no signs of attrition from the ferocious tangle six days earlier, a clash for which referee Joe McQuillan had needed eyes on the back, top and side of his head.

Within two minutes, Bernard Brogan made clear his intentions with the opening point after some skilled hustling from James McCarthy.

But within a minute Mayo had levelled with a point from Kevin McLoughlin. It soon became clear that the replay was a different ball-game altogether. The pace was blistering, but the heads kept cool.

Mayo boos rang out every time Connolly (pictured inset) touched the ball. But his week-long Stations of the Cross had taken its toll anyway, and the St Vincent's man was without his usual pugnacious bustle.

But Mayo had plenty to cheer about. Ten points apiece at half-time as everyone took a breath.

But the second half saw the blue tide surge - any Mayo were simply swept away. 3-15 to 1-14. Who'd have thunk it.

Somewhere in the stands, Vinny had seen his fears realised. The boys in blue have got their bottle back.

Irish Independent

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