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Gilroy gives a grim warning

PAT GILROY is not noted for "blasting out warnings" or excoriating his players in public, so his withering assessment of Dublin's (non) performance in Castlebar on Saturday night is bound to make you sit up and take notice.

Gilroy's searing summation was forensically accurate -- unlike his team's toothless performance against a gloriously rampant Mayo. His words were hard-hitting -- unlike Dublin's threadbare tackling on the night.

More than anything, though, his message to the public read like a warning to his own dressing-room: if the All-Ireland champions persist in this vein, their defence of Sam will be over before it has properly begun.

"We have to regroup and sit down on Tuesday night and sort out a lot of things because, if they continue that, they won't be long in the championship either," Gilroy bluntly predicted.

"We are in a very bad place now in terms of the group. We have a lot to do to pick it up, and there is a massive challenge ahead of us."

More immediately, Dublin's prospects of reaching the Allianz Football League Division One semi-finals shipped a crushing blow with this 0-20 to 0-8 calamity.

Yes, they can still make the play-offs by dint of an Easter Sunday resurrection ... but it's not as if Leeside has been a happy hunting ground for Dublin teams of recent vintage, and to their mounting array of forward casualties you can now add Paul Flynn, who is set to serve a one-match ban for his straight red after 40 minutes here.

Dublin would finish the night with 13 men, Diarmuid Connolly following Flynn's errant lead by picking up a second yellow in the 58th minute.

In truth, the visitors were already a busted flush with the full deck of 15. They trailed 0-13 to 0-5 at half-time, and the gap had stretched to an 11-point chasm when a prone Flynn (who had just been fouled by Colm Boyle) flicked back and caught the Mayo defender.

There were so many things wrong about Dublin that you might struggle with a starting point, but Gilroy cut the chase by headlining one word: intensity. This is what ultimately separated them from the best of the rest last summer but, post-Mayo, you are suddenly left to ponder if Dublin are set to become the latest in a long line of sated champions who couldn't relocate the same ravenous hunger in year two.

There have been warning signs this spring -- possibly against Kerry, definitely away to Down -- but nothing so stark as this.

"We got a complete lesson out there," admitted Gilroy. "Mayo's hunger and intensity just completely blew us away. We weren't at the races ... if we don't have it (intensity) we are a poor team, and that's happened to us three times now in the league."


He added: "I think we have to totally look at ourselves. We weren't anywhere at the races there. That was as poor as we've played in three years."

Even the mitigating circumstance of injury -- robbing Dublin's attack of their blue-chip Brogan duo, plus Eoghan O'Gara and Barry Cahill -- doesn't explain why their starting 15 played as if they had turned up late for a pitch-opening challenge.

"Nobody in there could have seen that coming," Gilroy professed. "We were even worse than we were against Down in terms of our application. As a group we need to look at the reasons why that happened."

The manager was equally scathing of Dublin's latest disciplinary meltdown. Their spring campaign has already been blighted by previous suspensions for Eamon Fennell, James McCarthy and Bryan Cullen, and that now rises to four with Flynn. Even Connolly was a tad lucky with his first yellow, brandished by referee Michael Duffy after the mercurial Vincent's man saw red and made a retaliatory charge at Donal Vaughan.

"Last year and the year before we had great intensity to everything that we did, and we had great discipline in everything we did," Gilroy pointed out.

"That has deserted us for most of this year. We really have to sit down and look at that sharply, or else we'll have a very short year."

Lest we forget amid the Sky Blue post-mortems, Mayo were everything that Dublin were not on the night. They entered this game on the back of three straight defeats, most recently (and gallingly) to 14 Cork men, and manager James Horan had remarked in advance upon the Mayo public's propensity for doom and gloom.

This being Mayo, some of those supporters will now be booking hotel rooms in the Big Smoke for the fourth Sunday in September. Which, of course, would be wilfully premature but this was still a captivating performance from first minute until ... well, until Dublin went down to 13 men.

In the midst of their first-half dominance, Conor Mortimer overhauled Joe Corcoran to become Mayo's all-time record scorer: the 'Mort' would finish with eight points (three from play) and Setanta's man of the match bauble but, in truth, a handful of teammates could have claimed the prize.

Vaughan was a barnstorming auxiliary attacker from centre-back. Aidan O'Shea, back from suspension and in pristine physical condition, lorded midfield. Michael Conroy dazzled early doors in the left corner while Alan Dillon looked more like the buzzing Dillon of old, hoovering up the breaks and (like Conroy) landing four from play.

Tactically, too, Mayo were spot on. Whereas Connolly had routed their full-back line during the original February fog-fest, here they had Keith Higgins breathing down his neck from the off.

They also exerted huge pressure on Stephen Cluxton's surprisingly unsure restarts: they won 11 of his 19 first-half kickouts, including eight from 10 during a critical phase as the contest took shape.

At half-time, you wondered if a backlash beckoned. Within minutes we had our answer, as Vaughan and O'Shea burst through paperweight tackles (en route to further Mayo points) and confirmed that the game was up for Dublin.