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Dubs defeat no surprise in end

Dublin relinquished their All-Ireland title yesterday to a well-organised Mayo team that stuck to its guns right to the death, fully deserving to reach this year's final.

The Connacht men played some sublime attacking football at times, but their improvement has come from having a very disciplined and well-organised defence which stood up to everything Dublin threw at them.

The Dubs, for their part, rediscovered what worked for them last year, but unfortunately only when they went 10 points down early in the second half.

They very nearly pulled off what would have been the greatest comeback in recent history, but gave themselves far too much work to do and in the end Mayo hung on for another famous victory. They can now look forward to the county's first final in six years but they will need to be careful not to get too carried away because Donegal will be a totally different beast.


There are also many areas of their game that will need improvement, but they have three weeks before the final to work on the things that didn't work for them yesterday. For one thing, James Horan will wonder why his team capitulated in the last 20 minutes -- in that time they were totally outplayed at midfield.

Dublin suddenly rediscovered the intensity levels that brought them success last season and began to run riot. Incredibly, Bernard Brogan had a one-on-one with David Clarke with just four minutes to play and had he finished to the net the Dubs would have been level, but Clarke was out quickly and managed to get a hand to it.

At that stage Mayo were on the ropes and hanging on for dear life but that miss let them off the hook and allowed them to regroup, rethink and reorganise for the last couple of minutes. Dublin did have a few more opportunities at points, but the Mayo backs have learned to be cynical and that is a 'quality' in today's game.

This Mayo team now mix brilliant attacking football with the same defensive set-up that most of the top teams have and yesterday's win will give them a lot of confidence going into the final. For a start they won't panic if a team gets a run on them like they did in the past and they certainly have one of the most potent forward lines in the business.

To score 19 times in any championship game is a great feat, but to do it against a team who pride themselves on their defence must be particularly pleasing for James Horan and his management team. Dublin, of course, have struggled all year to get even close to the performances that took them all the way last year and that is the big disappointment. But, to be fair to them, they worked their socks off in 2011 and those levels were always going to be hard to maintain.

The performances in the Leinster championship were mediocre at best and that form was carried into the quarter-final against Laois. That is in no way taking away from Mayo's great victory, but Dublin were poor all year and for about half of yesterday's game were simply awful.

There was no spark, no magic up front; no disciplined tackling at the back, no savage work-rate, so there was no surprise with the defeat. Last season, both Alan and Bernard Brogan were central to the success. This year, Bernard's performances were some distance below his best and Alan missed out on the last two games with a groin injury.

Dublin certainly cannot afford to have either one off form -- essentially, both have been missing over the last two games. Yesterday, when the Dubs came up against a good team, they didn't have enough players in form to make the difference.

Mayo supporters won't be too concerned about that and I believe their team has a genuine chance of ending the long wait for All-Ireland success.

There is no history between the teams and that is huge when it comes to the psychological part of the game. Donegal will, of course, be hard to break down, but I like this Mayo team and in particular the midfield area where Barry Moran and Aidan O'Shea will win their fair share of clean possession.

Yesterday, they were terrific for 50 minutes and that gave the Mayo forwards the ammunition to fire holes in the Dublin defence and at times it looked like the Dublin backs were thrown together on the morning of the game.


Mayo took full advantage of some poor Dublin defending and could have been totally out of sight after the break but for some bad decision-making and some very bad wides. They would certainly be kicking themselves today if they left it behind them but they survived a very late fight back and will surely be stronger for it.

I thought that Michael Darragh Macauley was a giant yesterday as he battled bravely to the very end. It was his ball-winning ability and his driving runs in the last quarter that very nearly pulled it out of the fire, but, unfortunately, we didn't have enough players showing the same desire to win the game.

I think the management erred playing him out of his best position all year and it's no coincidence that the team's performances have suffered.

There were some other strange calls this season from the management team, in terms of substitutions, but this is not the time to sift threw the wreckage.

Pat Gilroy has done a terrific job to get this group of players to the top and, who knows, they might get their chance again in the near future. But this year will be Mayo or Donegal's time.

It is a novel final pairing and one certainly that the neutral will look forward to. The game of Gaelic football will be all the better for it. It is going to be a great occasion.