Monday 19 August 2019

Pat Spillane: 'I don't see anybody stopping Dublin's drive for five'

Andy Moran of Mayo in action against Ciaran Kilkenny of Dublin during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Andy Moran of Mayo in action against Ciaran Kilkenny of Dublin during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Pat Spillane

This was a defining game in the extraordinary rivalry between these counties.

Mayo gave it their best shot but fell to their biggest defeat to Dublin in this decade.

Once the All-Ireland champions went into overdrive only one team was going to win and I don’t see anybody stopping their drive for five.

They even had the luxury of sending on Diarmuid Connolly for a cameo at the end.

Mayo did well in the first half when their intensity and tackling troubled Dublin. But they had only a two-point lead to show for their efforts at the break.

It's a hallmark of all great teams that they turn up the intensity in the third quarter and that’s what Dublin did. 

Hitting 2-6 without reply was just awesome. It was some of the best football I have ever seen in Croke Park.

It was simply breathtaking and a joy to behold. I’m not sure what Tyrone and Kerry might have thought but for any GAA fan it was a privilege to witness it.

Dublin don’t do panic so I imagine there was no shouting in their dressing room at half-time.

They came out and played with a lot more energy and intensity – and Mayo had no answer.

Mind you, the underdogs made it relatively easy for them.

I imagine the last thing James Horan told his players coming back out was to make sure not to concede anything soft early on.

But that’s exactly what happened. After ten seconds Chris Barrett gives a soft free which Dean Rock popped over and the margin was down to a single point.

Much worse was to follow, however, when a shot from Paddy Durcan dropped short and Stephen Cluxton punched it across his own goal.

But the Dublin defence cleared it and they attacked along the Cusack Stand side.

Before Mayo realised what was happening Ciaran Kilkenny sent Con O’Callaghan through and he scored another crucial goal for the Dubs.

Mayo lost the next kick-out and Niall Scully could have had another goal.

The ball flew over the bar but the bottom line was that Mayo had conceded 1-2 while some of their fans were probably still settling back into their seats and it was always going to be a futile struggle afterwards.

But when Dublin play that high-tempo game it is just impossible for any team to stay with them for any length of time – not to mention an entire half.

The finishing for the goals was top drawer while the point scoring of Paul Mannion was outstanding. The five points he kicked from play were all superb efforts.

This was Dublin’s best second-half performance for a long, long time.

All the indications are that they are peaking at just the right time for that drive for five.

The scoring statistics reveal the big difference between the sides. Dublin had 37 attacks – just three more than Mayo. They had 26 shots compared to 24 for Mayo.

Not a big difference there but the Dubs scoring efficiency was separated the sides.

Jim Gavin's men scored from 17 of their shots which represents a 65 percent return.

Mayo hit 11 scores from their chances, a 46 percent return.

It says it all that the first Mayo forward to score in the second half was substitute Fergal Boland in the seventh minute of injury time.

The bottom line is that father time has caught up with this Mayo team who were appearing in their eighth semi-final in nine years and playing their seventh match in eight weeks.

The fact that they failed to win the Connacht championship and had to take a journey through the qualifiers did them no favours.

They rushed back Matthew Ruane and Diarmuid O’Connor after injury but it didn't work. They were not match fit and failed to make any impact.

Hats off to this gallant Mayo team for all the joy they have given us over the years.

The time to rebuild has arrived and unfortunately they are now stuck with the unwanted of tag of being the greatest team never to win an All-Ireland title.

But as Churchill said, history is written by the victors.

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