Saturday 17 February 2018

Colm Parkinson: Gavin's superior force have enough quality to dominate for a decade

Dublin's James McCarthy races clear of Aidan O'Shea of Mayo at Croke Park yesterday
Dublin's James McCarthy races clear of Aidan O'Shea of Mayo at Croke Park yesterday

Colm Parkinson

Leaving the Hogan Stand at full-time, I passed a girl in a Mayo jersey crying in her father's arms. "It's not fair," she sobbed. While it's difficult not to feel for Mayo and their desperate quest for an All-Ireland title, there was nothing unfair about this result.

Dublin were the superior team over the 70 minutes of sloppy but breathtaking action in yesterday's final. Mayo started the game really well and were full value for their 0-4 to 0-1 lead after 15 minutes. Keith Higgins could have goaled after brilliant thinking from an Andy Moran free. Ger Brennan was leaving Higgins roam while holding the centre-back position and turning to help his full-back line. Higgins started well but didn't carry much of a scoring threat and this was a good decision by Jim Gavin.

Then came Dublin's first goal – a routine long ball from Paul Flynn should have been dealt with by Ger Cafferkey but Robert Hennelly got a rush of blood to the head and came off his line. A slight touch from Bernard Brogan and suddenly it was level. However, Hennelly later made amends for this mistake with a couple of great saves from Eoghan O'Gara and Ciaran Kilkenny.

Dublin started the game with Paddy Andrews at centre-forward and Kilkenny playing a roaming role. Dublin's two-man full-forward line of Paul Mannion and Bernard Brogan struggled early on, but O'Gara made a difference when introduced for the injured Mannion halfway through the first half.


He showed well for the ball, laid it off and helped Dublin get a foothold back in the game. With O'Gara winning the initial ball, Dublin finished the half strongly and should have had another goal from Kilkenny only for Hennelly to save. They went in at the break only one point behind with Mayo visibly tiring after a frantic first half.

Dublin smelled blood at the start of the second half. Their kicking game finally started to work and their forward line clicked with Brogan, Flynn, Andrews and O'Gara all scoring from play.

Mayo's forward line completely ran out of ideas in the second half. They looked for long balls into an isolated full-forward line that had no support. Mayo's legs were gone and not even an Andy Moran goal against the run of play could spark a revival.

Dublin emptied their much stronger bench early in the second half. Denis Bastick made an excellent run to unselfishly set up Bernard Brogan for a goal. Brogan had a great battle with Ger Cafferkey. Despite Cafferkey winning some 50/50 challenges, Brogan ended up with 2-2 from play, showing the leadership and class everyone knows he has.

Indeed, while young guns Mannion, Jack McCaffrey and Kilkenny, who lit up the early part of the championship, struggled in yesterday's final, it was the older heads of Brogan, Paul Flynn, Cian O'Sullivan and Philly McMahon who stood up and were counted.

Mayo's leaders Donal Vaughan, Aidan O'Shea, Alan Dillon and Kevin McLoughlin all struggled. We saw nothing of Vaughan as an attacking force. Putting him on Flynn, Dublin's hardest-working forward, was a mistake with Flynn completely nullifying his attacking threat.

Cillian O'Connor spent much of second half out around midfield and that's not where Mayo needed him. With Mayo's full-forward line isolated, it was left to Michael Conroy and Andy Moran to try to take on their markers, but they were easily marshalled by the Dublin defence who had Ger Brennan as an extra defender with Bastick also dropping back to help out.

Dublin played out the last 10 minutes with just 13 fit men but Mayo still couldn't find a way through. O'Gara couldn't run and Rory O'Carroll was wandering around midfield dazed after a collision with Enda Varley. Dublin had all their subs used up so Paul Flynn ended up full-back as Dublin tried to close out the game. They resorted to cynical fouls to stop any Mayo comeback, but I wouldn't blame them one bit for that.

I thought this would be Mayo's day but they were beaten by a superior team. This Dublin team are the real deal and could go on to dominate the All-Ireland for the next decade like Kerry did during the 2000s.

Against Meath, Kerry and Mayo, they were not at their best but showed composure, character and class in the second periods to dig out results.

It's frightening to see what happens when they all click on the same day, as Kildare found out in the Leinster championship.

Jim Gavin deserves so much credit too. Yes, he has a brilliant panel to choose from but he has introduced lots of new faces this year and has Dublin playing a really exciting, traditional style of football.

So congratulations to the Dubs – deserving league and All-Ireland champions for 2013. Sing with me ... "Raised on songs and stories ... "

Irish Independent

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