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Dublin 'in a bad place,' admits Gilroy

How Pat Gilroy must have wished for another smothering of fog to roll in, descend on MacHale Park and force another half-time cancellation of this fixture.

More so, he must have wished for the entire first half to have been concealed by a thick blanket to help hide the evidence of what he himself has described as their poorest display for three years.

It was an obliteration -- a humiliation at the hands of a very driven, relentless Mayo. The status of All-Ireland champions carries a certain value, a certain expectancy that should ensure performances like this don't happen. None of those values were upheld in Castlebar on Saturday night.

It was hard to believe that this was much the same team that toyed with Donegal seven days earlier in Croke Park.

It left Gilroy to deliver the most damning verdict on his players since the 'startled earwigs' description of the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final rout by Kerry. There was no shortage of sombre faces around the Dublin dressing-room afterwards. Even the five-goal collapse against Meath in 2010 didn't deserve placement on the same billing, according to a clearly perplexed Dublin manager, because bad mistakes led to their downfall that day. Here attitude and poor discipline crushed them on top of a really slick, confident home effort.

Gilroy didn't attempt to bail out his players or himself with anything except the truth, admitting that they were now "in a very bad place."

"Our application just wasn't anywhere near what it should be. It is as simple as that. We know the kind of team we are, in that we are only good as a team. We just didn't bring that to it at all tonight," he said.

"Last year and the year before we had great intensity to everything we did and we had great discipline in everything we did. That has deserted us for most of this year.

"We really have to sit down and look at that sharply or else we will have a very short year," said Gilroy in acknowledgment of two more red cards, which reduced them to 13 men for the last seven minutes.

Challenge

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

That process, he promised, would begin tomorrow night when they dissect what was probably Dublin's worst performance in the league since the 2004 defeat to Mayo at the same venue.

It was always a difficult task for Dublin to go back down the road to Castlebar after the previous cancellation. Psychologically, it was a challenge, because their domination of the 35 minutes played in February counted for nothing.

Mayo were coming off the back of a poor run of games too, having lost to Down, Donegal and Cork in consecutive weeks.

But there were signs of marked improvement against Cork and this was built on most impressively with Conor Mortimer, Alan Dillon and Michael Conroy, continuing his renaissance, leading the charge from the front.

It was one of those nights when just about everything they tried came off and where every shot found a route between the posts.

They were busy and almost manic in everything they did. Aidan O'Shea, surely leaner than he has been at any stage in his inter-county career, dominated midfield and with Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins pushing up fast from the back, Dublin were quickly discomforted and never recovered.

Every manager with an ambition to beat Dublin for the remainder of the season should procure a copy of the DVD of this match and examine how Mayo pressured Stephen Cluxton's kick out to such great effect in the opening 35 minutes here.

Cluxton dispatches his restarts with the precision of Phil Mickelson's wedge around Augusta, but on Saturday night, he was more like Rory McIlroy around Amen Corner last year.

After winning four of the first five of their own kick-outs, they ended the half losing 11 out of 19. The panic was almost palpable. Only Bryan Cullen was able to rise above it.

Mayo were ready and willing to exploit this area, with the most stark example being Dillon's point on 23 minutes, which put mayo 0-9 to 0-3 ahead, when he intercepted a typical Cluxton delivery to Cullen.

Briefly, Dublin did manage some cohesion when Kevin Nolan timed a break perfectly on the back of good approach work from Michael Darragh Macauley and Cullen, but David Clarke saved smartly and the flow towards the other end continued.

The half ended with Mayo leading 0-13 to 0-5 and braced for an obvious response on the restart. But it never came. Instead Dublin deteriorated, especially their collective responsibility to defend for the first three points.

The Dubs' rearguard were rooted to the ground as Vaughan charged in for two points and O'Shea was made to look like a flying wing as he broke through to draw a great save from Cluxton.

A straight red card for Paul Flynn for retaliating on Boyle on 40 minutes compounded Dublin's misery.

Connolly had sailed close to the wind with a yellow card in the first half, but picked up a second on 58 minutes for what was Dublin's seventh red card or retrospective suspension since the start of the season.

It's an issue Gilroy never hides from. "(It was) very poor discipline from us. They weren't the only guys, the two lads that got sent off. Our discipline and our general intensity all night wasn't great," he said.

"Nobody in there could have seen that coming. 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. We clearly have to eliminate it.

Pitch

"We never got near the pitch of that game. From start to finish there was only one team in it.

Mayo manager James Horan expressed satisfaction that they were now virtually safe from relegation.

"We played well today. We did a lot of good stuff. We might have caught the Dubs. They seemed a little bit cold today. But we took advantage, played our game and played well, so we're delighted with the performance and the win."

For Dublin, life as All-Ireland champions is turning out to be more difficult than they thought. Three weeks ago they blitzed Armagh in Croke Park, now this. The consistency of the last two seasons has deserted them.

Somehow you could never countenance Kerry, as All-Ireland champions, losing a league game like this -- even with equivalent absentees.

Dublin will get over it and recover. But they have to remember that as champions there is little time to draw breath.

Man of the Match: Aidan O'Shea (Mayo).

Scorers -- Mayo: C Mortimer 0-8 (5f), A Dillon, M Conroy 0-4 each, D Vaughan 0-2, B Moran, A O'Shea 0-1 each. Dublin: B Cullen, T Quinn (2f) 0-2 each, D Connolly (f), P Andrews, D Rock, G Brennan all 0-1 each.

Mayo -- D Clarke 8; S McHale 7, L Keegan 7, K Higgins 8; K Keane 7, D Vaughan 9, C Boyle 8; A O'Shea 9, D Geraghty 7; K McLoughlin 6, A Moran 7, A Dillon 8; C Mortimer 8, B Moran 6, M Conroy 8. Subs: J Doherty 6 for B Moran (57), C O'Connor for Conroy (64), P Gardiner for Vaughan (64), J Gibbons for Geraghty (67), A Campbell for Dillon (67).

Dublin --S Cluxton 7; D Daly 6, R O'Carroll 7, C O'Sullivan 5; J McCarthy 5, G Brennan 5, K Nolan 6; R McConnell 4, M D Macauley 6; P Brogan 4, P Andrews 5, B Cullen 7; T Quinn 4, D Connolly 5, K McManamon 5. Subs: P Flynn 4 for Brogan (26), E Fennell 5 for McConnell (ht), C Dias 5 for McCarthy (ht), D Kelly for Quinn (45), D Rock 5 for Andrews (49).

Ref -- Michael Duffy (Sligo)

Irish Independent