Gilroy ponders future as he admits Brogan gamble 'backfired'
Defeated Dublin manager Pat Gilroy was unwilling to make a hasty decision on his future but, having taken so long to decide to remain on for one more year following last September's All-Ireland triumph, the odds would seem highly unlikely that he will stay on.
"I don't even know what I'm doing next week, never mind next year," he said. "This is never the time to discuss those matters. It's very raw at the minute.
"I'll have to go away for a while and have a good think. There's other people involved, other paymasters that have to be happy. I'll take my time to think about it."
As Mayo and Dublin hurtled maniacally towards delight and devastation, David Clarke's breathless save from Bernard Brogan pinpointed precisely the moment when the sides passed each other on the forbidding peaks that carry one towards the All-Ireland summit.
Mayo have still to climb further; but Dublin slid miserably down the despairing slopes as, once again, the retention of the Sam Maguire proved beyond a modern-day football team.
Dublin's regret will be freighted with the severest introspection.
Much of it last evening stemmed from the manner in which they compounded an appalling implosion either side of half-time with some frankly ineffectual remedies to staunch the bleeding.
Principally, the introduction of the self-confessed unfit Alan Brogan, the glue that has pinned Dublin's uncertain forward line together all year, when the explosive, strong-running Kevin McManamon lay marooned on the bench.
Gilroy, who will postpone what seems an inevitable decision to reluctantly accept that he can do no more to build upon last year's stunning success, accepted responsibility for a gamble that backfired horribly.
Even though nothing became their championship pedigree more than their remarkable attempts to defy the script in that breathtaking final quarter, by the time Brogan's fitful cameo had expired, so too had Dublin.
"During the warm-up, he felt it wasn't right," Gilroy explained of Brogan's aborted introduction to the second-half fray.
"He felt he didn't have the full power. We had a plan that Ciaran Kilkenny would come in if that was the case.
"Alan got a painkiller but he just couldn't run when he came on. It was a gamble. It backfired. But when you have a player like him, it's one of those things you try."
Young Kilkenny, who will become a mainstay of this side, was one of the few shining lights in an opening half where others sparkled fitfully, but couldn't carry the attack for the full afternoon.
When Alan's brother, Bernard, sparked into life, shortly after seeing his brother removed listlessly from proceedings, it came too late.
His late goal chance, hit hard but straight at Clarke, almost summed up his and Dublin's uncertain defence of the realm.
"At that stage, we had that much momentum and a goal would have been huge," said Gilroy.
"We need to thank him a lot because he was winning balls in there when there were people hanging out of him. We wouldn't have been in that position without him. He gets a hard time.
"People expect him to score 2-10 every game. He works hard and does an awful lot off the ball and I think he's had a very honest year. He's very committed and he's a guy you can rely on."
Gilroy conceded that Dublin's recurring tendency to foul so softly allowed Mayo to accrue their seemingly insurmountable 10-point lead; were it not for Michael Darragh Macauley's insistent probings, belatedly from the midfield berth, the cruelty of defeat would have been inflicted much earlier in the piece.
"He made some great runs in the first half and we didn't get much off them, we could have got a few more points and maybe a goal from it," lamented the Dublin boss. "He's just one of those guys, he has incredible mental strength. He's never let us down.
"As a group, finishing the way we finished is some consolation. If we had finished like we did in the first half, there would have been a lot of soul-searching."
The sideline will still take a hammering, but perhaps there is a feeling that this Dublin side peaked last year and now, perhaps naturally, are waning after the satiated hunger of last year.
"I don't think retaining an All-Ireland is any harder than winning it in the first place," Gilroy demurred. "It's just difficult. Other teams get better, there are good teams there.
"I couldn't fault any player for their application. They probably did more than last year and physically they were probably a step up. It wasn't good enough. To win an All-Ireland is a huge task. Other teams have just got better."
Bryan Cullen assented dolefully.
"I'd like to think we wanted to win as much this year as last year," he said. "You see the effort. Lads threw the kitchen sink at it. We did that last year and it was good enough. We just left it a little too late this year.
"It's a very young squad. There's loads of football left in this Dublin squad."
The only problem is that the mountain gets steeper with each passing year.