Wednesday 17 January 2018

Colm O'Rourke: Jim Gavin's men pass rare test of character but big dog awaits

Dublin’s Kevin McManamon shoots to score his side’s third goal despite the attempts of Keith Higgins
Dublin’s Kevin McManamon shoots to score his side’s third goal despite the attempts of Keith Higgins
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

This was an epic struggle with Mayo blowing it again, and nobody does that better than Mayo. When they got their goal early in the second half they had Dublin really rattled but they neither attacked and killed the game off nor defended. Instead they lapsed into their usual limbo and the Dubs sensed that this game could be saved.

After 10 very wobbly minutes Dublin got the goal from Bernard Brogan which steadied the ship and they took control. In the end, Jim Gavin's team were ruthless in their execution.

People might think that the first goal from Brogan was lucky but great forwards get lucky by being in the right place. Brian Fenton's shot was going wide but Brogan was sniffing around, in where the action was. Mayo left the space in front of goal open for most of the game and were fortunate to escape in the first half. Philly McMahon should have goaled when he was not picked up coming from deep. He did not miss the second time he got the chance when the same type of run was made. That goal finished the game as it emotionally destroyed Mayo.

When all the rights and wrongs are discussed about who should and who should not have been playing it was McMahon who was most crucial for Dublin. What he did in the first game deserved a suspension but the charade which passes for a disciplinary structure has been laid bare. It is now justice on the hoof and nobody wants to take the unpopular line. The Association president must get to grips with the concept that doing the right thing does not get bouquets and it is not his business, nor any disciplinary authority's, to defend foul deeds.

The first half of this match was as good as ever played in that great arena. Wonderful scores from distance, and the pace was incredible. The Mayo tactic of trying to kick in high ball to Aidan O'Shea failed again. The angles of the kicks were completely wrong and they were left hanging long enough to allow plenty of backs to get into position.

Dublin had Paddy Andrews to thank for first-half equality. He turned Keith Higgins easily and scored at will. Mayo lost all advantage with Higgins - he was neither defending nor attacking - but even at that they were probably happy enough at half-time as they played so well in last week's second half. It looked like that again when they hit the front and Cillian O'Connor's goal seemed to hit the Dubs in the solar plexus.

Lee Keegan spurned a great chance to kick an easy point and then the tide turned with James McCarthy pointing, and the Mayo defence went walkabout. Letting in three goals at this level, when the finishing post beckoned, will cause many nights of interrupted sleep. Those who the Gods condemn, they first make mad.

Dublin will take great heart from this win; with 15 minutes left they looked all at sea yet scored three goals and five points to two points when they needed it most. This game was what they needed before the final as Leinster is a desert and this is the first serious contest in championship football since they were run over by the Donegal truck last year.

When they looked beaten they summoned up something within themselves that they probably did not even know was there. It takes that to make a man and a team. It was enough for today but in looking at the way Kerry defended against Donegal last year, they will meet an opposition who are built of granite.

A big part of the GAA supporters now have the final they want. The traditional final which traditionally goes Kerry's way. The Dubs helped create a great atmosphere yesterday but the big dog waits.

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