Mayo 0-12 Dublin 2-10
JIM GAVIN maintained his iron grip over Mayo in Castlebar tonight, as Dublin eased to a four-point victory over their perennial All-Ireland challengers.
A massive crowd of 15,313 were there to witness an often scrappy contest, devoid of much of the drama that these arch-rivals invariably produce when they collide in Croke Park.
Ultimately goals from Paul Mannion and Niall Scully, one in either half, destroyed an understrength Mayo's flickering prospects of an upset. It meant that Gavin remains unbeaten against the westerners, with a record of ten wins and three draws dating back to 2013.
But victory came at a cost – Mannion hobbled off during the third quarter and then Mick Fitzsimons received a straight red card after embarking on an ill-advised late lunge that caught Aidan O'Shea, three minutes into injury-time.
The locals in Elverys MacHale Park greeted the announcement of a late Mayo change – Lee Keegan replacing Jason Gibbons for his first appearance since double hip surgery – with a predictably raucous roar from the Mayo faithful.
Within 80 seconds of the throw-in, however, they were stunned to silence as 'Hill 16 on tour' celebrated a blistering goal from Paul Mannion.
Reacting more sharply to a pass up the right flank from John Small, Mannion left Eoin O'Donoghue for dead as he cut in from the right, near the end-line, before roofing a bullet past Rob Hennelly.
Mannion had started at full-forward in a Dublin team that showed four late changes, all unannounced until the game was in full flow.
Bolstered by that early goal tonic, Dublin proceeded to hold the whip hand for most of the half without ever exerting the dominance that some had expected given Mayo's lengthy absentee list.
It could have turned ugly, mind you, if Ciarán Kilkenny's fifth minute goal chance had fizzed under rather than over the bar. That stemmed from a ferocious high press by the Dublin forwards, forcing Diarmuid O'Connor into what could have been an even more costly turnover.
And yet, to their credit, the hosts hung tough for most of the half. Several times they pegged Dublin's lead back to a goal, only for the visitors to invariably grab the next score.
Initially Hennelly provided Mayo with some level of possession parity, locating green-and-red jerseys from his first five long restarts – but as the half wore on, Dublin had more joy here, eventually winning five of the 'keeper's 13 kickouts before the break.
Rock was Dublin's chief score-getter in the first half, shooting 0-5 (3f) as they forged a 1-9 to 0-7 lead.
It could have been more, mind you: on the half-hour, James McCarthy sold Aidan O'Shea a dummy and was clean through on goal. But Hennelly saved smartly with his legs – ultimately at the expense of a point as Kilkenny hooked over.
Trailing by five, Mayo needed to hit the ground running – and inside a minute they almost did, as a slack Dublin turnover allowed Jason Doherty to release Adam Gallagher for a clear shot on Stephen Cluxton's goal.
But Gallagher's shot lacked conviction and flew right and wide. In truth, Mayo never fully recovered, even though Hennelly advanced to nail a 50m free and briefly cut the deficit to four.
The game was rendered over when Niall Scully fisted home Dublin's second goal in the 47th minute. Darren Daly, Mick Fitzsimons and Scully were all involved in the build-up; Rock appeared to be bottled up but his speculative high handpass across the goalmouth was met by the onrushing Scully, out-jumping Hennelly and Kevin McLoughlin. In truth, the 'keeper should have done better.
Now seven clear, Dublin ambled from there to the finish. They only scored 1-1 in the entire second half – Rock adding another free – whereas Mayo hit 0-5.
Not that they can take much solace from that. Doherty (with two wild attempts), Andy Moran and Hennelly all missed right-footed frees before Conor Loftus entered off the bench and showed them out it should be done with three converted frees in stoppage time.
SCORERS - Dublin: D Rock 0-6 (4f), P Mannion 1-1, N Scully 1-0, C Kilkenny 0-2, B Fenton 0-1. Mayo: J Doherty (3f), C Loftus (3f) 0-3 each, K McLoughlin 0-2, L Keegan, A Moran, S Coen, R Hennelly (f) 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; D Daly, M Fitzsimons, D Byrne; J Cooper, J McCarthy, J Small; B Fenton, MD Macauley; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; K McManamon, P Mannion, D Rock. Subs: D Connolly for Macauley (44), C O'Sullivan for Small (44), C Basquel for Mannion (inj 44), C Reddin for Howard (61), P Small for Cooper (64), E Ó Conghaile for Fenton (69).
MAYO: R Hennelly; G Cafferkey, E O'Donoghue, C Crowe; C Boyle, L Keegan, M Hall; S Coen, A O'Shea; K McLoughlin, D O'Connor, D Drake; J Doherty, A Moran, A Gallagher. Subs: S O'Shea for Gallagher (55), F Boland for O'Connor (61), C Loftus for McLoughlin (61), S Akram for Drake (66), D Kirby for Doherty (71).
REF: P Neilan (Roscommon).