Dublin on course for 'five-in-a-row' after rampant All-Ireland semi-final victory over Mayo
Dublin 3-14 Mayo 1-10
Dublin’s history-making football squad have moved a step closer to sporting immortality by demolishing Mayo by ten points to reach their fifth All-Ireland final in a row and their seventh since 2011.
Jim Gavin's side are now unbeaten in 35 championship matches and are within one win of achieving the coveted five-in-a-row for the first time in the GAA history.
Two points behind at the break Dublin produced a powerful majestic second half performance which swept Mayo aside. A brace of Con O'Callaghan goals in the 37 and 46 minutes respectively put the champions into an unassailable position.
Lee Keegan did pull a goal back for Mayo but any chance of a heroic comeback melted into the Croke Park mist when Man of Match O'Callaghan set up Brian Fenton for Dublin's third goal ten minutes from the end.
The poverty of Mayo's second half effort is underlined by the fact that they managed one point from play in the 63 minute. Essentially it was a rout by the champion.
So Mayo's quest for that elusive All-Ireland title ticks into another decade. The journey will resume next season but there was the unmistakeable feeling that this was the end of an era for this particular Mayo team which has now failed to beat Dublin in their last seven championship encounters.
James Horan raised eyebrows with his team selection recalling Matthew Ruane and Diarmuid O'Connor who missed most of the summer with a shoulder and wrist injury respectively while Donal Vaughan was also included from the start– but after he was booked he was replaced by Keith Higgins five minutes from the break.
Dublin made just one predictable change – Jonny Cooper replaced Cian O'Sullivan at full back.
Mayo starting well, winning the throw-in and pinning Dublin inside their own half in the first three minutes and made their territorial advantage count with early points from Cillian O'Connor (free) and a super effort from Seamus O'Shea, who started at centre forward.
But in their first attack Dublin illustrated how dangerous they were when Con O'Callaghan got inside his marker Lee Keegan but the defender recovered to get a vital tackle in and Robert Hennelly was able to save his weakly struck shot.
Mayo struggled to make headway against Dublin's defence and both sides pressed up relentlessly on the opponent's re-starts with the All-Ireland champions enjoying more success.
Two Dean Rock frees had the sides level after 11 minutes. Mayo briefly regained the lead with a James Carr point but the Connacht side lived dangerously for the next few minutes.
Hennelly advanced 50 metres from his own goal but Aidan O'Shea was unable to hold his pass and Dublin turned over the ball as the keeper scurried back to his line.
Unusually Dublin opted not to go for the jugular though Paul Mannion did kick their first point from play. There was more trouble for Mayo from the next re-starts as Hennelly's attempted short kick-put was knocked away from its intended target by O'Callaghan and Mannion opted to kick a point.
But overall Mayo more than matched the Dubs and the sight of James McCarthy, Ciaran Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey being striped off possession was a notable feature of the first half.
However, Mayo's reluctance to test the aerial ability of the Dublin full back line was surprising. Only late in the half they did attempt two efforts.
Mayo's tenacity exemplified in the performance of Colm Boyle and Paddy Durcan who not alone reduced the influence of Jack McCaffrey but kicked two points saw them dominate the second quarter when they outscore Dublin 5-1.
Brian Howard kicked a late Dublin point - their first point from play for 22 minutes - after another they won another of Hennelly's restarts to leave Mayo two points clear at the break (0-8; 0-6).
The pressure the Dublin forwards were under was underlined by the fact they kicked four wides compared to one for Mayo and though Dublin won five of Mayo's ten kick-outs overall it was their most ineffectual first half performance for a long time.
Referee Conor Lane kept a tight rein on the contest booking five players, Mayo's Matthew Ruane, Stephen Coen and Dublin's John Small, Brian Fenton and Michael Darragh Macauley.
Dublin knew they had to improve and they did exactly that hitting an unanswered 2-6 in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
Mayo's kick out strategy came apart as Dublin won five of Mayo's first re-starts and once the All-Ireland champions are given possession and allowed to play on the front foot they will punish anybody.
But it was team captain and goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton who kicked off the Dublin comeback when he stopped a Paddy Durcan point and the ball was scrambled clear and Dublin built along the Cusack Stand before Ciaran Kilkenny released Con O'Callaghan who drove low past Hennelly.
Dublin tagged on four quick points with Paul Mannion singly handedly destroying the Mayo full back before Jim Gavin's side virtually wrapped up the game in the 46 minute.
Kilkenny floated a free into the danger zone where O'Callaghan rose unchallenged to secure possession before literally gliding past Keegan and find the net. Mannion added his fifth point from play soon afterwards to give Dublin a ten point lead in the 46 minute.
Mayo were shell shocked which was underlined by a bout of woeful shooting during which they kicked four wides.
But Colm Boyle continued to drive them forward and they finally got some tangible rewards when Keegan got inside the Dublin defence to side foot the ball past Cluxton with 20 minutes left. It was the first goal Dublin had conceded from play in the 2019 championship.
The introduction of veteran Andy Moran brought an enormous roar from the Mayo fans in the sell-out attendance.
But there was never the remotest possibility of them staging a heroic comeback and any lingering doubt about the outcome disappeared in the 60 minute when O'Callaghan – now being marked by substitute Eoin O'Donoghue – found Brian Fenton galloping through the centre and he made no mistake from close range with the referee playing an excellent advantage.
The introduction of Tom Parsons back for his first appearance since suffering a horrific knee injury in the early stages of the 2017 championship was a signal that even the Mayo management knew the game was over.
What kept the fans in their seats was the possibility of Diarmuid Connolly making a late appearance and Jim Gavin didn't disappoint sent on the St Vincent's player along with Paddy Andrew in injury time.
Mayo finished the game with 14 men after Cillian O'Connor was sent off on a second yellow card while Cormac Costello was black carded deep in injury.
This was Dublin's biggest win over Mayo during this decade – they had beaten then by seven points in the 2015 semi-final replay. It had all the hallmarks of the end of an era in a rivalry which has dominated Gaelic football in this decade.
Scorers: Dublin: D Rock 0-6 (6f), C O Callaghan 2-0, P Mannion 0-5, B Fenton 1-1, N Scully and B Howard 0-1 each. Mayo: C O'Connor 0-3 (2f), L Keegan 1-0, P Durcan 0-2, C Boyle, J Carr, S Coen, S O'Shea, F Boland 0-1 each.
Dublin: S Cluxton; D Byrne, J Cooper, M Fitzsimons; J McCaffrey, J McCarthy, J Small; B Fenton, M D Macauley; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; P Mannion, C O'Callaghan, D Rock. Subs: C O'Sullivan for Macauley (50), E Murchan for Small (63), C Costello for Mannion (65), P McMahon for Cooper (69), D Connolly for Scully 70 +1, P Andrews for O'Callaghan 70+1.
Mayo: R Hennelly; C Barrett, B Harrison, L Keegan; S Coen, C Boyle, D Vaughan; A O'Shea, M Ruane; F McDonagh, S O'Shea, P Durcan, D O'Connor, C O'Connor J Carr. Subs: K Higgins for Vaughan (30), K McLoughlin for McDonagh (50), A Moran for Carr (53), E O'Donoghue for Boyle (58), T Parsons for S O'Shea (60), F Boland for D O'Connor (69).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).