Dubs' unbeaten run continues
Dublin 1-16 Mayo 0-7
Dublin footballers have forgotten what it is like to lose games. They might not be firing on all cylinders but they have patented the capacity to preserve their admirable unbeaten record in league and championship.
They were not seriously tested at Croke Park last night as Mayo failed miserably to bring their A game to Croke Park.
They are now unbeaten in 33 games - just one short of equalling Kerry's all-time record of 34.
And guess who they're meeting next? Kerry, of course. It ought to be noted that anybody who questions the legitimacy of the Dublin record because it ignores the team's two defeats in the O'Byrne Cup must be as sceptical about the Kerry figure, as it includes a walkover!
Far more important for Dublin last night was that they ended a sequence of back-to-back draws - indeed, three of their last five games had ended level - by securing the win which inflicts more wounds on one of their main rivals.
Mayo have won just two - a rearranged League clash in Castlebar in 2012 and the All-Ireland semi-final later that season - of the last 13 clashes between the sides.
Three of the games have ended level but Dublin have won the other eight - a worrying statistic for the Mayo fans who still dream of securing Sam in the not-too-distant future.
The late inclusion of Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan and Tom Parsons meant that Mayo had ten of their starters from the All-Ireland final replay. Dublin had eight, but just two of their first-choice forwards, Ciaran Kilkenny and Dean Rock.
Dublin never looked back after hitting 1-2 without reply in the first seven minutes. Their goal came after an attempted short kick-out from David Clarke was intercepted by Niall Scully, who combined with Ciaran Kilkenny. His flicked pass gave Conor McHugh the relatively simple task of punching the ball to the empty net.
Dublin continued to pour through their opponents' central channels but surprisingly failed to add to their tally, though Eoghan O'Gara missed two clear goal chances. Mayo did create a couple of goal-scoring chances themselves and it took a brace of brilliant saves from Stephen Cluxton to deny Cillian O'Connor and Kevin McLoughlin respectively.
The visitors' only reward was a pointed 45 from O'Connor - whose first score also came from the 45 line - but he also missed two efforts from placed balls. But the most telling statistic of the first half was the failure of Mayo to score from play.
Dublin ended a 17-minute barren spell without a score when Philly McMahon ventured forward to kick a long-range effort.
His score sparked off a mini scuffle, initially involving Rock and Diarmuid O'Connor, with Keith Higgins then joining what was a minor affray. All three were booked while Rock required a new jersey.
He knocked over his second free in the 28th minute but surprisingly there was only one more score during the remainder of the half - a point deep in injury time from Eric Lowndes to leave Dublin 1-5 to 0-2 ahead at the break.
Dublin did have the ball in the Mayo net again a minute from the break. After Clarke brilliantly blocked Michael Darragh Macauley's shot after a through-ball from Rock, the midfielder swooped the rebound to the net with his hand, but the referee correctly adjudged that he had handled the ball on the ground.
There was a remarkable scoring burst in the early stages of the second half with ten scores within as many minutes, but Mayo continued to rely exclusively on frees, though wingback Stephen Coen finally got their first point from play.
On the other hand, all but one of Dublin's five points came from play. Mayo's overworked defence yielded under the relentless pressure after Donal Vaughan pulled down Rock as he was about the pull the trigger.
Vaughan was black-carded but Clarke not alone saved the penalty from substitute Paddy Andrews, he also blocked the rebound with the help of the upright, and Colm Boyle then saved another rebounded shot from Niall Scully.
But really the game petered out afterwards with Mayo never looking like they would mount the kind of comeback they have managed in the past against the Dubs, and Dean Rock kept the scoreboard ticking over for Dublin, ending with an impressive tally of 0-8.
It was a difficult night for Mayo - particularly in the scoring department. None of their starting forwards scored from play and they only managed three scores in total from open play. This is not the sort of form which wins silverware.
Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon (0-2), M Fitzsimons, D Daly; J Small, D Byrne, E Lowndes (0-2); B Fenton, MD Macauley; N Scully, D Rock (0-8, 7f), SB Carthy; C Kilkenny, E O'Gara, C McHugh (1-3) Subs: P Andrews for O'Gara 46m; P Flynn (0-1) for Carthy 50m; K McManamon for McHugh 55m; C Reddin for Byrne 66m; E O Conghaile for Fenton 70m; C Mullally for Small 72m
Mayo: D Clarke; K Higgins, L Keegan, P Durcan; S Coen (0-1), C Boyle (0-1), D Vaughan, T Parsons (0-1), J Gibbons, F Boland, K McLoughlin, D O'Connor; E Regan (0-2, 2f), C O'Connor (0-2, 2 45s), A Moran. Subs: B Harrison for Gibbons ht; S Nally for Vaughan (BC) 49m, C O'Shea for Moran 54m; C Loftus for D O'Connor 63m, D Kirby for Boland 66m
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)
Sunday Indo Sport