Mayo waste golden chance to bury their Dublin ghosts
Mayo 2-17 Dublin 3-14
In the game's breathtaking finale, an electrified crowd didn't know what to expect next as Mayo and Dublin produced another ridiculously entertaining contest at Croke Park.
The broad narrative is that Mayo led by six points with 15 minutes left in this NFL Division 1 clash and were a man up after Stephen Cluxton's red card in the 28th minute. But two goals from substitute Eoghan O'Gara in the final five minutes gained Dublin the most unlikely of reprieves.
How Mayo surrendered to a draw is anyone's guess and it will gnaw at them – as it should. Dublin looked headed for a third defeat of their campaign. In a matter of minutes their mood dramatically altered and in the end a shot from Jack McCaffrey into the Hill could have won it, missing by a small margin. Had Mayo lost, it would have been truly shocking.
Cluxton's dismissal was the game's main reference point, at a stage when the teams were level. From there Mayo seized the initiative and ran off the last four scores to lead 1-9 to 0-8 at the break.
Cluxton's red followed a sequence of play where McLoughlin, the game's man of the match with 1-3, neatly dummied Darren Daly but over-cooked the hand pass for Alan Freeman with the goal exposed. The ball sailed wide and the score stood still, Mayo 1-5, Dublin 0-8. When Cluxton went to take a quick kick-out McLoughlin stepped in his way and the reaction sealed his fate.
Sean Currie went into goal but with a man less, and missing Cluxton's tactical kick-outs, Dublin looked doomed. Earlier Colm Boyle had been correctly black-carded for a foot trip on Alan Brogan, who scored two of Dublin's first-half scores and looked sharp and enthusiastic. Cormac Costello was also a threat with his pace and Kevin McManamon had a goal chance well saved by Robbie Hennelly.
Referee Cormac Reilly didn't endear himself to Mayo with two blatant fouls on their players overlooked, one on McLouhglin in the first half leading to a Dublin score. A Jason Doherty goal was also ruled out on the hour. With the extra man after half-time Mayo pressed forward but kicked three careless wides and Dublin scored two tidy points from McManamon to keep within striking distance. Costello scored a gutsy point under pressure and Kevin Nolan could have had a goal to reduce the gap to a point. Instead, Hennelly made a fine block.
Mayo swept back down the field and an O'Connor free and a point by sub Mickey Sweeney stretched their lead to six points, 1-14 to 0-11, with 52 minutes played. It would have taken a Mayo collapse of epic proportions to lose it from there and they almost managed it.
Not for the first time McManamon managed to turn a game around. His beautifully judged lob in the 56th minute sparked a great home cheer, the goal leading to two more points from Jason Whelan and Diarmuid Connolly, reducing the difference to two points. Mayo were rocked. Dublin's chances appeared to have taken a fatal blow when Currie's short kick-out in the 62nd minute was intercepted by McLoughlin. Mayo's star man teed up Sweeney for a simple goal.
Undeterred Dublin went back up the field and O'Gara hit their second goal to leave a point between them. O'Connor scored his seventh point for Mayo to calm their nerves entering the last four minutes of normal time, 2-16 to 2-14. His eight of the night, and sixth from frees, gave them additional breathing space.
But there was one last piece of crazy drama. Mayo lost possession and the quick necklace of passes led to O'Gara who slammed the ball to the net to level in injury-time.
Scorers – Dublin: E O'Gara 2-0, K McManamon 1-2, C Costello 0-4 (1f), D Connolly (1f), A Brogan 0-2 each, S Cluxton (45), P Andrews, P Flynn, J Whelan 0-1 each. Mayo: C O'Connor 0-8 (6f), K McLoughlin 1-3, M Sweeney 1-1, D Vaughan 0-2, A Moran, K Higgins, J Gibbons 0-1 each.
Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O'Carroll, D Daly; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, K Nolan; M Macauley, T Brady; D Connolly, P Flynn, P Andrews; A Brogan, C Costello, K McManamon. Subs: J Whelan for Flynn (26), S Currie for Brady (29), N Devereux for Andrews (h-t), J McCaffrey for O'Sullivan (h-t), D Nelson for Daly (51), E O'Gara for Costello (56).
Mayo: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, B Harrison; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; A O'Shea, J Gibbons; K Higgins, A Moran, J Doherty; K McLoughlin, A Freeman, C O'Connor. Subs: S McHale for Boyle (black card, 20), D Drake for Harrison (h-t), M Sweeney for Freeman (47), E Varley for Cafferkey (56), T Parson for A O'Shea (56), S O'Shea for Doherty (68).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).
Sunday Indo Sport