Tuesday 20 August 2019

Mayo's hopes and expectations were hit by a second-half Dublin hurricane

Dublin's Brian Fenton celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Dublin's Brian Fenton celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

For half the match, we had a contest, and a serious one.

Mayo reproduced the defiance that was a signature of some of their best days against Dublin, from the classic matches the two delivered through the last decade.

They dominated the first half, pinning Dublin back in their own half and led by two points at the interval. The guttural Mayo roar ringing in their ears as they left the field at half-time was filled with hope and expectation and entirely justified.

And then it all changed. In 12 minutes Mayo went from two points up, their interval advantage, to ten points down.

They were hit by a hurricane. Con O’Callaghan, unable to wrestle free of the attentions of Lee Keegan throughout the first half, re-emerged a transformed player and scored two goals in the opening 11 minutes.

Ciaran Kilkenny, another of the many Dublin forwards largely anonymous up to that point, also sprung to life — setting up the Cuala player for the first goal two minutes after the restart — and Dublin were back in front for the first time since a brief period in the first half which Mayo comprehensively ruled the field.

Dublin's Dean Rock in action against Chris Barrett of Mayo at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Dublin's Dean Rock in action against Chris Barrett of Mayo at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

By the time O’Callaghan had his second goal in the 46th minute, selling Keegan a dummy, and finishing past Robbie Hennelly, Dublin were on their way and the Hill was in full voice.

The second O'Callaghan goal had them 2-11 to 0-8 ahead and Mayo were simply stunned and stuck to the floor.

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Perhaps they could have tried to stop play, feign an injury, but Dublin hit them so fast it was as if their senses hadn’t the time to react.

Paul Mannion was electric, and their best forward in the first half when they were struggling — much to his credit. He finished with five points.

Keegan scored a fine solo goal in the 52nd minute but Mayo were bailing out water and the ship was doomed.

Dublin confirmed their superiority with a third goal from Brian Fenton just past the hour. Fenton was denied a second goal by a fine save from Hennelly six minutes later.

Dublin move to within one match of an historic five-in-a-row while Mayo, who took them to a point in three All-Ireland finals, may well undergo a period of transition.

Surely their veteran players will consider their future on the back of this emphatic loss. Their misery was completed in injury time when Cillian O’Connor was sent off for a high challenge on Davy Byrne.

It had been all so different in the first half in which, for the most part, Dublin had a bewildered look. Only two of their forwards managed to score from play in the opening 35. Mayo tackled ferociously and turned over Dublin time and time again.

Faced with their first serious test of the year, Dublin were off the pace and the last act of the half saw a poorly-hit effort from Kilkenny fall into the welcoming arms of Hennelly.

They badly needed impetus and they returned after half-time in a hurry to redeem themselves.

They did, in some style, and near the end Diarmuid Connolly came on to round off the party.

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