Dublin 1-12 Mayo 0-7
DIFFERENT year, same familiar spring script as Dublin footballers turned up the Allianz League heat on Mayo – and their great rivals from the west wilted under the pressure.
On the same day that moves to eject Dublin from Croke Park for their ‘home’ Super 8 game bit the dust at Congress, a healthy 35,213 turned out at HQ for this repeat of the All-Ireland finals of 2013, ‘16 and ‘17.
Yet there was no close-run repeat of those deciders; this was more like the league norm for encounters between the counties as Dublin eased to an eight-point victory that didn’t flatter them in the slightest.
And so, after the mini-blip of losing twice in their first three games, Dublin are up and running once more – and doubtless eyeing Mayo’s place in the top-two for a Division 1 final berth.
Perhaps the more telling indicator of the gulf between Sky Blue and Green-and-Red could be gleaned from the following: goalkeeper Rob Hennelly was Mayo’s joint-top scorer with 0-2 from placed balls while performing heroics between his own posts, with six big saves.
All the pre-match talk could be distilled down to a few salient questions. Firstly, how ‘real’ was the Mayo resurgence, given the relative paucity of opposition faced in their first three victorious outings?
Secondly, was there even a scintilla of substance to suggestions of Dublin regression after Jim Gavin suffered two league defeats for the first time since 2015?
Earlier today, the Dublin boss had named a defence containing Jack McCaffrey, for his first start of the campaign, and the fit-again David Byrne, for his first appearance since last year’s league.
There followed a brace of obligatory late changes, Cian O’Sullivan and Ciarán Kilkenny parachuted in for their first appearances of this five-in-a-row chasing campaign. The players making way were James McCarthy and Dean Rock.
Mayo were chasing a first victory over their nemesis in 14 attempts. Arguably the closest they had come in that period was back in the 2014 league – James Horan’s most recent head-to-head with Gavin, when Mayo conspired to lose a six-point lead with an extra man and had to settle for a high-scoring stalemate.
By half-time, already trailing 1-6 to 0-3 and lucky to be even within six points, the visitors were no closer to ending that barren streak.
They might have been reasonably pleased to be level after the first quarter, thanks to Fionn McDonagh’s fine point from the right flank … but then Cormac Costello left Keith Higgins with twisted blood in the left corner, turning him inside and out before making a beeline for goal and blasting an angled drive past Hennelly to make it 1-2 to 0-2.
Thereafter, Dublin pressed on the accelerator with four unanswered points via a Paul Mannion free, Kilkenny, Costello and Jack McCaffrey.
Mayo woe was compounded by Lee Keegan’s ten-minute sin-binning for blocking off Darren Gavin and then Evan Comerford’s sprightly low save by repel Jason Doherty’s 33rd minute penalty, the same player having been hauled to the turf by Jonny Cooper.
At least Hennelly made some amends by nailing the ‘45’ for his second point. Not alone was the ‘keeper Mayo’s top-scorer in the half with 0-2, he also made four vital saves (from Mannion, McCaffrey and Costello twice) to prevent what could have been a massacre.
Five minutes after the restart, Hennelly was flinging himself to the rescue once more to block a Mannion volley. As the game petered out to the inevitable Dublin victory, the biggest drama included a lengthy hold-up after the inrushing Colm Boyle accidentally flattened one of the umpires who had to be carted off by medics and replaced, while Hennelly showed smart reactions to claw away a speculative Con O’Callaghan effort.
The Mayo post-mortems were further fuelled by a scary 14 wides on a night when the team mustered just three points from play.
SCORERS - Dublin: C Costello 1-4 (2f), P Mannion (1f), D Rock (1m, 1f) 0-2 each, C Kilkenny, J McCaffrey, C O’Callaghan, B Fenton, 0-1 each. Mayo: R Hennelly (1f, 1 ‘45’), J Doherty (2f) 0-2 each, F McDonagh, M Ruane, K McLoughlin 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: E Comerford; M Fitzsimons, D Byrne, J Cooper; J McCaffrey, C O’Sullivan, E Murchan; B Fenton, D Gavin; B Howard, C O’Callaghan, N Scully; P Mannion, C Kilkenny, C Costello. Subs: D Rock for Kilkenny (49), P Andrews for Mannion (58), S Bugler for Howard (64), D Daly for Fitzsimons (inj 65), MD Macauley for Gavin (67).
MAYO: R Hennelly; K Higgins, G Cafferkey, B Harrison; P Durcan, C Boyle, L Keegan; M Ruane, D Vaughan; F McDonagh, A O’Shea, C Treacy; A Moran, B Reape, J Doherty. Subs: C Barrett for Cafferkey (inj 20), K McLoughlin for Treacy (inj 35+1), S O’Shea for Durcan (ht), F Boland for Moran (59), S Coen for Reape (69).
REF: B Cassidy (Derry)
When Mayo seek a first win over a Jim Gavin-managed Dublin in 14 attempts in Croke Park tonight there will, naturally, be attention on how some of their more inexperienced players adapt to the venue and the opponents.
Dublin's prospects of completing a historic All-Ireland five-in-a-row will be in no way damaged if they are tossed out of the contention for the Allianz National Football League title this weekend, according to Mick O'Dwyer.
MAYBE it's just a symptom of human nature that when counties contest such weighty matters so frequently featuring largely the same people, they develop the sort of hostility that Dublin and Mayo have cultivated for one another in recent years.