Dublin 1-11 Mayo 0-8
The rivalry between Dublin and Mayo which has captivated the nation for nearly a decade has lost its capacity to surprise. Dublin are now unbeaten in 16 consecutive games against Mayo, stretching back eight seasons. This was Mayo's sixth consecutive loss to Dublin in the league.
The All-Ireland champions might have a new manager at the helm, but the narrative was as predictable as ever in Castlebar last night as the League champions failed yet again to get the better of their perennial rivals.
Granted, they were down to 14 men for more than an hour after Jordan Flynn was red-carded, but this doesn't fully excuse the poverty of their attack, which managed a paltry 0-5 from play. A 45th-minute goal from Dean Rock put the game beyond their reach.
Dublin made three late changes: Michael Fitzsimons, Conor McHugh and Dan O'Brien - who was making his league debut - were introduced to a side which still boasted ten of their starting All-Ireland replay winning side. James Horan made one change - though a significant one with Aidan O'Shea - who operated mostly at centre-forward - being preferred to Kevin McLoughlin.
He had Mayo ahead after 24 seconds, but scores were at a premium in the early exchanges before Ciarán Kilkenny levelled the tie after nine minutes. Mayo dominated territorially but found it difficult to penetrate the packed Dublin defence, though James McCarthy was fortunate not to get a black card after he pulled down O'Shea.
Diarmuid O'Connor nailed the subsequent free and, after Dublin's kick-out was turned over, James Carr landed a monster point from 50 metres. But the home side suffered a huge setback after 15 minutes when rookie wing-forward Flynn was red-carded after a late and reckless around-the-neck challenge on John Small.
O'Shea - who was skippering the team - looked like a man possessed in the subsequent exchanges, though he later switched to full-forward. But save for a Dean Rock free - the awarding of which was hotly disputed - the next ten minutes were scoreless.
James Durcan and Kevin McManamon exchanged points from play in a dour encounter. It wasn't until the final five minutes of the half that we saw the deployment of the advanced mark. Fergal Boland converted one for Mayo but Conor McHugh missed one at the other end.
Another converted Rock free, and a James McCarthy point after a neat exchange of passes involving Niall Scully and McManamon, left the sides level at the break (0-5 each). The wide count was telling. Mayo had seven compared to Dublin's five and the home side were short with a couple of efforts as well.
Colm Boyle - who had played in the previous 15 Mayo-Dublin encounters - didn't reappear in the second half having shipped a heavy knock before the break. He was replaced by Lee Keegan with James Carr making way for Tommy Conroy.
With Eoin Murchan operating effectively as the extra man, it was Dublin who dominated territorially in the third quarter. They were uncharacteristically sloppy in their distribution, though a 37th-minute point from Dan O'Brien gave them the lead for the first time.
But they struck a decisive blow in the 45th minute when McManamon was allowed a free run along the right-hand touchline and Rock got ahead of his marker to deftly flick the flighted ball past a stranded Rob Hennelly.
By the 50th minute they had moved six clear and the Mayo fans among the crowd of 15,148 felt a sense of déjà vu. It could have been worse after Hennelly dropped a 45 from Rock, but the referee awarded a free out as a scramble developed.
The withdrawal of O'Shea with 15 minutes remaining was confirmation that Mayo had all but given up the ghost. Mick Fitzsimons was blacked-carded in the 60th minute for a foul on O'Connor but Mayo's woes were underlined when Durcan missed the subsequent straight-forward free.
The disappointment of Mayo's overall effort is summed up by their failure to score a point from play between the 26th and 67th minutes, and not recording a single wide from open play in the second half. The fans booed the referee at the final whistle, but the problems are much closer to home.
Scorers - Mayo: J Durcan (1f), F Boland (1m) 0-2 each. A O'Shea, J Carr, D O'Connor (1f), T Conroy 0-1. Dublin: D Rock 1-3 (3f), J McCarthy 0-2, C Kilkenny, K McManamon, D O'Brien, N Scully, J Small, A Byrne 0-1 each.
Mayo: R Hennelly; P O'Hora, O Mullin, B Harrison; M Plunkett, C Boyle, P Durcan; S Coen, D O'Connor; F Boland, A O'Shea, J Flynn; R O'Donoghue, J Carr, J Durcan. Subs: L Keegan for Boyle (ht); T Conroy for Carr (ht); K McLoughlin for O'Donoghue (48), J McCormack for O'Shea (55), C Loftus for J Durcan (65).
Dublin: E Comerford; M Fitzsimons, R O'Carroll, D Byrne; J Small, J McCarthy, E Murchan; B Fenton, B Howard; N Scully, K McManamon, D O'Brien; C McHugh, C Kilkenny, D Rock. Subs: P Mannion for McHugh (45), L Flatman for O'Carroll (48), P Small for McManamon (55), A Byrne for O'Brien (56), C O'Shea for Murchan (70+4).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)
Sunday Indo Sport