Scully strike puts seal on routine Dubs victory
Dublin 2-10 Mayo 0-12
The football duel between Dublin and May has enthralled us now for nearly eight seasons - but mostly during August and September. League clashes between the pair have only occasionally risen above the mundane.
Frankly, any of the 15,313 who packed Castlebar's Elverys MacHale Park last night anticipating a re-run of the 2017 epic All-Ireland final were guilty of wishful thinking. The three-in-a-row Sam Maguire Cup winners haven't lost to Mayo in league or championship since 2012. Furthermore, during Stephen Rochford's reign Mayo have won just four of the 14 league games they've played before St Patrick's Day, compared to Dublin's 12 wins and two draws.
Stephen Cluxton celebrated his 100th league appearance by captaining Dublin to their fourth win on the spin in the 2018 campaign and they are now a step closer to a sixth league final appearance in a row. For Mayo it's back to a familiar battle as they aim to prolong their record 20-year stint in the top flight.
Lee Keegan was a surprise starter for Mayo - renewing his rivalry with Ciarán Kilkenny. They clashed frequently early on. By the end of the first quarter they were both sporting ripped jerseys and Kilkenny had picked up a yellow card. After a driving run forward from Keegan yielded Mayo's opening score from play on seven minutes, Kilkenny switched to full-forward and as well as kicking two first-half points he took the Mayo playmaker out of the centre.
Mayo needed Keegan's inspiration as in the All-Ireland final they conceded a goal after just 80 seconds. John Small's long foot pass along his right-hand touchline caught the Mayo defence out of position and Paul Mannion ran on to it, soloed infield before driving the ball past Rob Hennelly, who was making his first appearance for Mayo since the 2016 All-Ireland final replay.
Mayo kept in touch, however, with Kevin McLoughlin kicking two points and Jason Doherty converting a brace of frees.
They were fortunate, however, that Dublin weren't more clinical as they repeatedly opened up the Mayo defence which featured just two players, Keegan and Colm Boyle, who played in the All-Ireland final. Mannion was the creator in the 29th minute when he linked up with James McCarthy who powered through the Mayo cover, brushing Keegan aside but Hennelly brilliantly stopped his shot though Kilkenny popped over the rebound.
The sides shared four more points before the break with Dean Rock bringing his first-half tally to 0-5 when he kicked the last score of the half to leave Dublin in command, but not out of sight at the break, leading 1-9 to 0-7.
Mayo should have had a goal in their first attack in the second half when they turned over possession deep in the Dublin half and Doherty set up Adam Gallagher but he blazed wide with the goal at his mercy. Rob Hennelly did reduce the deficit to four points with a 41st-minute free before Dublin made a treble substitution with Diarmuid Connolly, Cian O'Sullivan and Colm Basquel joining the action.
Jason Doherty missed a scorable free for Mayo to post their third wide of the half and their wastefulness was punished by Dublin in the 47th minute. An attack up the left flank pulled the Mayo defence out of position and a neat one-two between Rock and Niall Scully culminating in the latter out-jumping Hennelly and Kevin McLoughlin to find the net.
Dublin were content to play keep-ball before choosing an opportune moment to press forward. Mayo switched Aidan O'Shea to full-forward in the latter stages but it made no material difference. The poverty of the Mayo effort in the second half was underlined by the fact that they failed to score from play; they also missed four kickable frees and though substitute Conor Loftus converted three injury-time frees it couldn't hide how woeful their second 35 minutes was. Dublin only scored 1-1 in the second half but it was enough to enable Jim Gavin extend his unbeaten record over Mayo to 13 games. He will be disappointed that Michael Fitzsimons was red-carded deep in injury time after a wild lunge on Aidan O'Shea. But Mayo face far more profound problems as they now face Kildare, Tyrone and Donegal.
Dublin: S Cluxton; D Daly, M Fitzsimons, D Byrne; J Cooper, J McCarthy, J Small; B Fenton (0-1), MD Macauley; N Scully (1-0), C Kilkenny (0-2), B Howard; P Mannion (1-1), K McManamon, D Rock (0-6, 4f). Subs: D Connolly for Macauley, C O'Sullivan for Small; C Basquel for Mannion all 43m; C Reddin for Howard 60m; P Small for Cooper 64m, E O Conghaile for Fenton 67m;
Mayo: R Hennelly (0-1, 1f); G Cafferkey, E O'Donoghue, C Crowe; C Boyle, L Keegan (0-1), M Hall; S Coen (0-1), A O'Shea; K McLoughlin (0-2), D O'Connor, D Drake; J Doherty (0-3, 3f), A Moran (0-1), A Gallagher. Subs: S O'Shea for Gallagher 53m; F Boland for O'Connor, C Loftus (0-3f) for McLoughlin both 60m, S Akram for Drake 65m; D Kirby for Doherty 70m.
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)
Sunday Indo Sport