Sunday 20 October 2019

The best of enemies: How Dublin and Mayo have built up an incredible modern day rivalry

Lee Keegan gets to grips with Diarmuid Connolly
Lee Keegan gets to grips with Diarmuid Connolly
Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin tussles with Lee Keegan of Mayo
Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly has his jersey pulled by Mayo’s Lee Keegan as David Clarke and Keith Higgins

Conor McKeon

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.

As former Mayo forward Enda Varley puts it: "You're putting your whole life into it. Your whole life to win.

"So that will cause it to boil over. And it has boiled over. A lot."

The precise moment the Dublin v Mayo rivalry soured is open to interpretation and largely, dependent on which side of the spat you reside.

Or it could be that none of the most visible quarrels, as outlined below, represent the origin.

"Supporters don't know the half of what goes on," says Varley, who had his nose broken in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final, the last time Mayo beat Dublin.

"The things that are said between the players…"

 "And look," he admits, "I see it from a Mayo point of view.

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"Mayo have retaliated themselves and got retribution. It's on both sides."


"Not only were we playing Mayo but we were playing the referee as well," fumed Jim Gavin after Dublin had secured the first All-Ireland of his reign in a bruising one-point (2-12 to 1-14) victory in which the free count finished 32/12 in Mayo's favour.

Ironically, the official in question was Joe McQuillan, christened 'Dublin Joe' in some parts of the country following his performance in the 2011 All-Ireland final.

"At the end, that was just Dublin players getting frustrated," Gavin added, citing mitigation for the late spree of fouling in the lead up to the full-time whistle, with Rory O'Carroll concussed and Eoghan O'Gara playing the last 10 minutes with a snapped hamstring.

"I find that amazing," was the reaction of a seemingly bewildered James Horan in Citywest Hotel the morning after.

"I know Jim made another interesting comment, that he'd walk away if his team were cynical, so maybe that's another comment Jim should look at…"

5 September 2015; Mayo's Cillian O'Connor shoots past Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton and Rory O'Carroll to score his side's first goal in the forty third minute. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final Replay, Dublin v Mayo. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

2015 All-Ireland semi-final (draw)

"I was headbutted alright but that's not for me to enforce the rules," shrugged Aidan O'Shea as he stood outside the Mayo dressing-room after a draw that probably still represents a high watermark for reckless physicality between the counties. "There were plenty more things out there the ref missed too."

After examining video evidence, the CCCC found that there was no case to answer in the O'Shea incident although later, Philly McMahon admitted: "The camera view actually looked like I did do it.

"Look at the opposite (angle) from the Cusack (Stand) and you see him (O'Shea) pulling the jersey towards him."

Diarmuid Connolly is red carded but later cleared. Rory O'Carroll leaves the field after four minutes as a blood sub but never reappears after requiring 10 stitches.

A week later, McMahon scores 1-2 in the replay as Mayo squander a four-point lead and Dublin make their third final in five years.


In his report to Mayo's annual convention in 2016, county board PRO Paul Cunnane writes: "In the lead-up to the All-Ireland final replay there was a well-orchestrated media campaign to blacken Lee Keegan's name and I would be disappointed that many media outlets chose to take the bait."

Keegan's black card in the 2016 replay is just the latest act in his ‘Punch and Judy' battle with Connolly.

About his part in the 2015 incident for which Connolly was sent off but later exonerated after being hauled to the ground, the Mayo man reflected: "I'm going to try to stop him any way I can to win the game for Mayo. We've been told before we're a bit of a soft touch."

In an unexpected twist, it later emerges that Connolly sent Keegan a pair of football boots made by New Balance, his former employers, in the run up to Christmas 2016.

2016 All-Ireland final (draw)

Just 25 minutes into a bizarre game in which Dublin are blessed with the remarkable boon of two Mayo own goals, James McCarthy is issued a black card by Conor Lane for a challenge on Cillian O'Connor which the Cork official interprets as a body check.

"One of the biggest days of your life, to be over like that, it's very disappointing," McCarthy admits later, although his immediate reaction was rage.

It was the third time that season a player was black-carded in contentious circumstances for an incident involving the Mayo captain, following Galway's Tom Flynn in Mayo's Connacht SFC loss and then Darran O'Sullivan in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Before the following year's final, Paddy Andrews appears to ignore O'Connor in the pre-match handshake but later clarifies:  "I've seen the clip, someone showed it to me back that night, but I genuinely didn't notice (the mistake) at the time."

Dublin’s James McCarthy watches on from the Hogan Stand after being shown a black card. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

2017 All-Ireland final: 'GPS-Gate'

The teams finish with 14 men and another skin-of-the-teeth Dublin win - their third All-Ireland success in-a-row.

Approximately an hour after the final whistle, footage circulates appearing to show Keegan throwing a small black object in the direction of Dean Rock as he strikes the winning free in the 76th minute.

The UFO is determined to be Keegan's GPS pack, tossed in a deliberate attempt to distract Rock.

The Dublin forward brushes off the incident while Keegan is largely unperturbed by the reaction.

"I always say, ‘If you were in my shoes, what would people have done? Would they have come up with something else'?" says Keegan.

"Obviously it's very unsportsmanlike and I totally accept that. But, I suppose, you're looking into losing your fourth All-Ireland…"

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