Saturday 24 February 2018

There is no consistency with the black card: Five things we learned from Dublin v Mayo

Michael Darragh Macauley, Dublin, receives a black card from referee Joe McQuillan
Michael Darragh Macauley, Dublin, receives a black card from referee Joe McQuillan
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Dublin and Mayo must do all again following a dramatic finale at Croke Park today as the men from the west fought back from seven points down to earn a replay. Here are five things we learned from the match.

There is no consistency with the black card

What exactly is a black card? Referee Joe McQuillan mustn’t have read the brochure outlining its use because he enforced the directive in a very up and down manner this afternoon.

Dublin defender Cian O’Sullivan got away with a blatant pull on Diarmuid O’Connor late in the first half. The Kilmacud Crokes man wasn’t even given a yellow in a strange decision by the Cavan official.

Then in the second half, he finally dished out the black card for what seemed to be an innocuous challenge by Michael Darragh MacAuley. All people want with the black card is consistency but McQuillan failed on that count today.

Read more: Joe Brolly: "Dublin collapsed when Mayo went at them"

Read more: Ticket rush begins as GAA confirm time for Dublin v Mayo replay

His decision to award Dublin a penalty early in the game also came under scrutiny, with replays showing that the foul on Paul Flynn may have taken place just outside the large rectangle. However, in real time, it was a very marginal call. And he made an equally polarising decision to give Mayo a penalty late on after Colm Boyle went to ground under the challenge of a host of Dublin defenders.

McQuillan had the sort of performance that will leave fans of both teams saying they were hard done by.

Mayo's Andy Moran shoots past John Small and Jack McCaffrey, Dublin, to score a late point to level the game. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Mayo show some fight

Often on big days, Mayo have come up short but today they roared back with a mightily impressive last ten minutes. Whereas the men from the west wilted badly in both games against Kerry at the semi-final stage last year, the leaders on the team were magnificent in the closing stages against Dublin.

Cillian O’Connor, Aidan O’Shea and Keith Higgins continued to drive at Dublin while Colm Boyle showed a great engine to be in a position to win that late penalty. They will be worried about their failure to manufacture scores from play in the first half, but the joint management team of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly will be delighted with the mental strength shown by their side during their comeback.

Dublin players Cian O'Sullivan, James McCarthy, and Diarmuid Connolly, signal to referee Joe McQuillan that Lee Keegan, Mayo, dived

Dublin’s defensive tweaks

Naive. Innocent. Vulnerable. These were adjectives used by The Sunday Game panel to describe Dublin’s defensive structure against Donegal in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. The onus was on Jim Gavin to manufacture a sounder rearguard for today’s final four clash and the Dublin boss delivered.

The half-back line was far more content to sit back and they swarmed Mayo ball carriers in the first half with an intensity reminiscent of Mickey Harte’s 2003 Tyrone terriers.

Dublin won a lot of turnovers by forcing Mayo to overcarry and until the last ten minutes, they curtailed Mayo’s forwards well. The thought of Dublin being overly defensive would have seemed alien 12 months ago, but Gavin has obviously worked hard on that aspect of the game to ensure his team cannot be rocked on the counter-attack as easily.

Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly shakes hands with manager Jim Gavin after being shown a red card. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Loss of Connolly a big blow for the Dubs

He was quieter than usual, but Diarmuid Connolly’s late red card could be big trouble for Dublin. The classy attacker slotted a nice penalty and a lovely score from play early on, and had he still been on the field he likely would have slotted the winning free in injury time.

This isn’t the first time Connolly has seen red in an All-Ireland semi-final – that would be 2011 v Donegal – but until the St Vincent’s man curbs his aggressive nature, his indiscipline will continue to hinder Dublin.

Michael Darragh MacAuley, Dublin, in action against Séamus O'Shea, Mayo. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

What has happened to MDMA?

After being dropped by Jim Gavin just before the throw-in for Dublin’s All-Ireland quarter-final  against Fermanagh – presumably to light a fire under the struggling midfielder – Michael Darragh MacAuley was returned to the starting line-up in an attempt to curb Mayo’s rampant midfield.

Unfortunately for the 2013 Footballer of the Year, he once again failed to reach the heights of that glorious campaign. MacAuley was sloppy in possession and was dispossessed on a number of occasions – one of which saw him get that aforementioned harsh black card.

While the decision meant MDMA had to be taken off, he may have been called ashore regardless after another ineffectual performance.

Read more: Video: "A whole pile of shite" - Joe Brolly not impressed with the first half between Dublin and Mayo

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