Wednesday 25 April 2018

Tomás Ó Sé: It was a sickener for Mayo but the scoreboard doesn't lie

When it came to the big moments, Gavin's 'Boys in Blue' kept composure to claim this thriller

Stephen Cluxton saves a shot from Mayo’s Jason Doherty in the second half. Photo: Sportsfile
Stephen Cluxton saves a shot from Mayo’s Jason Doherty in the second half. Photo: Sportsfile

Tomás Ó Sé

At the final whistle I imagine I had the same thought as most neutrals in the place: 'Ah Jesus, not again.'

In that moment, my heart went out to Mayo. We all know sport is cruel, but I thought this was too much. Even the final exchanges were hard to watch. Mayo chased shadows as Dublin played keep-ball for the final 60 seconds or so. It was a lost cause, but they wouldn't give up on it.

Eventually Joe McQuillan blew the whistle and they had fallen short. Another final. Another one-point defeat. Come on, give these lads a break, I thought.

However, as that initial feeling fades and you start to run over the game again in your head, your impression of the encounter starts to change. And you come back to the feeling you woke up with yesterday morning: there is no room for sentiment in sport. You don't deserve anything apart from exactly what you get.

For example, I think we played well enough to win the All-Ireland in 2011, but the truth is we didn't. You can dissect games all you want, but at the end of the day the scoreboard doesn't lie.

Yesterday Dublin got Sam Maguire because, when it came to it, they made the big plays in the big moments. And, when it came to it, Mayo didn't.

Look, I'm not trying to be mean-spirited here. I'm not trying to take away from the brilliance of the likes of Keith Higgins and Andy Moran. You have to hand it to Aidan O'Shea. He got plenty of stick in the past for not delivering on the biggest days and I thought he was brilliant for the first hour yesterday.

Lee Keegan looked like he had scored the goal that might get them over the line and he did it while keeping no less a player than Ciarán Kilkenny out of the game. Kevin McLoughlin was everywhere.

I have serious time for those boys. You'd take them to the trenches with you. But when it came to it, they didn't do enough of the right things at the right time.

Whenever they sit down to sift through the embers of another agonising defeat, that first-half will make for hard watching for Mayo supporters and management.

I'll say now that I have never seen Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs cracked the way Mayo had them cracked in that first-half. You could see him getting frustrated. More often than not they made him go long and when they did Mayo gobbled them up. They had the lion's share of possession.

Still, though, they had their little lapses. Con O'Callaghan is a very good player and down the line he'll be a brilliant one, but here he was starting his first All-Ireland final and he waltzes through for a goal in the first couple of minutes.

Mayo recovered, as they almost always do, and to my mind they were worth maybe a five-point lead at the break. Instead they led by just one and you were thinking to yourself that you've seen Mayo do this before.

Dublin would have been delighted to be only a point down.

Stephen Rochford deserves huge credit for the way he sent his side out for the first-half. He got nearly everything right, but half-time gave Dublin a chance to regroup and Jim Gavin earned his corn.

When they came out they had Kevin McManamon and Paul Mannion in on the edge of the square and it asked Mayo a very different sort of question than having Eoghan O'Gara in there.

At the other end Mayo started to run out of ideas. Moran had given Mick Fitzsimons an awful time in the first-half, but he needed more help up there. Their first score from play after the break came in the 54th minute when Moran fed Keegan for their goal.

Mayo didn't help themselves. When John Small levelled Colm Boyle it looked like Dublin would be reduced to 14 men and Mayo would have a free to move a point clear.

I'll never know what was going through Donal Vaughan's head. For an experienced player, he should know better than to charge in like that. It was a straight red for me. What was a good situation for Mayo - a scoreable free in and a red card for Dublin - became a throw-up and a red card for both sides.

And still they had more chances to win it. They went two up with eight minutes of regulation time to play. They had the momentum and you're thinking to yourself 'they finally have it'.

But Dublin stayed alive, tacking on the points and keeping cool heads. Diarmuid Connolly was clever on the ball. James McCarthy was a colossus, streaming through from midfield and landing a couple of brilliant scores.

In the end, it all boiled down to two frees. Cillian O'Connor hit the post with his effort; Dean Rock kept calm. Small margins, but that's sport. Dublin were three in a row champions.

I'm not trying to put the boot in here, but Mayo will know they had their chances. They'll know that Vaughan should never have gotten involved in that situation and that O'Connor should have kicked his free, or that Jason Doherty should have scored a goal when put through.

You could pick out other incidents too.

It's not the end of this team, but it is a sickener because the game was there for them. At the end of the day, the scoreboard doesn't lie.

Irish Independent

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