How many different figures do you want to underscore just how dominant Dublin were in 12 deadly minutes after half-time?
The obvious one is the 2-6 without reply they scored to turn the game on its head, to remove all hope of a dramatic second half.
Here’s another one – in those 12 minutes seven of Mayo’s players didn’t have the ball in their hands even once in open play.
A further five players only held the ball in their grasp once in open play.
Only Fionn McDonagh (3), Paddy Durcan (3) and James Carr (2) had the ball in their hands on multiple occasions.
Consider too that from when Paddy Durcan’s shot went short in the 37th minute when Mayo led by a point, the precursor to Con O’Callaghan’s first goal, to Paul Mannion’s point in the 43rd minute to push Dublin six clear and out the gap, Mayo only got out of their own half once.
And barely so, Paddy Durcan penalised, somewhat harshly we feel, for overcarrying just after he crossed halfway after winning a breaking ball.
That’s how hemmed in Mayo were. They have never looked as starved for oxygen this decade as in those 12 minutes. So how did Dublin do it?
Going for broke
Jim Gavin claims he told Dublin at half-time to keep doing what they were doing. Do not believe him for a second.
There was a dramatic sea-change in the Dubs’ approach after the interval.
In the first half they were risk adverse. Always playing the percentages, waiting for a high percentage shot before taking it on. Trying to be patient in their approach play. Little enough urgency. It has been there go-to approach in several games pretty much since the Donegal defeat in 2014. And it has worked, grinding inferior teams into submission.
But it wasn’t working here. Mayo were forcing turnovers the longer Dublin delayed in getting shots off.
The Dubs threw off the shackles to remarkable effect. Paul Mannion’s two outrageous points from either wing are points he is capable of but also shots that are not typically encouraged in this Dublin team.
Then there was what Dublin did on Mayo’s kick-outs. They committed huge bodies to the Mayo kick-out. Often they had 12 players forward and for Rob Hennelly’s third kick-out of the half, Dublin had 13 players forward, pushing up.
That meant Dublin had only one defender back, plus Stephen Cluxton.
That is a high risk strategy by Jim Gavin’s standards. It indicates they smelled blood, either in Mayo being weary, being suddenly vulnerable or a combination of the two.
In the period right after half-time Mayo won their first kick-out but then lost four of the next five.
Con O’Callaghan’s first goal pushed Dublin two clear but Dublin struck three points from those four kick-outs won and suddenly the gap was six points. In many ways O’Callaghan’s second goal, won from a turnover, was superfluous, along with Paul Mannion’s fifth point. Six points was always going to be fatal.
James Horan was asked afterwards if he had the time back, what would he have done differently. He said ‘try and win a few kick-outs’. The answer implies there was little or nothing tactically he felt Mayo could have done.
So what could Mayo have done differently? There has been criticism of Rob Hennelly and Mayo’s outfield players that nobody tried to slow the game down by going down ‘injured’.
It made us laugh. Many people have went out of their way to describe Mayo as one of the most cynical teams in the country. This episode underscored the reality – Mayo are quite naïve in fact.
We criticised the lack of an ‘out’ ball after the Kerry game when David Clarke’s kick-out was pressed. The same looked apparent here.
There was no apparent go-to ‘out’ ball. Some players were trying to show short when that wasn’t on either, compounding the problem by reducing the bodies around a breaking ball.
Then, however, when Hennelly did kick one ball down long to three midfielders, Matthew Ruane, Seamus O’Shea and Diarmuid O’Connor, under the Hogan Stand, Brian Fenton skittles through them all and fields superbly.
If that was an ‘out’ ball, what must that have done to Mayo’s already fragile belief?
Perhaps there were too many bodies back. Did Dublin have 13 men pressing the Mayo kick-out because they decided to or were some of them simply dutifully following their men up the field.
It is hard to say but certainly trying to bring some bodies away from the kick-out zone might have been appropriate.
That said it depends on whether it was by accident or design that Mayo flooded this area.
While many people have said they would love to have been in the Dublin dressing room at half-time, we’d have paid good money to see what the other dressing room was like.
Was tiredness setting in after a crazy few weeks? If so was it acknowledged and was there a strategy to overcome it? Were there so many men back to crowd the Mayo half to reduce Dublin scoring opportunities? Dublin showed how good they were by making a crowded half redundant. Maybe Mayo’s tiredness in the tackle contributed to it.
They were naïve in not slowing the game down but you are still hoping against hope that that would be effective.
All in all we saw both the positive and the negative to both sides’ seasons to date in this game.
A battle hardened Mayo were at the pitch of things in the first half in the way that Dublin, who had a facile passage to this stage, certainly were not. And it told. Mayo were tipping along nicely.
The counterpoint though is in the second half, the Dubs had much more in the tank and when they went at Mayo hard, Mayo could do little to stop them, with fatigue likely a big issue.
This analysis overlooks one key point though. It was not just about energy levels.
Dublin were able to go from arguably one of their poorer halves of football under Jim Gavin to flip it on its head at half time and come out in the second half and bring arguably the signature performance of the Jim Gavin era. Their ability to react at half-time to different problems is one of their calling cards.
You can talk whatever you want about what Mayo could have done better – and there’s undoubtedly lessons there – but that turnaround was absolutely remarkable and has to be credited as the mark of greatness. We can talk about funding, population, so many natural advantages and there are huge issues there.
But this is an outstanding team and it is the most back-handed of compliments that it took Mayo to force Dublin off script and unleash their furious and rampaging best.
The percentage of Rob Hennelly’s first six kick-outs of the second half that Dublin won, scoring three points to buttress Con O’Callaghan’s goal and go six clear.
The number of Mayo players who had either one or no possessions in the first 12 minutes of the second half as Dublin went on the rampage.
Mayo’s second half shot conversion rate, with just three scores from 12 shots. It was a big drop from 67 percent (8/12) in the first half.