TIGHT MARKING?Mayo’s Alan Freeman is challenged by Dublin defender Rory O’Carroll during Saturday night’s National League match at MacHale Park, Castlebar.?Pic: Michael Donnelly
BASED on the assumption that all National League matches at this time of year boil down to getting the right result and putting in a decent performance, this was not a positive experience for Mayo in any of those respects.
The county’s heaviest defeat to Dublin for 22 years came after a game where Mayo were reminded that any drop in standards against teams like the reigning league champions will be punished ruthlessly.
From an early stage Mayo seemed to be out-of-sorts and first half goals from Denis Bastick and Bernard Brogan helped Dublin into an unassailable ten point lead by the interval.
By that stage Mayo had been reduced to playing for pride after being buried under an avalanche of scores.
The statistics at full-time made for harsh reading too: ten different Dublin players got on the scoresheet, they racked up 2-12 from play against Mayo’s beleaguered defence, and Mayo were unable to hit the net for the first time this spring.
All over the field, the homeside were remarkably flat on the night, and had no answer to the Dubs’ powerful running game, intensity in the tackle, and appetite for destruction.
Mayo also badly missed the injured Cillian O’Connor, as they struggled for scores and also squandered some very scoreable frees at crucial stages.
Ironically, Mayo got off to a flying start as Jason Doherty and Kevin McLoughlin both hit the target to push the locals out in front inside four minutes.
However, Dublin were just getting warmed up and they proceeded to rattle off 1-5 without reply in the space of six blistering minutes to take control of the tie.
They struck for the opening goal on seven minutes when midfielder Denis Bastick reacted quickest to score after Bernard Brogan’s initial shot had cannoned off the crossbar.
The industrious Brady, Ciaran Kilkenny, Jack McCaffrey and Dean Rock (free) all tagged on points soon after as Mayo chased shadows and their defence started to creak under the strain.
A Jason Doherty free at the other end was only a brief respite for an embattled Mayo, and Diarmuid Connolly and Dean Rock (free) got in some shooting practice as Dublin continued on their merry way.
The Metropolitans were six points up when they carved Mayo open to score their second goal in the 22nd minute.
Kevin Keane endured a difficult night trying to pin down Kevin McManamon and it was his mazy run that set up Bernard Brogan for a palmed finish from close-range.
The fact that McManamon’s burst included a ‘double hop’ that was missed by referee Padraig O’Sullivan summed up an utterly miserable night for Mayo.
They were run ragged from pillar to post and random attacking raids that yielded scores from Jason Doherty and Mark Ronaldson were cancelled out by well-taken points from Dean Rock, Ciaran Kilkenny and Bernard Brogan.
The blue wave finally subsided when the half-time whistle sounded, with Dublin leading by 2-10 to 0-6, and the two league points already in the bag.
It was all about playing for pride for Mayo in the second period and Keith Higgins, Colm Boyle and Aidan O’Shea, who caused Dublin some headaches when he went to full-forward, couldn’t be faulted for effort.
Unfortunately for the vast majority of the 13,548 strong crowd, Dublin refused to ease off and they fired over three quick points after the restart to turn the screw even further.
Swashbuckling half-back Jack McCaffrey, Paul Flynn and flawless free-taker Dean Rock all found their range, and the last twenty minutes was little more than a victory procession.
One of the few highlights for Mayo supporters in the last quarter came when sub’ Danny Kirby almost ‘chipped’ Stephen Cluxton from 40 metres, but the Dublin shotstopper was relieved to see the ball float just inches over his crossbar.
After three steps forward and two back, Mayo must return to the drawing board again ahead of a trip to Cork in two weeks’ time.
Still early days, but enough to be getting on with.
S Cluxton; R O’Carroll, E Culligan, J Cooper (0-1); P McMahon, C O’Sullivan, J McCaffrey (0-2); D Bastick (1-0), T Brady (0-3); P Flynn (0-1), D Connolly (0-1), C Kilkenny (0-2); K McManamon, D Rock (0-6, 6fs), B Brogan (1-1).
Subs used: M Fitzsimons for O’Carroll; J Small for Culligan; B Fenton for Bastick; E O’Gara for Brogan; J McCarthy for Brady; P Ryan (0-1) for McManamon.
R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, K Keane, K Higgins; C Boyle, L Keegan, P Durcan; S O’Shea, D Vaughan; D O’Connor, K McLoughlin (0-3, 1f), J Doherty; M Ronaldson (0-1), A O’Shea, A Freeman.
Subs used: S Coen for Durcan; D Kirby (0-1) for Freeman; A Dillon (0-1) for O’Connor; B Moran for S O’Shea; G Cafferkey for Vaughan.
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry)