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No conclusions to be drawn in Croke Park

Sport

CUP GOES ON ICE Croke Park stadium announcer Jerry Grogan removes the Sam Maguire Cup after Sunday’s game ended in a draw. Pic: Sportsfile


Final
Mayo 0-15
Dublin 2-9
Edwin McGreal
Croke Park

AND breathe again. We will not know until shortly before 7pm on Saturday week whether Mayo let a chance slip here to go for the kill, or if their display was the start of the deconstruction of the Dubs.
We do, however, have yet more evidence for the creaking file on the sheer bloody-mindedness and will of this group of Mayo players. Were they to exit stage left without an All-Ireland, it would be a travesty.
Ultimately it was a Cillian O’Connor gem after 77 minutes which levelled the game and sent the vociferous Mayo supporters into raptures.
Few people would have predicted anything but a Dublin win in advance had you said Dublin would score two goals to Mayo’s zero. In fact few people predicted anything but a Dublin win, full stop.
Clearly undeterred, Stephen Rochford’s team came out with a sense of purpose and controlled aggression that told you they were men on a mission.
And despite several setbacks – the concession of two ridiculously unfortunate first-half own goals; trailing by three coming into second-half injury-time – Mayo kept at it.
Dublin may not be as bad again (some of their shooting was very poor), but it would be churlish to dismiss Mayo’s role in that. Their defensive performance was exceptional with big displays in particular from Brendan Harrison and Paddy Durcan. A Dublin team who scored 22 points against Kerry could only point nine times here.
And, truth be told, Mayo never danced with perfection on the front foot either. Some of their approach play was poor, some of their decision-making was worse, and there is plenty of room for improvement for both teams.
Mayo started well with points from Tom Parsons and Cillian O’Connor before Dublin struck their first goal. David Clarke saved well from the marauding Brian Fenton, Brendan Harrison foiled Bernard Brogan’s effort on the rebound, but the loose ball was inadvertently diverted into the net by Kevin McLoughlin’s right foot.
Mayo struck next with a point from Donie Vaughan but then Mayo were dealt another sucker punch. A wondrous pass from Diarmuid Connolly found Dean Rock, but when he spilled the ball, it cannoned off the retreating Colm Boyle and past a helpless Clarke. Incredibly, a free after 30 minutes from Rock was the first time a Dublin player scored.
Dublin took a 2-4 to 0-5 lead in at the break and there were fears Mayo might be wilting, especially given the nature of the goals. But they regained their composure and came roaring back into the game on the resumption. Andy Moran set things in motion with a sweet score from the right wing. A Paddy Durcan point and three from Cillian O’Connor (two frees) had Mayo level after 46 minutes.
Mayo never led in the second half or were able to drive on, which might be a concern, but they refused to buckle either. Points from the excellent Brian Fenton and the erratic Dean Rock had them two up. Andy Moran (with a goal chance) and Alan Dillon replied at the other end.
However, points from the superb John Small, Rock (free) and Diarmuid Connolly (his only point of the day) had Dublin three clear after 69 minutes.
O’Connor replied swiftly with a free. Donie Vaughan kicked his second on 71 minutes. Mayo’s chance appeared to have went after a wild shot from Aidan O’Shea went wide, but after Diarmuid Connolly fired a sideline kick wide at the other end in the 77th minute, a quick David Clarke kick-out set in train the move which led to an incredibly courageous and brilliant equaliser from Cillian O’Connor.
So much drama, and there could have been more had referee Conor Lane given a free in from the kick-out for what appeared to be a pick up off the ground by Denis Bastick. Instead, Dublin retained possession, happy with the draw.
Whether Mayo are is a question which will be answered on Saturday week.

MAYO
D Clarke; B Harrison, K Higgins, P Durcan (0-1); C Boyle, L Keegan, D Vaughan (0-2); S O’Shea, T Parsons (0-1); D O’Connor, J Doherty (0-1), K McLoughlin; A Moran (0-2), A O’Shea, C O’Connor (0-7, 5f).
Subs used: A Dillon (0-1) for S O’Shea (55 mins); C Barrett for Boyle (58 mins); B Moran for Dillon (67 mins, inj); S Coen for D O’Connor (67 mins); E Regan for Moran (71 mins); C Loftus for Regan (78 mins, inj).

DUBLIN
S Cluxton; D Byrne, P McMahon, J Cooper; J McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, J Small (0-1); B Fenton (0-1), MD MacAuley; P Flynn, D Connolly (0-1), C Kilkenny; K McManamon, D Rock (0-4, 3fs), B Brogan.
Subs used: P Andrews (0-2) for McCarthy (24 mins, black card); P Mannion for McManamon (45 mins); M Fitzsimons for MacAuley (52 mins); E O’Gara for Brogan (61 mins); D Daly for Byrne (66 mins); D Bastick for Flynn (74 mins).

Referee: C Lane (Cork)

 

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