By Colm Gannon in James Stephen's Park, Ballina
After the heights of Saturday's u21 game, Sunday's National League game against Dublin was always bound to be a bit of an anti-climax. You can't compare championship and league football as being on the same level, but this was seventy minutes of very average football from two sides who both harbor ambitions of provincial glory at least come summer time. If both sides are realistic about their intentions of making a dent in the championship, then some major improvements will have to be made. The contest wasn't helped either by one of the most inept display's of refereeing seen on a field in a long time, Armagh's Paudie Hughes favored neither side over the course of the seventy minutes and left both sets of players and supporters baffled with a number of decisions.
After Mayo's second draw of the league, they stand in fourth place in the table on four points, ahead of fifth place Tyrone on points difference and a point ahead of both Dublin and Donegal with Westmeath propping up the table with no points from their first five games. With two games left to go against Galway next week and then at home to Tyrone in three weeks time, another win is needed to more or less ensure that Mayo don't make a drop along with the midlanders into division two for next season.
With the u21's memorable clash against Roscommon going into extra time, Mayo were forced to line out with out both Donal Vaughan and Tom Parsons for the second week in a row, however one u21 did come in and leave a telling mark on the contest. With time almost up and Mayo trailing by a point, Billy Joe Padden won the ball and slipped in Kieran Conroy who played a delightful ball in to Aidan O'Shea, the Breaffy teenager tried to find space to shoot for goal only to be closed down but he still managed to sweep an effort high and over the bar to level the game up and grab a point for Mayo. The fact that Mayo were able to come back and steal a point at the death didn't look to be on the cards 25 minutes into the game when at that stage they had failed to register a single score and their most potent attack in that period ended up with Trevor Mortimer shooting horribly wide inside the first sixty seconds. But Dublin's abominable performance in front of the post's let Mayo back into the game, the metropolitans put the ball the wrong side of the posts on no fewer than eleven occasions in the first half. The could have had Mayo dead and buried, but their failure with the boot was as much to do with Mayo's revival as anything else. Bernard Brogan opened the scoring in the contest after thirty seconds after he slipped Liam O'Malley's shackles, the Burrishoole man took a while to settle into the contest but after he did, he put in a great game. Diarmuid Connolly hit the Dubs second score after two minutes with a nice effort on the turn and he could have bagged a goal shortly after, Blaine Kelly played Connolly in, but he carried the ball to far with David Clarke advancing to close the gap and the Ballina custodian forced him to cough up the ball. If Connelly had shot sooner or passed to the free man to his left it would have been a three pointer. Kelly then raced out from his maker Chris Barrett to collect the ball from Declan Lally on the right hand side before popping over his sides third point after seven minutes, it was all looking so easy for the visitors as Mayo looked all at sea, but their shooting boots would soon come off. Brogan added on another score from a free that was needlessly moved forward for dissent after Liam O'Malley was adjudged to have fouled the same man with what looked like a perfectly fair shoulder. The visitors nailed their fifth point through Connelly on the trot after they broke down field after Mayo coughed up possession on the Dublin 21 yard line, after Tom Cunniffee made a great line break from deep inside his own half, only to see the ball lost as Mayo failed to figure out what they wanted to do with it.
Mayo finally gave the home supporters something to cheer about after 26 minutes when Alan Dillon landed the first of his five of the day following some neat build up play between himself and Barry Kelly. A minute later Mayo had the gap back to three thanks to Austin O'Malley, the Dublin based full forward made it hard on himself though after electing to solo the ball to bring himself closer to goal and inviting pressure rather than hitting early when he was unmarked. Dillon had the gap back to two after Mayo landed their third point in three minutes, with a great free from the left hand side into the face of a breeze blowing diagonally across the filed into his face. A Diarmuid Connelly 45' stemmed the tide before half time for the Dubs, who were hitting balls over the end line at an alarming rate by this stage. But the gap was back to two at the break thanks to a free from Conor Mortimer after Austin O'Malley was fouled.
With Mayo playing with the breeze in the second half, most would have thought that Mark Ronaldson would move into a more forward position after playing a sweeping role in the first half, but John O'Mahony stuck with his game plan and the Shurle-Glencorrib man stayed in the Mayo back line leaving Conor Morimter and Austin O'Malley in a two man full forward line. The two man full forward line though in the first half had often become a one man full forward line with Austin O'Malley coming deep to look for possession, with Mortimer isolated inside on his own with two Dublin men for company. The second half started well for Mayo with Pat Harte cutting a dash down the left wing before driving the ball over the bar from a tight angle. The point could trace it's origin in an interception by Liam O'Malley on his own 21 yard line, as the Burrishoole man came more and more into the game. Connolly hit back for the Lenister champions after Bryan Cullen showed more hunger than Ronan McGarrity contesting a loose ball on the deck, Cullen passed off to Kevin Bonner who then set up Connolly for the point. That score was to be the visitors last for 24 minutes as Mayo started to take control of the contest and go into the lead at one stage. Alan Dillon pointed from a free, to close the gap to one, then Austin O'Malley missed one he'll be having nightmares about this week. Aidan Kilcoyne who had just come on set the move in motion out on the 45 yard line, before both Peader Gardiner and Trevor Mortimer got involved, leaving O'Malley with the easy task of slotting it over the bar from close range, but he somehow managed to direct it wide on the near side of the post. Another Dillon free leveled the game up on 50 minutes, before the same man did it again to put Mayo into the lead for the only time in the contest on a score line of 0-8 to 0-7 with 53 minutes. But Dublin were not going to lie down and take it, Connolly stuck over another sweetly struck 45 into the wind and with two minutes left on the clock Conal Keaney punched the ball over the bar when goal could have been on to put his side back into the lead. But Mayo managed to drag themselves level once again thanks to O'Shea's late effort and get another point on the board.
Mayo: Alan Dillon (0-5, 4f ), Pat Harte (0-1 ), Conor Mortimer (0-1, 1f ), Austin O'Malley (0-1 ), Aidan O'Shea (0-1 ).
Dublin: Diarmuid Connelly (0-5, 3 45' ), Bernard Brogan (0-2, 1f ), Conal Keaney (0-1 ), Blaine Kelly (0-1 )
Mayo: David Clarke, Liam O'Malley, Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett; Peader Gardiner, Tom Cunniffe, Andy Moran; Pat Harte, Ronan McGarrity; Barry Kelly, Trevor Mortimer, Alan Dillon; Conor Mortimer, Austin O'Malley, Marc Ronaldson. Subs: Kieran Conroy for Chris Barrett (18 mins ), Aidan Kilcoyne for Barry Kelly (38 mins ), Aidan O'Shea for Austin O'Malley (48 mins ), Billy Joe Padden for Aidan Kilcoyne (64 mins )
Dublin: Micheál Savage; David Henry, Denis Bastic, Alan Hubbard; Bryan Cullen, Ger Brennan, Barry Cahill; Ciaran Whelan, Ross McConnell; Diarmuid Connolly, Kevin Bonner, Declan Lally; Blaine Kelly, Conal Keaney, Bernard Brogan. Subs: Alan Brogan for Bernard Brogan (46 mins ), Colin Daly for Ger Brennan (49 mins, Yellow card ), Mossy Quinn for Blaine Kelly (65 mins ), James O'Connor for Ross McConnell (67 mins )
Ref: Padraig Ó' h Aodha (Armagh )