Dublin hold off Mayo in dire battle

National Football League

Dublin 1-9    ::   Mayo 1-8

Every team has a bad game every now and then, and every Mayo supporter who was in McHale Park on Sunday will hope that they saw the worst game that Mayo will be involved in for the coming year. You're not going to win any contest if you can't hit the target and Mayo failed to hit the target on 18 different occasions on Sunday, most of which were from very scoreable positions and that is the simple reason why Dublin headed back east with the points in their back pocket. Dublin weren't better than Mayo in overall play, Mayo had more possession and more attacking threat, but the wides killed them. In comparison Dublin only hit three efforts off target during the 70 minutes. While Mayo did dominate the ball, and managed to kick themselves out of winning the game, their failure to hold onto the ball when it was played into them in attacking positions and the lack of support options given to the Mayo forward line when they did manage to hold onto possession also added to the frustration of the performance. The loss of both Peader Gardiner and Ronan McGarrity in the first half also didn't help Mayo's cause either, but they have six days now to get things worked out before they face into another tough examination against Derry in Celtic Park next Saturday night. Gardiner's forward runs in particular were missed on Sunday once he left the field with an arm injury after only eight minutes, while a number of other key players failed to get to grips with the game. Andy Moran, who had been in a fantastic run of form in the previous few games, never got into the contest, while Trevor Mortimer, just back from suspension, was another who never got fully up to pace and Aidan O'Shea continues to have a sticky start to his sophomore year in the senior inter county grade.

Seamus O'Shea opened the scoring before the first minute had elapsed when he swung the ball over the bar from 30 metres out after Donal Vaughan and Alan Freeman had done the hard work down the left flank. The lead lasted six minutes before the Dubs landed their first score of the game through Alan Hubbard who was on hand to collect a tap down from a 45 to score from close in. Mayo had to thank Ger Cafferkey for stopping Dublin opening their account with a goal a few minutes before Hubbard's point after Paul Flynn put Ross McConnell through on goal. The midfielder beat David Clarke with his shot, but the retreating Cafferkey was on hand to block the ball on the line. Alan Freeman put Mayo back in the lead from a free after Aidan O'Shea was fouled, but it was one of the few success the young Aghamore man had from placed balls on the day. Dublin equalised on 13 minutes after Ronan McGarrity rose high to claim a 45 from Ross McConnell only to drop the ball which was eventually worked back to Kevin McMenamon who clipped it over the bar. Six minutes later Dublin went into the lead for the first time when Paul Flynn played a deft pass into the path of Kevin Bonner who held off Cafferkey before sweeping the ball over the bar for a fine score. Mayo kept piling on the wides with Aidan O'Shea, Enda Varley and Trevor Mortimer all guilty of poor shots at this stage. Varley did level the game up 10 minutes before the break when he won a ball he had no right to between two bigger Dublin defenders and held them off before being hauled to the ground. He dusted himself off and slotted the free over the bar. Mayo had a few more chances to get some more scores on the board, but they continued to fail to convert them as the wide total added up to 10 before the break. Eamon Fennell and Paul Flynn clipped over two points in quick succession to put Dublin into a two point lead as half time approached, but four minutes into over time Varley cut the gap back to a single point from another free.

The second half started as the first ended, with Mayo missing the target through Neil Douglas. Varley did level the game up again though on 41 minutes with another free after Andy Moran was fouled as he tried to make a break goalwards, and on 46 minutes he looked to have swung the game back in Mayo's favour. Tom Parsons won a mark in the middle of the park and slipped the ball towards Keith Higgins who drove it downfield. Aidan O'Shea got a breaking hand to the ball which fell into the path of Varley and the Garrymore man drilled the ball high into the net to put Mayo three clear. Pat Gilroy called for experience from his subs bench and sent Conal Keaney, Bernard Brogan and Darren McGee into the fray. And Brogen in particular had a telling influence on the rest of the game. Ross McConnell cut the gap back to two points, with a nicely taken score on 16 minutes and a minute later the Dubs were back in the lead. Keaney and Brogen combined well at the end of a sharp move through the heart of the Mayo defence and Brogen gave David Clarke no chance with his clinical finish. Andy Moran and McConnell exchanged scores as the Dubs kept their noses in front. Mayo continued to miss chances at the other end while Dublin kicked on with points from Michael McAuley and Keaney put them three clear with a few minutes left on the clock.

Conor Mortimer was thrown into the action for Mayo near the end but his most telling contribution was to drop a free from well within his range short of the target. But having only just returned from travelling over the winter, he can be forgiven for being off match pace. Alan Freeman, who was replaced by Mortimer, had closed the gap back to two points before he left the field and Mayo's last score came from the boot of Andy Moran who had no choice but to blast his effort from 30 yards out at the goal and hope it went in. His shot came close and the combination of a Dublin body and the post pushed the ball over the bar to bring to an end an forgettable encounter.

Mayo: David Clarke; Donal Vaughan, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Peader Gardiner, Trevor Howley, Kevin McLoughlin; Tom Parsons, Ronan McGarrity; Andy Moran, Seamus O'Shea, Trevor Mortimer; Enda Varley, Aidan O'Shea, Alan Freeman. Subs: Chris Barrett for Peader Gardiner (8 mins ), Neil Douglas for Ronan McGarrity (20 mins ), Conor Mortimer for Freeman (63 mins ), Mikey Sweeney for Aidan O'Shea (70 mins )

Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Paul Conlon, Michael Fitzsimons, Philip McMahon; Hugh Gill, Cian O'Sullivan, Ger Brennan; Eamon Fennell, Ross McConnell; Alan Hubbard, Paul Flynn, Kevin Bonner; David Henry, Michael McAuley, Kevin McMenamon. Subs: Kevin Nolan for Paul Conlon (36 mins ), Bernard Brogan for Kevin McMenamon (46 mins ), Darren McGee for Eamon Fennell (50 mins ), Conal Keaney for David Henry (50 mins ), Brendan McMahon for Alan Hubbard (56 mins )

Ref: Pat Fox (Westmeath ).

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