Mayo went looking to create their own Fairytale of Croke Park the week before Christmas, but unlike those children’s fables there was no happy ending.
At the three quarter mark of this story, the big bad in the form of Dublin said they had enough and ground our hero’s down as the marched to their sixth All Ireland on the trot.
Like all good stories the bad guy had a plan right from the start. Dublin won possession from the throw-in and broke right through the heart of the Mayo defence with Dean Rock fisting the ball to the back of the net with barely seconds gone on the clock.
Mayo were up for the fight though and got right back on their hopeful path for glory. Oisin Mullin pointed right from the next play and Cillian O’Connor cut the gap back to just one seconds later, after Mullin rose to the skies to pull the Dublin kick-out down and move the ball quickly through the hands to Ryan O’Donoghue who was fouled.
O’Connor swung another over the bar from a tight angle and the game was suddenly level with just over two minutes gone on the clock. The game was moving at a frantic pace and Dublin reeled off three points on the bounce - two from Rock and one from Sean Bugler to push their side three clear with ten minutes gone.
Mayo refused to wilt and were doing plenty of things right on the field. O’Connor chipped in with his third of the day on 11 minutes, then Conor Loftus got in on the act before Ryan O’Donoghue latched one from downtown to level the game up right before the first half water break.
Two pointed marks from Cillian O’Connor in the 20th and 21st minute had Mayo two clear - before Dublin struck for their second goal of the game when Con O’Callaghan got in to punch the ball home after they showed patience to create the space like no other side can do.
O’Connor pulled Mayo level again from free after the busy O’Donoghue was hauled down once more by the Dublin defence. O’Callaghan put the Dubs back in front on 27 minutes, two minutes later O’Connor’s radar was a bit off and he pulled a free the near side of the post - but Mayo kept coming and O’Donoghue levelled it up on the half hour with a well taken score.
But Dublin were the ones to finish the half strongest with John Small pointing and then Ciaran Kilkenny kicking a point that define this Dublin side, twice he was pushed away by the Mayo defence, but he kept his nerve and the ball and found the space to arc the ball over the bar.
Mayo were given a helping hand when Robbie McDaid was shown a black card on the stroke of half time, giving them a man advantage for the opening ten minutes of the second half as they went looking to close the gap on the scoreboard.
Dublin though are probably the masters of playing a man down and they kept the ball expertly to slow down the Mayo cause as they saw out their ten minute disadvantage.
Niall Scully kicked Dublin three clear on 38 minutes, but the fight was still in Mayo. O’Connor added another point from a free after Aidan O’Shea was hauled to the ground as he broke for goal, then Stephen Coen showed great composure to point a mark from a tricky position just after Brian Fenton pointed on the run.
A brace of O’Connor pointes form frees had the game level at 0-14 to 2-8 with 47 minutes gone on the clock.
But as the pages of this story moved towards the three quarter mark the bad guy was starting to get on top of our hero’s from the West. Rock pointed from a free just after the 50 minute mark and his side in went one ahead at the water break.
Mayo’s legs began to tire and Dublin began to take control of the game and play it on their terms. Kilkenny pointed not long after the resumption of action - further points came form Brian Howard and Paul Manion and Rock and the game was moving away from Mayo and they were taking on some serious water.
Darren Coen stemmed the tide with a point on 65minutes by Mayo were still four down and Dublin went straight down the field and Kilkenny pushed the gap out to five again and that was all this story wrote.
Mayo kept going until the end and probed and prodded around the fringes but they were fighting against a foe they were never going to better.
Dublin have set the benchmark and gone beyond it and Mayo have once again gave all the had, but came up short against the best.
But like all great stories, there is another book to be written next year and they will be back, because Mayo know no other way.
Mayo: Cillian O’Connor 0-9 (5fs, 2ms ), Ryan O’Donoghue 0-2, Oisin Mullin, Conor Loftus, Darren Coen, and Stephen Coen (m ) 0-1 each.
Dublin: Dean Rock 1-4 (4fs ), Con O’Callaghan 1-1, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-3, Brian Fenton, Niall Scully, Brian Howard, John Small, Sean Bugler, and Paul Mannion (f ) 0-1 each.
Mayo: David Clarke; Paddy Durcan, Chris Barrett, Lee Keegan; Stephen Coen, Oisin Mullin, Eoghan McLaughlin; Conor Loftus, Mattie Ruane; Kevin McLoughlin, Ryan O’Donoghue, Diarmuid O’Connor; Tommy Conroy, Aidan O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor. Subs: Michael Plunkett for P Durcan (HT ), James Carr for Conroy (49 ), Darren Coen for O’Donoghue (58 ), Jordan Flynn for Loftus (62 ), James Durcan for McLaughlin (70+1 ).
Dublin: Stephen Cluxton; Michael Fitzsimons, David Byrne, Eoin Murchan; Jonny Cooper, John Small, Robbie McDaid; Brian Fenton, James McCarthy; Niall Scully, Con O’Callaghan, Sean Bugler; Paddy Small, Dean Rock, Ciaran Kilkenny. Subs: Brian Howard for Bugler (HT ), Paul Mannion for P Small (51 ), Colm Basquel for Cooper (54 ), Cormac Costello for Scully (70 ), Philly McMahon for Murchan (70+5 ).