Four goal Dublin punish slow starting Mayo

National Football League

Game on: Alan Freeman scores Mayo's third goal against Dublin in Croke Park. Photo:Sportsfile

Game on: Alan Freeman scores Mayo's third goal against Dublin in Croke Park. Photo:Sportsfile

Dublin 4-15

Mayo 3-13

Where to start and where to finish on this game, is as much as a riddle as the game itself was. Mayo found themselves 14 points down with barely over 20 minutes gone in the contest, but somehow managed to pull themselves level with with almost 25 minutes left in the game. Dublin though picked up the pace again over the final couple of furlongs to run out five point winners at the end. While Mayo's fight back has to be commended and the performances of Alan Freeman and Jason Doherty in particular bode well for the future, Mayo have a number of serious questions to answer before the championship kicks into action. James Horan picked one of the smallest full back lines your likely to ever see in and inter-county clash for today's game and they were ruthlessly exposed by Diarmuid Connolly in particular who scored an amazing three goals in a eight minute spell, which had most Mayo people who made the trek to the capital ruing their decision to travel east for the game. Mayo made two changes from the team that was announced during the week, with Aidan O'Shea ruled out through injury he was replaced by Peader Gardiner and Tom Parsons was preferred to James Kilcullen in the middle of the park. The Crossmolina man was deployed as a seventh defender for Mayo in the opening stages of the game, which didn't do much good for Mayo as a mixture of direct running supported by players breaking on the overlap along with diagonal balls over the head of Mayo's small full back line were put to extremely good use by Dublin in the opening exchanges. Dublin found themselves 1-1 to 0-0 up inside the opening six minutes, Tomas Quinn grabbing the two opening scores for the hosts. His goal coming after he collected a ball in from Paul Flynn which went over the head of Mayo's Chris Barrett before he riffled it past Robert Hennelly in the Mayo goal. Aidan Campbell slotted Mayo's first score of the game from a free nine minutes in, but the floodgates in the Mayo defence were about to open shortly after. Quinn then slotted a brace of frees before Diarmuid Connolly took over the game. Paul Flynn was once again involved setting up the full forward for an easy finish to the net on 16 minutes. Only a couple of minutes, passed before he had his second goal of the game. Alan Brogan hand passed the ball into Connolly who claimed the ball with ease before hitting Dublin's third goal of the game. A point from Richie Feeney broke up the two Connolly goals. With 20 minutes on the clock Quinn tagged on his fourth point of the half from another free and two minutes later Connolly nailed his hat-trick and pushed Dublin a massive 14 points into the lead. Corner back Darren Daly worked his way into the Mayo half and dropped a long ball into the Mayo penalty area. Connolly got between Keith Higgins and goalkeeper Robert Hennelly to flick the ball to the net. The Breaffy custodian will not be happy with his part in the goal coming for a ball he really had no need to. Having hit Mayo for four goals inside 16 minutes, the metropolitans visibly took their foot of the gas and Mayo started to put together the start of their comeback. Andy Moran, Richie Feeney, Peadar Gardiner and a brace from Alan Freeman had the scoreboard reading 4-4 to 0-7 in favour of Dublin after 29 minutes. Both of Freeman's points came after he got in behind the Dublin full back line and were realistic goal chances, which gave Dublin a warning of what was about to come later on.

The home side did hit back with points from Michael Darragh MacAuley and Alan Brogan to keep Mayo in check, but on 30 minutes Mayo managed to grab a crucial goal. Chris Barrett drove up the pitch, he laid it off to Alan Dillon who found Jason Doherty and the Burrishoole man made no mistake form close range. There was still time for both sides to to add on two more points to their totals before the end of the first half, leaving the score 4-8 to 1-9 at the break.

Mayo had managed to stem the tide in the final ten minutes or so of the half, and 1-9 in most games would be a more than respectable score at the break and Mayo despite not being in the game for the opening 20 minutes could have had even more scores on the board at the break. They kicked six wides in the opening half and more than half of them were poor misses by the Mayo attack.

The second half threw in and Mayo sprang to life right from the start, Aidan Campbell kicked a point from a free three minutes in. One minute later Doherty got his second goal of the game after Alan Freeman twisted and turned inside the Dublin penalty area before he fed Doherty to finish from close range. Three minutes later Andy Moran drove in dangerous ball, which Freeman won and held off his man before driving the ball to the back of the net, to amazingly put only one point between the sides. Only 20 minutes earlier in the game Dublin were in a 14 point lead and Mayo were teetering on the brink of a collapse of monumental proportions not seen since the hammering Cork inflicted on Jack O'Shea's Mayo in 1993 in the All Ireland semi-final. With 46 minutes on the clock, Andy Moran kicked a massive point for Mayo to haul the game level to the amazement of everyone in attendance. But the fairytale wasn't going to last in the closing 24 minutes, Mayo couldn't keep up the pressure and they faded as Dublin got back to grips with the game. The only scores that Mayo could muster were two pointed frees from Alan Dillon, while Dublin kicked on adding seven more points to keep up their 100 per cent start to the league.

Dublin: D Connolly (3-03 ), T Quinn (1-07,7f ), K McManamon (0-2 ), MD Macauley (0-1 ), A Brogan (0-1 ), D Nelson (0-1 )

Mayo: J Doherty (2-0 ), A Freeman (1-3 ), A Campbell (0-3,2f ); A Moran (0-2 ), A Dillon (0-2,2f ), R Feeney (0-2 ) each, P Gardiner (0-1 )

Dublin: M Savage; D Daly, S Murray, P Brogan; P Casey, G Brennan, D Nelson; D Bastick, B Cahill; P Flynn, K McManamon, MD MacAuley; T Quinn, D Connolly, A Brogan. Subs used: P McMahon for Daly (half-time ), B Cullen for Macauley (42 mins ), K Nolan for Casey (48 ), P Andrews for Flynn (60 ), P Burke for A Brogan (68 ).

Mayo: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, C Barrett, K Higgins; R Feeney, G Cafferkey, K McLoughlin; R McGarrity, T Parsons; A Campbell, A Dillon, A Moran; P Gardiner, A Freeman, J Doherty.??Subs used: J Kilcullen for Parsons (42 mins ), A Kilcoyne for Campbell (54 ), C Hallinan for Cafferkey (56 ), J Burke for McLoughlin (65 ).?

Ref: Maurice Deegan (Laois )

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