It has to end sometime. But not just yet, as Mayo's wait to stand on top of the mountain goes on for another year at least. There were no excuses from James Horan afterwards as he explained: "We had enough ball to win the game today. We just made too many mistakes, too many turnovers. I think it's that straightforward."
At the end of the day Mayo just did not do enough to win the game. Whatever happened at the end when Mayo thought they had more time to work with and pull out an equaliser is something that will be talked about long into the winter on the Atlantic coast. But at the end of the day, Mayo came up short at the final hurdle once again. It was not the freewheeling shoot-out that many had expected and hoped for as both sides were guilty of missing some gilt-edged chances, but Dublin won thanks to two goals from Bernard Brogan at vital times in the contest. The first coming on the quarter of an hour mark after Brogan got in between Ger Cafferkey and Robbie Hennelly to get a hand on the ball and flick it to the net. Mayo had been leading by 0-4 to 0-1 at that stage, and while not quite running the game, they had been the dominant side up to that point.
Brogan's second goal was the next score after Andy Moran had netted for Mayo to pull the game level, it looked at that like stage Dublin could have started to pull away towards a victory gallop. But Mayo were not going to let that happen, they clung in and dragged themselves back into contention. There were plenty of Mayo men who stepped up to the challenge on Sunday, with Keith Higgins, Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, and Seamus O'Shea all putting in powerful performances. Cillian O'Connor's shoulder stood the test and he finished the day with eight points to his name after getting over some early jitters when he missed two frees. But with Mayo only managing one score from play in the entire second half, they just didn't do enough on the day. The day got off to a controversial start, with Hawk-Eye called into action for a Keith Higgins effort that just scraped outside the wrong side of the posts. Andy Moran kicked the opening point of the game after four minutes, his score bisected the two early missed frees from O'Connor. Diarmuid Connolly kicked the Dub's first score after a poor free out of the Mayo defence was intercepted by the St Vincent's man. Lee Keegan pushed Mayo back into the lead eight minutes after he won a Dublin kick-out and played a one-two with Cillian O'Connor. Keith Higgins put Mayo two points clear nine minutes in, O'Connor nailed his first point 12 minutes in to put Mayo three clear. The next score was Brogan's first major, but Mayo responded well with Seamus O'Shea driving through the Dublin defence to point. O'Connor's second point put Mayo two clear after 20 minutes, but Mayo were missing chances they would rue at the end. Keegan got on the end of a move involving Aidan and Seamus O'Shea 13 minutes before the break to score his second point of the afternoon to put Mayo in the lead by three, before Brogan fired over a close range point as both sides started to get to grips with each other. Andy Moran kicked a fine score for Mayo's last point of the half nine minutes before the turn around, while Dublin tacked on two more through a Cluxton 50' after Robbie Hennelly pulled off one of a number of fine saves he made over the 70 minutes and an Eoghan O'Gara fisted effort.
Dublin started the second half much the better and had pushed themselves into the lead for the first time in the contest three minutes in, through scores from Cian O'Sullivan and O'Gara's second point. O'Connor levelled it up after 42 minutes, before Dublin hit another purple patch and reeled off three points on the bounce through Andrews, Paul Flynn, and Brogan inside four minutes.
Andy Moran's goal 21 minutes before the end tied up the sides once again and gave Mayo the belief they could still win the game. Moran's score was the only one from play from Mayo in the second half, with O'Connor scoring the rest from frees. Mayo's hope was short lived as Brogan palmed home the ball after a swift counter-attack. From then on Mayo were chasing an opponent they would never catch as Dublin turned the screw and choked off Mayo's attacking avenues at every turn, with O'Connor tacking on five frees before the end, but each time Dublin responded to keep themselves just that bit in front.
For another year the adventure has ended, but the hero we were rooting for fell short at the end, again.
Dublin: S Cluxton (0-02, 1 ’45, 1f ), P McMahon, R O’Carroll, J Cooper, J McCarthy, G Brennan (0-01 ), J McCaffrey, MD Macauley, C O’Sullivan (0-01 ), P Flynn (0-01 ), C Kilkenny, D Connolly (0-01 ), P Mannion, P Andrews (0-01 ), B Brogan (2-03, 0-1f ).
Subs: E O’Gara (0-02 ) for Mannion, Darren Daly for McCaffrey, Dean Rock for Kilkenny, K McManamon for Andrews, D Bastick for Cooper
Mayo: R Hennelly, T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, C Barrett, L Keegan (0-02 ), D Vaughan, C Boyle, A O’Shea, S O’Shea (0-01 ), K McLoughlin, K Higgins (0-01 ), A Dillon, C O’Connor (0-08, 8f ) A Freeman, A Moran (1-2 ).
Subs: M Conroy for Freeman, E Varley for Dillon, B Moran for S O’Shea, J Doherty for Moran.
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan ).