Ten minutes from time Jack McCaffery swung the ball over the bar and the Hill was in full voice as Dublin went seven points clear and Mayo were hanging on looking for a punchers chance of resurrecting their interest in this years All Ireland senior championship. But they dug in and fought it out to the not so bitter end. Eight minutes from time Andy Moran fired over a nice score from play, a minute later Keith Higgins side stepped his way to a point and the gap was closing in.
Then less than a minute later Mayo looked to have the goal chance they needed, Andy Moran closed down Stephen Cluxton and turned the ball over. He managed to wriggle some room to get away a shot as the Parnells man hung off his back, but John Small had got back to save the ball on the line. That looked like the chance, but Mayo kept going. Heart, guts, bottle and whatever other words you want to use to describe it, this Mayo team have it in abundance, Alan Freeman clipped over another point after Mayo won the ball back and the gap was back to four. But the clock kept ticking, as the sands of time worked against Mayo. Colm Boyle was the last Mayo man on the end of a flurry of passes and his progress to goal was stopped by a Dublin defender, it looked a bit soft, but hell, you’ve got to take the chances when they come your way.
Cillian O’Connor stepped up and showed nerves of steel to fire the ball low to the net and Mayo believed again, the green and red faithful who were already operating in fifth gear, found that they had a sixth speed and gave it everything they had behind their warriors. With one minute to go before the end of normal time, Andy Moran, the man who has been the heartbeat of this team for the past half a decade was the man to step up and do what was needed and he put the ball between the posts and Croke Park erupted. But there was still five minutes of injury time left on the clock and lots of time for all this effort to be in vain. With 73 minutes gone on the stopwatch, Dublin got a free out near the Cusack Stand, Stephen Cluxton made his way up, the Dublin keeper took his time and picked his spot, but sent the O’Neills spiralling wide of the target. Tensions flared as the realisation that any mistake could spell the end for their sides and Diarmiud Connolly got a straight red after a tangle with Lee Keegan under the Hogan Stand.
Mayo could have been the masters of their own downfall in this game, they went in trailing by 1-7 to 0-7 at the break, with Diarmuid Connolly’s goal from another controversial penalty award separating the sides after a slow moving first half, with Cillian O’Connor kicking six of Mayo’s scores from placed balls, with Lee Keegan scoring the other with Mayo’s very first score of the game a minute in. It wasn’t a great day for Mayo’s starting six, with Diarmuid O’Connor the only one of them to register a single score from play. Early points from the O’Connor brothers had the gap back to just one and Mayo were on top, but they couldn’t put the ball over the bar. Jason Doherty snatched at two efforts that went wide, Kevin McLoughlin was off target with another decent chance as was Diarmuid O’Connor. While Dublin were more clinical with Kevin McManamon pointing with his sides first real chance, when he took advantage of Lee Keegan slipping as he tried to fend off the St Judes man. O’Connor cut the gap back to a single point 44 minutes in when he pointed another free from a tough position after Tom Parsons had been fouled out near the Cusack Stand, but Mayo couldn’t find the leveller as they put the ball wide and into Cluxton’s hands.
Diarmuid Connolly swept over a free with the outside of his boot to put the gap back out to two with 19 minutes left. Cluxton then missed a free from out the park. With 57 minutes gone the killer moment looked to have arrived, Brian Fenton broke through the Mayo defence and looked odds on to score. Robbie Hennelly pulled off a great save stopping the ball on the deck outside his small square, Mayo hesitated for a second waiting for the free to be awarded. Kevin McManamon was in no mood to wait and pulled on the loose ball on the deck and fired it to the net, putting Dublin 2-9 to 0-10 in front. O’Connor did respond with point from a 45’ but points from Bernard Brogan, Alan Brogan and McCaffrey had the Dubs seven clear and looking like they were home and hosed. But Mayo had different ideas about that. It was an epic encounter, not full of great football, with plenty of mistakes and niggles on and off the ball, one that had the heart pounding and they’re all back to do it again next Saturday at 5pm. You won’t want to miss it.
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Mayo: C O’Connor 1-9 (0-8f, 0-1 ’45, 1-0 pen ), A Moran 0-2, A Freeman, K Higgins, L Keegan, D O’Connor 0-1 each.
Dublin: D Connolly 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-1f ), K McManamon 1-1, C Kilkenny 0-3, B Brogan, P Andrews 0-2 each, A Brogan, J McCaffrey 0-1 each.
Mayo: R Hennelly; G Cafferkey, D Vaughan, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Barrett, C Boyle; S O’Shea, T Parsons; D O’Connor, A O’Shea, K McLoughlin; D Drake, C O’Connor, J Doherty. Subs: P Durcan for D Vaughan (9 ), A Moran for D Drake (44 ), A Freeman for J Doherty (60 ), B Moran for S O’Shea (65 ), M Sweeney for D O’Connor (69 )
Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O’Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, MD MacAuley, P Flynn, C Kilkenny, D Connolly; D Rock, P Andrews, B Brogan. Subs: M Fitzimons for R O’Carroll (3 ), K McManamon for D Rock (35 ), J Small for J Cooper (42 ), D Bastick for MD McCauley (BC 49 ), A Brogan for P Andrews (54 ).