Another chapter for Mayo’s House of Pain secured itself after the football team's 2015 adventure came to an abrupt end at the hands of Dublin in the semi final last weekend. In a few years' time people will look back at the result and the score line will suggest that Dublin were comfortable winners but the margins were very tight in this game. A stroke of luck for Dublin and, in my opinion, a poor refereeing decision put paid to any chance Mayo had of reaching the All-Ireland final and for another crack at Kerry.
Don’t misunderstand me here, Dublin were worthy winners and finished the game very strongly, and for me it was agonising to watch the last quarter of the game as the Dubs smelt blood and knew our race was run and toyed with Mayo for those last ten minutes in what looked like a game of playground keep ball. They kept the ball for almost three minutes in the 60th minute without a Mayo player getting a hand near it or near a Dublin player and 31 passes later Philly McMahon tapped over a delightful team score.
The stroke of luck and umpire/referee blunder occurred in the 53rd and 54th minute. Mayo were four points up in the 53rd minute and by the 63rd minute they were five down, Dublin scoring 2-03 in that period, a nine point swing in 10 minutes. When Brian Fenton found himself bearing down on Robbie Hennelly’s goal in the 53rd minute his scoffed shot could have literally gone anywhere. I think it was heading for the sideline rather than the end line when 'poacher in chief' Bernard Brogan threw his foot at Fenton’s miscued effort to deflect it to the net. It gave Dublin the shot in the arm they so badly needed. The bottom line is the ball could have gone anywhere, and if luck is on your side that ball travels beyond Brogan and out for a side line ball, instead it ended up in the net. Full credit to Brogan for being more alert than the Mayo defence.
Despite the Sunday game analysts declaring that Philly McMahon’s game killing goal was legitimate, I beg to differ. There was nothing wrong with the goal but Bernard Brogan’s pass in the lead-up could surely not be considered a legal hand pass in the rules of the game. It requires a definite striking action, which I failed to see after watching it almost 50 times, and if there is reasonable doubt then the referee should have overturned the goal. It was interesting to see that the umpire who was furthest away from the debatable hand pass seemed to be calling the shots. I feel another whistle blower may have awarded a free out, which at the time was of course a nail in the Mayo coffin.
Dublin's bench kicked them on
The first half of the game was a splendid spectacle with an incredible atmosphere with both teams going toe to toe with some brilliant scores and high intensive tackling. Out of the 20 first half scores 16 came from open play, Diarmuid O'Connor continuing his fine form scoring two fine efforts, but it was up the other end you could see a few problems. Paddy Andrews took Keith Higgins for two scores early on; Ger Cafferkey faired none better and was taken for two more by Andrews who was having the game of his life, scoring four from play out of 10 in that first half. A lot of people are pinning Mayo’s loss to Lee Keegan’s miss in the second half, which would have put Mayo five points up with 20 minutes remaining, but there was a lot more to it than that. Seamus O'Shea’s black card didn’t help, trying to get his brother Aidan into the game backfired as his marker Philly McMahon notched a goal and two points when O'Shea went back the field for possession. But for me the single biggest reason for Mayo’s defeat was the Dublin bench.
I was on national radio before the game saying how the Dubs had a big problem when they had to look to their substitutes and Mayo’s bench was a lot stronger, talk about an opinion coming back to haunt me. Alan Brogan was superb when he came on, Kevin McManamon did what Kevin McManamon always does to Mayo – scores goals and the much criticised Michael Darragh McCauley laid down a marker for a starting place for the final, even Michael Fitzsimons contributed handsomely shoring up the Dublin defence.
This bunch have given us their all
I ask people to appreciate what the Mayo players have given to us and know only too well what they went through for those final 10 minutes. The first goal they conceded would have been similar to taking a stomach punch from Floyd Mayweather, the second like an upper cut from Mike Tyson. Their legs were gone, I know it sapped every sinew of energy I had, it had to be 10 times worse for those on the field. This team will still not go away.