It’s the fine margins that win games at the top level and big calls have to be made, for Mayo the fine margins are once again something they fell just short of in Croke Park on Saturday night. The big call made by the management also didn’t work out for them in the end, but there wasn’t an ounce of effort not put into trying to bridge that small gap. Just like 20 years ago, there was point just in it at the end and a penalty for the opposition helped them along the way.
The decision to drop Robbie Hennelly into the team for his first start since their defeat in the Connacht semi-final took everyone by surprise, it was a gamble for the Mayo management team, a thought out gamble, but one that didn’t work out at the end. These things either work or the don’t and there’s no more lonely position than between the sticks when things don’t go well.
Mayo gave their all, but their all wasn't to be good enough as Dublin hung on to win by a single point at the end. Mayo did have a chance to pull it level deep into injury time when Cillian O’Connor had a free close to the sideline 40m out on the Hogan Stand side of the field. His effort tailed just outside the near post at the death.
There’s one thing that can never be levelled at this group of Mayo players and that’s their desire and hunger to get finally over the line, they give their all every single day and they don’t ever shirk away from a challenge.
The Dubs roared into life early on going into a number of scores from Dean Rock who after leaving his shooting boots behind two weeks ago, made sure he had them packed with him today. Mayo steadied themselves and coming up to the 13 minute mark they had pulled themselves level thanks to a brace of scores from O’Connor along with Paddy Durcan. The champions pushed themselves two points clear again thanks to a brace of Rock efforts.
Mayo hit the front on 18 minutes when Lee Keegan applied a glorious finish to a flowing move after Aidan O’Shea played him in on goal. A minute later Johnny Cooper was given a black card for a trip and 180 seconds further on, Rock pulled his side level again.
Dublin went in leading by a point at the break and the major talking point before it was Lee Keegan’s black card for a foul on Connelly as he broke for goal. The card looked harsh for the Westport man who was the pantomime villain for the baying crowd on the Hill in the build up to the game.
John Small was lucky to not see red before the break for a wild swing on Cillian O’Connor on the ground, but referee Maurice Deegan deemed it fitting to only issue a yellow card. Mayo were forced to introduce Conor O’Shea for Donal Vaughan at the break who picked up a concussion injury before the turn around and Rotchford’s men hit the front in the early stages of the half thanks to scores from the O’Connor brothers.
Rock levelled it up from a free not long after, but the most important play of the game was about to happen. Hennelly fumbled a regulation catch and the ball spilled to Paddy Andrews who the Breaffy man hauled down and was shown a black card along with Dublin getting the penalty, Connolly dispatched it to the net past David Clarke who came on to replace Hennelly.
Dublin managed to keep their noses in front down the home stretch with sub Cormac Costello tacking on three scores to keep them just in front of a gallant Mayo challenge. Once more it wasn’t to be for Mayo, despite them giving their all on the field against Dublin in a two game thriller. For the supporters and the players, it’ll take a while for the wounds the heal, but heal they will and they’ll be back looking for more come next year. It’s the only thing they know how to do.
Dublin: D Rock 0-9 (7fs ), D Connolly 1-1, C Costello 0-3, K McManamon 0-1, B Brogan 0-1.
Mayo: C O'Connor 0-9 (9fs ), L Keegan 1-0, P Durcan 0-2, A Moran 0-1, D O'Connor 0-1, K McLoughlin 0-1.
Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, P McMahon, J Cooper; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J Small; B Fenton, P Flynn; C Kilkenny, K McManamon, D Connolly; P Mannion, D Rock, P Andrews.
Subs: D Byrne for Cooper (21, black card ), B Brogan for Andrews (47 ), MD Macauley for Mannion (52 ), C Costello for McManamon (56 ), E Lowndes for Small (60 ), D Daly for O'Sullivan (72 ).
Mayo: R Hennelly, P Durcan (0-2 ), K Higgins, B Harrison; L Keegan, C Boyle, D Vaughan; S O'Shea, T Parsons; D O'Connor, K McLoughlin, J Doherty; A Moran, A O'Shea, C O'Connor.
Subs: S Coen for Keegan (35+1, black card ), B Moran for Parsons (35+8 - h/t ), C O'Shea for Vaughan (h/t ), D Clarke for Hennelly (41, black card ), B Moran for A Moran (55 ), A Dillon for Doherty (60 ), C Barrett for Boyle (71 ).
Referee: M Deegan (Laois ).