Dublin juggernaut merely picking up speed

Dublin juggernaut merely picking up speed
Con O'Callaghan scores Dublin's second goal. Picture: Sportsfile

Dublin 3-14 - 1-10 Mayo

If you weren’t glorifying, you were gulping.

Kerry tried to make fun of it - “Contrary to rumour tomorrow’s semi-final is not cancelled,” read the county’s official twitter profile afterwards.

Nobody could ignore this pulverisation. In 12 minutes, Dublin went from trailing by two points to bombarding Mayo with 2-6, not just ending the game as a contest but likely the inter-county careers of some of their stewards that served the westerners so honorably down through the years.

Mayo were simply zapped beyond all recognition from the team that had led 0-8 to 0-6 with a blend of meticulous, efficient attacks and some deadly defending. 

This blitz wasn’t as lethal as the 3-5 Dublin hit Cork with from the 54th minute onwards but then they didn’t leave it as late this time.

Here they went about destroying Mayo from the first minute of the opening half and they didn’t relent.

Con O’Callaghan’s first of two goals two minutes into the half was slightly fortunate in that Lee Keegan slipped, the look on Keegan’s face as soon as he had mis-stepped confirmation that there was only going to be one outcome.

By the time O’Callaghan had bagged his second nine minutes later - when Keegan gave him far too much space from a free kick in - Paul Mannion had sent over two of his team’s four points on the bounce and the Dublin backroom were planning for September 1.

Like they have so often done before, it might have seemed Dublin were struggling in the first half but they were simply sizing up the opposition for their burial plots. Jim Gavin spoke afterwards of how the players put their knowledge of Mayo to good use. 

“We obviously know Mayo very well over the last couple of years and understand what an outstanding team that they are. I think that shone through in how we adapted during the game.

“In the second half we got a couple of scores on the run, which was very pleasing but I think they were very good team scores, good skill execution, some great high-fielding, great hand-passing and kick-passing and that obviously shines upon the player who executes the score but I think there was some great team moves there and some great team play and I think that’s what you look for from the players.”

Gavin never blinked, not even as Brian Fenton was being matched by Matthew Ruane, O’Callaghan was relying on scraps in his scrap with Keegan and Jack McCaffrey was losing out to Patrick Durcan. 

Not shy of making half-time changes, his decision not to twist paid off handsomely.

“The message at half-time was to keep doing what you’re doing. This is an All-Ireland semi-final against an outstanding team and I think both defences were on top in the first half. There was some great defensive plays with great tackling by both sides.

Naturally enough, the game opens up and we asked the guys to back themselves and believe in the skill-sets that they have and try and be true to that and that’s what they did and that’s where the scores came from. I think they showed great adaptability in the game so overall we were pleased to get over the game.

It was as Dublin shed their old skin. Players were transformed from the husks they had been in the first half. Fenton was renewed and ploughed into the game as did Ciarán Kilkenny. O’Callaghan returned to the form that should see him challenging Mannion for footballer of the year.

The trust Gavin showed contrasted with the inertia on the Mayo sideline as they were broken up and down in those 12 minutes. James Horan will carry the can for risking Ruane and Diarmuid O’Connor - they were gambles and gambles were required against Dublin - but the lack of changes early in the second half was indictable. 

He and his players were shellshocked. Asked if he had that time back what would he do, the Mayo manager said he would prefer if his team had “won a few more kick-outs”.

Brian Fenton celebrates scoring Dublin's third goal. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Brian Fenton celebrates scoring Dublin's third goal. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

He had elaborated earlier on what went wrong: “The start of the second half, they were very strong and in a short space of time they came at us very hard. Con O’Callaghan got a goal and I think before that we put a shot into the goalie’s hands (Patrick Durcan) and they came down and scored from it, I think Lee fell. And they got a score. They won the next five or six of our kick-outs and got a second goal and in that period they were in complete control we are struggling to get our hands on possession and, yeah, they were in a strong position for the rest of the game.”

Not making a tactical replacement until the 50th minute was an error on his part and by the time Andy Moran was introduced it felt like a goodbye to the Hill for the veteran. 

Jonny Cooper was diligent in his assignment on him as he was on Cillian O’Connor beforehand and the energy added by substitutes Eoin Murchan and Cian O’Sullivan ensured there would be no comeback as dainty as Keegan’s finish was for 52nd minute goal to reduce Mayo’s arrears to seven points. 

Fenton, who could have had a brace of goals himself, cancelled out that Keegan effort in the 61st minute.

All the superpowers that Mayo appeared to have in the first half left them. While Durcan had been simply brilliant beforehand, the aforementioned shot that dropped short was one of two from him in the second half alongside a wide. 

Brian Fenton and Tom Parsons shake hands at full-time. Picture: Sportsfile
Brian Fenton and Tom Parsons shake hands at full-time. Picture: Sportsfile

Colm Boyle continued to take the fight to Dublin but even he had his limits. Not these All-Ireland champions, though. 

Questions about the aerial ability of their full-back line weren’t asked here but their application is undoubtable. 

Their substitutes may not score as much as they used to but they weren’t needed either.

All things considered, five might not be the limit of their superiority.

Scorers for Dublin:

D. Rock (0-6, frees); C. O’Callaghan (2-0); P. Mannion (0-5); B. Fenton (1-1); B. Howard, N. Scully (0-1 each).

Scorers for Mayo:

C. O’Connor (0-3, 2 frees); L. Keegan (1-0): P. Durcan (0-2); S. O’Shea, J. Carr, C. Boyle, S. Coen, F. Boland (0-1 each).

DUBLIN:

S. Cluxton (c); J. Cooper, M. Fitzsimons; D. Byrne; J. McCaffrey, J. McCarthy, J. Small; B. Fenton, M.D. Macauley; N. Scully, C. Kilkenny, B. Howard; P. Mannion, D. Rock, C. O’Callaghan.

Subs for Dublin:

C. O’Sullivan for M.D. Macauley (50); E. Murchan for J. Small (63); C. Costello for P. Mannion (66); P. McMahon for J. Cooper (69); D. Connolly for N. Scully, P. Andrews for C. O’Callaghan (inj) (both 70+1); P. McMahon (black 70+7 not replaced).

MAYO:

R. Hennelly; L. Keegan, B. Harrison, C. Barrett; S. Coen, C. Boyle, D. Vaughan; M. Ruane, S. O’Shea; F. McDonagh, A. O’Shea, P. Durcan; J. Carr; D. O’Connor (c), C. O’Connor.

Subs for Mayo:

K. Higgins for D. Vaughan (inj 29); K. McLoughlin for F. McDonagh (50); A. Moran for J. Carr (52); E. O’Donoghue for C. Boyle (58); T. Parsons for S. O’Shea (61); F. Boland for D. O’Connor (69).

Red card:

C. O’Connor (second yellow, 70+3).

Referee:

C. Lane (Cork).

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