For those who prefer their dreams sprinkled with fairy dust, maybe these metropolitan marauders will start looking at themselves fondly between now and September 1. Maybe with history in the crosshairs, Jim Gavin’s Dublin will contort themselves into a ball of apprehension and tank on the biggest day of their sporting lives. Maybe they will, but nothing that’s available to us by way of hard evidence all the way back to 2015 suggests that is the case. Wishful thinking, more like.
There will be quite a few theories advanced in relation to the opening six minutes of the second half at Croke Park on Saturday. For sure it changed the All-Ireland semi-final irrevocably.
Was it human error or system malfunction from Mayo that yielded 1-4 to Dublin between the 35th and 41st minutes?
Mayo have had more than their quota of ill-luck at the Davin End against Jim Gavin’s side, but there was neither good or bad fortune attaching to the manner in which Dublin nuked Mayo in 12 devastating minutes.
That scoreburst of 2-6 was the All-Ireland champions returning to the mezzanine we now refer to as ‘another level’, a perch they’ve occupied for the past five years.. It may take Alex Ferguson himself to knock the off it.
Whichever, it turned into a rout a semi-final that, to the moment Conor Lane called time on the first half, had many theorising on what it would be that eventually brought King Con and his colleagues to ground.
Jamesd Horan’s players looked for all the world like they’d unlocked the secret or, as Eamonn Fitzmaurice speculated here on Saturday, conjured the perfect performance.
Mayo’s opening 35 minutes was as close to perfect as a decimal point – no ball or possession ventured much less wasted, Dublin’s forward shooed and ushered into alleyways and restricted to three points from play, the last of them just on half time from Brian Howard.
Mayo led 0-8 to 0-6 at the half, and 82,000 folk rolled up their match programmes, looked at their mates and shifted excitedly in their seats and soft shoes, feeling pleased with themselves to be at history’s ringside.
Ding ding for the second round as Dublin coiled up for one enormous haymaker. Mayo’s shattered state was exemplified by the goalkeeper Rob Hennelly, who was picking the ball out of his net for the first time 90 seconds after the restart.
That was the beginning of a rapid descent for Hennelly and the Mayo kickout strategy, which fell to pieces alarmingly in the ensuing ten minutes.
Mayo picked up one break from the early second half kickouts, which were all long and the antithesis of what Mayo had plotted in the opening 35 minutes.
When learned folk speak of the goalkeeper being the most important position on the pitch these days, there’s convincing evidence to support them.
Damage limitation is a critical device for any boxer on the ropes, but their inability to check, never mind halt, Dublin’s momentum in the third quarter was fatal for Horan, a point he readily conceded afterwards.
“We needed to win a few kickouts,” he said when asked what Mayo could have done to stay in the fight.
The actual consequence of Dublin's 10-point win and performance is it provides Jim Gavin and his players with the ideal tune up for the final. It’s two years since Dublin’s constitution was seriously interrogated and they showed Saturday they have lost none of their deadly combinations when questions are asked.
Paul Mannion and two-goal Con O’Callaghan led the offensive resurgence after the break as Dublin turned an 0-8 to 0-6 half time deficit into a 2-12 to 0-8 lead after 47 minutes.
Astonishing. 2-6 to no score in 12 minutes. Mayo’s draining summer schedule cannot be overlooked in this context – Horan admitting they got “heavy-legged” quite quickly in the second half - but the awesome surge from Dublin is the most compelling storyline from the first of the semi-finals.
This was the perfect moment, the perfect opportunity for Gavin’s Dublin to flex their muscle and if Mayo suffered, Neither Kerry or Tyrone will have enjoyed the view.