OISIN MCCONVILLE: Enthralling showdown spells bad news for Mayo

I received a text message from a mate of mine after Sunday’s game. This guy, who would know football, typed: “That restores my faith in Gaelic football.”

I couldn’t agree with him more.

I don’t have the vocabulary to fully express myself but it was a pleasure to be there. It’s been a long time since I felt so emotional about a game but that’s what it did. And I was completely detached from it and I imagine so many others shared that experience. That can only be a good thing for the game.

The substitution of Paul Geaney has become a big talking point. I was watching the situation develop for a few minutes beforehand. They were two points up when Marc Ó Sé was being readied but by the time he was introduced for Geaney the game was level. It was at the manager’s discretion to go ahead with that switch when the circumstances of the match had changed. Éamonn Fitzmaurice would have felt he’s made mistakes against the Dubs before but this was just a call. People can’t ridicule him for something he thought was going to work. It wasn’t as if he was putting in a novice who wasn’t going to have a positive impact on proceedings.

Obviously, Kerry were upset about the referee. I was worried about David Gough before but he let the game flow. The whole situation boiled down to the decision not to award that late free to Peter Crowley. When you see someone like Mikey Sheehy going to the referee afterwards, you know just how much they felt aggrieved.

But it’s Mayo I feel sorry for most now. Dublin will dissect this semi-final and realise they made too many basic errors. Brian Fenton gave the ball away too much even though he was putting in a monster display at times. Dublin took too many wrong options and kicked ample wides. The Stephen Cluxton situation really boiled down to seven or eight minutes. Dublin will be ruthless with themselves. They came off the field against Kerry in the league final and you could tell they weren’t happy. No team in any sport is unbeatable but the Dubs are getting close to it. When the game was there for the taking, they were cool, calm and collected. There was no showboating. It was all shoulders to the wheel and it was real manly stuff.

Sunday would have made a brilliant final but Dublin-Mayo has the makings of a good one. We’ve asked all questions of Mayo and to be honest they’ve failed miserably when they’ve reached this stage in the past. If they could win this one, not only would it exorcise the ghosts of the past but I think they would become one of the greatest All-Ireland champions. When I say that, I consider who they’re playing but also how iffy they have been in getting to this stage. They have been average all year but know they are a little over 70 minutes away from redemption. Ultimate redemption. But if they are are going to achieve it by God are they going to have to go to the well.

Kerry will now enter another period of transition.

Kieran Donaghy, Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé have probably kicked their last football for the county and the game will be poorer for their absences.

But because of what’s around them and the fact they won’t have to play Dublin in All-Ireland semi-finals every year, Kerry will still be challenging for that third Sunday in September.

I just don’t know how many more defeats like Sunday they can take, though. These losses to Dublin are getting into their very being. It’s not just the players but the people too. It’s like they’re wondering what they’re doing wrong when they are no longer able to something they were so used to doing in the past. I heard Jack O’Shea on the radio after the game on Sunday and an image of his painful expression came into my head. Dublin have cut Kerry for a fourth time but on this occassion they have driven the blade deeper than before.


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