The only difference yesterday was that Down were the team providing the beating.
Down manager Mark Turley said afterwards: “We’d lost the Ulster final (to Armagh) after playing the better football but we kicked some bad wides that cost us on the day.
“After that we sat down and the lads decided, after a bit of talking from the management, that we would be coming back to Croke Park this year to prove what a good team we were. We knew we couldn’t afford to give Mayo too much of a sniff at the game at the start. We couldn’t give them an incentive that they could build on and get belief from.”
Mayo manager Eugene Ivers admitted that they would need to work a secure foothold from the off and they got that less than a minute in when captain Aidan Campbell slotted over a free.
Just like last year when John Maughan’s team showed a real sense of purpose and potential in the opening jousts, Mayo seemed to be in business, but then their shortcomings were ruthlessly exposed.
Down’s response was to rattle off three scores from play inside the next eight minutes, and the ease with which they cantered through for the first two, in particular, was a cause of concern for Mayo fans.
Mayo countered initially with a pair of points from Dermot O’Connor and Ronan O’Boyle and, after a quarter hour, Down held a one point lead (0-4 to 0-3).
For the next 15 minutes, Mayo were effectively chasing their tails. Down, through their captain James Colgan and the languid Peter Fitzpatrick, began to lay claim to the midfield and Down weaved the patterns that defined the rest of the game.
Ivers had singled out the Down full-forward line as a particular threat long before yesterday and his hunch was confirmed with eight of the northerners’ 11 first-half scores coming from numbers 13 to 15.
Martin Clarke, centre-back on the team that lost to Galway in the U21 All-Ireland decider this year and playing centre-forward here, was the anchorman for those attacking moves.
Mayo just couldn’t handle the fluency with which Down moved the ball which was all in bold contrast to the problems being experienced by their own forwards further up the pitch.
Mayo had only three points to show for their efforts at the interval, two of them coming from dead balls.
They stacked up half a dozen wides in the opening half alone as, time and again, they found the preferred route to goal blocked before resorting to kicking scores from outlandish distances and angles.
To cap it all, luck seemed to sneer at them too. Corner-forward Ronan O’Boyle twice saw good attempts ping back into play from high off a post but the cruellest twist came soon after the changeover.
Campbell and Chris Barrett had reduced the gap to six with two quick scores on the restart before any suggestion of a comeback was buried when Paul McCumiskey’s fisted point attempt was deflected into his own net by Mayo keeper Shane Nallen, who collided heavily with the post in the process.
Nallen departed the scene on a stretcher minutes later but the pain continued for the rest of his colleagues who, at nine points adrift, never looked like making a game of it after that.
For Mayo, the loss stretches to 20 the number of years they have gone without an All-Ireland inter-county title. Yesterday’s defeat provides a touch of symmetry to their suffering, with the county now having recorded four final defeats in each of the minor, U21 and senior grades since their teenagers last won the Tom Markham Cup back in 1985.
“There has to be a winner and loser in every game,” said Mayo boss Eugene Ivers.
“The best team won. These guys can come back from this. They’re hurting in there, but I’m glad it hurts. If it doesn’t hurt you can’t come back from it.”
: M McAllister; G Magee, C Garvey, H Magee; G McCartan, E McConville, K Duffin (0-1); J Colgan, P Fitzpatrick (0-1); D Lavery (0-1), M Clarke (0-3, 1f), S Grant; C Brannigan (0-1), R Kelly (0-5, 3f), P McCumiskey (1-3).
: R Kerr for Grant 40, C Murney for Duffin 49, S Kelly for Kilcullen 50, C Clerkin (0-1) for Lavery 52, K McKernan for Fitzpatrick 58, G Joyce for McAllister 60.
: S Nallen; P Healy, G Cafferkey, J Burke; C Barrett (0-1), T Cunniff, D Hughes; P Collins, P Hanley; A Campbell (0-4f), D O’Connor (0-1), P O’Connor; R O’Boyle, D Kilcullen, M Sweeney.
: S O’Shea For Burke 29, G O’Boyle for P O’Connor 30, K Barnicle for Nallen 36, J Noone (0-1) for O’Boyle 55.
: M Deegan (Laois).