TG4 All-Ireland SFC final
A record 46,286 people watched as the Blues took their sweet time about making their superiority count.
Ultimately though, the
effort of staying with them took its toll on Mayo as the Jackies claimed their second All-Ireland and first since breaking their duck in 2010.
This should have been done and dusted long before the finish, but the victors spurned at least four glorious goal chances and maybe a couple of other half-ones.
These include the otherwise flawless Sinéad Aherne having a first-half penalty saved by sub goalie Aisling Tarpey, though the fact she needed treatment having been unceremoniously sliced down by Yvonne Byrne to win the spot kick may have been a contributory factor.
Byrne was sin-binned as a result and she was joined soon after by Rachel Kearns. In all, Mayo were shown three yellow cards, testament to how stretched they were by their opponents.
Mick Bohan must have been concerned by the failure of his charges to kill off a side that, with Cora Staunton in its ranks, is always capable of punishing such generosity. The Carnacon legend was not at her dead-eye best however, although she still finished with seven points.
Dublin’s aggregate losing tally in the last three deciders was four points. Having failed to register their dominance on the scoreboard, would they blink in the closing stages?
The answer was, eventually, an emphatic no. Instead, with a host of the All-Ireland-winning men’s footballers looking on, they stretched a three-point advantage to 12, hitting three goals in six minutes from the 52nd minute to ensure an enjoyable conclusion to their Croke Park experience at last.
Sarah McCaffrey, sister of Jack, came off the bench for two of those, either side of a clinical strike by Carla Rowe, who might have had a hat-trick had she received the passes that should have come her way on two earlier occasions.
McCaffrey’s first shot to the roof of the Mayo net was probably the key score that enabled Dublin to relax, the Clontarf woman making no mistake after good work by
It was plain sailing from there.
The narrative beforehand centred around Staunton’s return to the big stage after an absence of 10 years — having done so much to get Mayo back on the right path on and off the field — and Dublin’s bid to put those traumatic losses to Cork behind them.
It didn’t really happen for Staunton and one wonders what a few more scores from her in that opening period, when Dublin seemed a little unsettled, might have done to the game. She hit seven wides in the first half alone.
By and large, though, the victors’ athletic prowess was far too much for Mayo, particularly when combined with the ability to move the ball directly and with accuracy off the boot.
The atmosphere was incredible throughout, with the roar building to a high-pitched crescendo as Kerry referee Seamus Mulvihill got proceedings underway.
Staunton lashed over a brilliant free from 45m off the outside of the right boot as Mayo definitely looked more dangerous early on but Noelle Healy, Sinéad Goldrick, Nicole Owens, Olwen Carey,
and Carla Rowe began to exert significant influence on proceedings.
Aherne converted the frees that Dublin’s strong running created and was an available outlet throughout.
Sinéad Finnegan’s departure through injury looked significant, given that she
was to be Staunton’s shadow, with Niamh Collins moving backwards to help once Mayo were in possession. Dublin coped well with the loss of the long-serving Fingallians woman however.
Niamh McEvoy slid home the game’s first goal in the 19th minute after brilliant work by the tireless TG4 player of the match Noelle Healy. Dublin should have had two more to settle for a 1-6 to 0-6 interval advantage.
Mayo did well to limit the damage, having been down to 13 players, and held on until restored to the full complement, though Dublin’s lack of ruthlessness certainly helped.
Staunton and Grace Kelly kept them in touch but Dublin were able to get plenty of bodies around the Mayo attackers, whereas it was much easier to get the ball to the girls in blue at the other end of the pitch.
In echoes of seven days previously, the Mayo fans made a gallant bid to galvanise their heroes, but this was Dublin’s to win or lose.
They kept making goal chances but finished horribly and took wrong options at times. That is, until McCaffrey came in and made no mistake eight minutes from time.
When she rippled the net, it was as if a pressure valve had been released. Suddenly, they could do no wrong. Mayo had to push on, of course, but there was a coolness about the way the last pass was played for the third and fourth goals, that had been hitherto absent.
Given how close they had been entering the decisive period, Mayo might feel
harshly treated by the final margin but in truth, they can have few complaints. Dublin were on top everywhere and on another occasion, might have had eight, nine, or even ten goals. The day was theirs at last.
S Aherne 0-9 (7 frees); S McCaffrey 2-0; C Rowe, N McEvoy 1-1 each.
C Staunton 0-7 (4 frees); G Kelly 0-2; A Gilroy, N Kelly 0-1 each.
C Trant, M Byrne, S Finnegan, R Ruddy, S Goldrick, N Collins, L Caffrey, L Magee, O Carey, C Rowe, L Davey, N Owens, N McEvoy, S Aherne, N Healy.
D Murphy for Finnegan (18), F Hudson for Byrne (46), S McCaffrey for Davey (50), M Lamb for McEvoy (53), H O’Neill for Owens (56).
Y Byrne, O Conlon, S Tierney, M Carter, R Kearns, M Corbett, F Doherty, A Gilroy, F McHale, D Hughes, N Kelly, C Whyte, S Rowe, C Staunton, G Kelly.
A Tarpey for Whyte (24), Whyte for Tarpey (34), A Dowling for Whyte (41), S Howley for G Kelly (57), A Duffy for Kearns (58).
S Mulvhill (Kerry)