By Mike Finnerty
Table-toppers Dublin continued their relentless march through this Allianz League campaign with a routine victory over beaten All-Ireland finalists Mayo in Castlebar.
A goal after less than two minutes from Paul Mannion set the All-Ireland champions on their way and Niall Scully broke Mayo’s resistance with a second goal eleven minutes into the second period.
The Dublin fans in the crowd of 15,313 on a freezing night at MacHale Park left in good spirits.
Jim Gavin’s team’s victory stretched their unbeaten run against the Westerners to 13 games, and means that they haven’t lost to their fierce rivals since September 2012.
This latest win was achieved despite the fact that the Dubs only managed to score 1-1 in the second half as a makeshift Mayo side were unable to convert enough chances into scores.
Dublin deservedly led at the end of an entertaining and free-flowing first half by 1-9 to 0-7.
Man of the match Dean Rock landed five points (four from frees) with Ciaran Kilkenny (2), Brian Fenton and goalscorer Mannion also on target.
The 2016 Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan, who lined out in defence after three months on the sidelines, was among Mayo’s first half scorers with Jason Doherty (two frees), Kevin McLoughlin (2), Andy Moran and Stephen Coen also getting on the scoresheet.
Dublin kept the homeside at arm’s length during an uneventful second half with Niall Scully’s fisted goal eleven minutes after the restart killing the game as a contest.
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton also marked his 100th league appearance for the Boys in Blue with another clean sheet as Mayo failed to hit the net for the third time in four games.
Stephen Rochford’s side also missed a string of frees in the second half with Jason Doherty, Andy Moran and Rob Hennelly all off target.
Mayo also went more than twenty minutes without a score at one stage before substitute Conor Loftus tacked on three late frees to gloss the final scoreline.
The game was in injury-time when Dublin were reduced to fourteen men after Michael Fitzsimons was shown a straight red card.
Dublin will be back on home ground next Saturday night when they welcome Kerry to Croke Park in a repeat of last year’s Allianz League Final.
Mayo, meanwhile, face the prospect of a trip to Newbridge to take on Kildare in a must-win match next Sunday.
S Cluxton; D Daly, M Fitzsimons, D Byrne; J McCarthy, J Cooper, J Small; B Fenton (0-1), MD Macauley; B Howard, C Kilkenny (0-2), N Scully (1-0); P Mannion (1-1), D Rock (0-6, 5fs), K McManamon.
Subs used: D Connolly for Kilkenny; C O’Sullivan for MacAuley; C Basquel for Mannion; C Reddin for Howard; P Small for Cooper.
R Hennelly (0-1, ’45); C Crowe, G Cafferkey, E O’Donoghue; C Boyle, M Hall, D Drake; S Coen (0-1), A O’Shea; K McLoughlin (0-2), L Keegan (0-1), D O’Connor; J Doherty (0-3, 3fs), A Moran (0-1), A Gallagher.
Subs used: F Boland for O’Connor; C Loftus (0-3, 3fs) for McLoughlin; D Kirby for Doherty; S O’Shea for Gallagher; S Akram for Drake.
P Neilan (Roscommon)