Magnificent Mayo end Dublin's six year Championship winning streak

Mayo's victory was richly deserved and handed Dublin their first defeat in 45 championship fixtures.
Magnificent Mayo end Dublin's six year Championship winning streak

Mayo's Tommy Conroy celebrates after scoring a point in their victory over Dublin in Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

It was never going to be anything more than dramatic: the end of Dublin rule, Mayo’s emancipation from their grip.

Only an All-Ireland crown will be sweeter than this and Mayo know only too well that this will turn all so sour if it isn’t followed up in the final. But at the ninth attempt in Championship, nine years after their last SFC victory over Dublin, the county has every right to soak in the majesty of this win for a few days.

Old Moore’s Almanac and the unbridled vitality of this squad James Horan has assembled would suggest they have every chance of pressing on whenever they face Kerry or Tyrone.

Just like in the Connacht final, they were a shadow of themselves in the first half, trailing by seven points at one stage (and six adrift at the break 0-10 to 0-4), before transforming themselves after the turnaround.

Better weather conditions and Dublin might have been reeled in long before Rob Hennelly’s equalising 45. After his personal anguish in the 2016 All-Ireland final replay, for him to trigger extra time felt and looked like redemption.

“When he hit that one, he turned around when it was five yards off his boot, he knew he hit it exactly as he wanted,” recalled James Horan. “He hit some very important frees. One in the first half as well when we needed, just to get on the scoreboard. So a good day for Rob too.”

Mayo weren’t touched in extra-time. Four scores to Dublin’s one in the opening period, Mayo hunted down and isolated their quarry in complete contrast to the opening half when Dublin were given free rein. By this stage, Tommy Conroy was in free flow and he sent over two of those points.

A tense scoreless second half followed where interventions had to be made by Bryan Walsh, Lee Keegan and Paddy Durcan to keep Dublin at bay but it never felt like a case of Mayo hanging on and so it was that the champions were committing the black card offences and were reduced to 13 by the end.

For all of Dublin’s failings, they were five points up with less than eight minutes on the regulation clock when Diarmuid O’Connor extended every sinew in his left leg to avoid a Hennelly free going wide. Seconds later and because of that intervention, Kevin McLoughlin made it a four-point game.

Mayo then truly believed. Jordan Flynn pointed, Evan Comerford panicked into overcarrying and Ryan O’Donoghue swept over the free before Tommy Conroy opened his account. A big Dean Rock free widened the margin to two but the effervescent O’Donoghue was on the mark once before Hennelly’s equalising 45 sent the game into overtime.

Surveying the wreckage of this defeat, Dublin supporters, who have long grown accustomed to the highest of standards, won’t be sparing. It should be a time for reflection.

But the flatness of this performance, a criticism which Dessie Farrell also levelled at his team, won’t sit well. Neither will their lack of class in the closing stages when they were utterly spent and resorted to cynicism. Dublin didn’t come home on their shields

After this tumultuous season, there will now be to time for reviews and also perhaps to consider WWJD (What would Jim do). For a start, he wouldn’t have put his players in such peril as Farrell did in Innisfails on March 30. It’s likely he wouldn’t have lost Stephen Cluxton either - Evan Comerford’s inexperience showed up towards the end of normal time and the first half of extra-time.

And he wouldn’t have pinned a defeat on one player as Farrell appeared to do when he highlighted the first of Dublin’s three black cards in extra-time. “I think we played so badly in the second half we could make amends and address the situation. The black cards, a bit of fatigue in the system, and it was very hard for us to get the ball back. Black cards at any time makes it harder to get possession, but especially in extra-time. The card for Colm Basquel probably spelt the end.”

But there were indications Dublin were becoming frustrated with their waning powers before extra-time. John Small’s high shoulder on Eoghan McLaughlin, which Conor Lane chose to ignore to the anger of Horan, was unnecessary. Off the ball, Dublin’s desperation was showing them up while Philly McMahon’s attempts to distract Mayo in additional time worked to a point - Lane did call a premature end to normal time - but not enough.

If Hennelly had missed that 45 retake in additional time - he was permitted because of a nearby scuffle that Lane was whistling as the Mayo goalkeeper took the first kick and the fact not all of the substitutes Lane authorised just before it had taken place - it’s highly likely Dublin would have been caught in the final.

The malaise that had set in from the outset of the Leinster Championship manifested itself here in two scoreless periods - the third quarter (they didn’t score for over 21 minutes) and another 20-plus minutes of extra-time. After Seán Bugler’s fisted point in the first minute, they didn’t raise another flag.

Nine years on from overseeing a semi-final win over Dublin with a sprinkling of youth, Horan had done it again with a far greener group. “I suppose there are a few similarities,” he said of this and that victory. “Very different teams. There were a lot of young guys very composed in extra-time. You had Ryan O’Donoghue out there leading and taking charge of things, so the maturity of some of the younger players today was fantastic. So that’s slightly different, but even in the lead-up and some of the injuries and knocks we had was very similar to 2012.”

Indeed. No Cillian O’Connor, no Oisín Mullin, no problem it seems as Mayo once more dare to dream.

GAME IN 60 SECONDS

IT MATTERED:

Rob Hennelly’s equalising 45 at the second time of asking. Into the same end where he gave away that penalty in 2016 and was black-carded, there was more than a hint of poetic justice about it even getting the mulligan after missing the first attempt.

CAN’T IGNORE:

It’s a testament to Mayo’s phoenix-like powers that they are being spoken of as much as this great Dublin team. Ten of the Dublin starting team hadn’t experienced a SFC defeat before Saturday.

GOOD DAY:

Keeping the faith repays Mayo’s zealots on days like this.

BAD DAY:

After two Covid-impacted seasons, Dessie Farrell will hope for a full season in the last of his three-year term. He will look to bounce back quickly.

PHYSIO ROOM:

James Horan has ruled Cillian O’Connor out of the All-Ireland final whenever it happens. Oisín Mullin’s quad injury isn’t as serious although he will be in a race to be fit for the final. Eoghan McLaughlin appeared to suffer a concussion in the clash with John Small.

SIDELINE SMARTS:

Horan rightly bemoaned how slack and individual his team were in the first half. Mayo had no shape, their half-forward line offering little in attack or stymying Dublin coming out of defence. Taking off Aidan O’Shea did add more purpose to the team although the captain will be needed in the final.

BEST ON SHOW:

Tommy Conroy powered into the game from the fourth quarter but it was the Mayo full-back line who were firefighters then firestarters. Pádraig O’Hora was excellent even in that awful first half by Mayo and Lee Keegan once again rolled back the years. Ryan O’Donoghue excelled upfront.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE:

A powderkeg of a game to control, Conor Lane struggled at times and calling a premature halt to normal time underlined that. Black card decisions were right but the decision to not immediately halt the game when Eoghan McLaughlin went down was a poor one.

NEXT UP:

A fourth All-Ireland final for James Horan as Mayo manager, following the 2012, ‘13 and ‘20 deciders.

Scorers for Dublin: D. Rock (0-6, 5 frees); C. Kilkenny (0-3, 1 mark); P. Small (0-2); C. O’Callaghan, P. Small, S. Bugler (0-1 each).

Scorers for Mayo: R. O’Donoghue (0-5, 2 frees, 1 mark); R. Hennelly (0-3, frees); T. Conroy (0-3); M. Ruane, C. Loftus, L. Keegan, K. McLoughlin, J. Flynn, D. Coen (0-1 each).

DUBLIN: E. Comerford; E. Murchan, D. Byrne; M. Fitzsimons; J. McCarthy, J. Cooper (c), J. Small; B. Fenton, B. Howard; P. Small, C. Costello, N. Scully; C. O’Callaghan, D. Rock, C. Kilkenny.

Subs: C. Basquel for C. Costello (49); T. Lahiff for J. Cooper (52); S. Bugler for N. Scully (62); S. McMahon for E. Murchan (inj 67); P. McMahon for S. McMahon (inj 70+6); A. Byrne for P. Small (70+7); R. McDaid for J. Small (80+1); A. Byrne for B. Howard (82); C. Costello for P. Small (85).

Black cards: C. Basquel (74-83); J. McCarthy (80+3); T. Lahiff (80+3).

MAYO: R. Hennelly; M. Plunkett, L. Keegan, P. O’Hora; S. Coen, P. Durcan, E. McLaughlin; M. Ruane, D. O’Connor; D. McHale, K. McLoughlin, C. Loftus; T. Conroy; A. O’Shea (c), R. O’Donoghue.

Subs: E. Hession for D. McHale (28); B. Walsh for M. Plunkett, J. Carr for A. O’Shea (both 49); J. Flynn for E. McLaughlin (inj 58); C. O’Shea for C. Loftus (64); D. Coen for S. Coen (70+7); C. Loftus for K. McLoughlin (80+1); J. Carr for J. Durcan (temp 85); B. Harrison for D. O’Connor (87); A. O’Shea for D. Coen (80+2).

Referee: C. Lane (Cork).

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