Mayo 0-10, Dublin 2-18:
As the 13,548 crowd streamed out of Castlebar on Saturday night, there was no sense of dejection.
Not much disappointment either. The pall was one of disbelief. Just how could a team that won by 13 points 13 days previous at the same venue suffer a 27-point reversal?
While the size of that victory over Monaghan was augmented by two second half goals when the opposition were reduced to 13 men, Mayo were clinical in their approach and fully deserving of a handsome win. But here? Here they were anything but.
Just one team turned up. Trailing Mayo by three points in Division 1, on paper Dublin had more purpose but they exhibited it on the field too.
Two moments summed up Mayo’s fumbling and foostering. Towards the end, Rob Hennelly made the long run up to take a 45 only to kick it short to Jason Doherty whose effort was as wide as a gate. Two minutes from normal time, Doherty inexplicably kicked an easy free wide after slipping and seemingly pick up cramp. Doherty wasn’t Mayo’s worst by a long shot but the malaise seemed infectious.
Dublin’s determination was evident before throw-in when Jim Gavin introduced All Stars Diarmuid Connolly and Paul Flynn, making their first starts of the year, as late additions to the team. The pair produced sufficient performances but as they feel their way back into action it was their team-mates who guided them to the county’s second win of the campaign.
With four games in March’s five weekends, expecting every team to play to the peak of their powers for each outing is a fanciful notion. Mayo may have been in a state of limbo having all but secured their Division 1 status for another year with a third win from four matches against Derry last weekend.
However, those factors didn’t come close to explaining just how dreadful they were when, as Pat Holmes admitted afterwards, they were beaten “pretty much all over the pitch”.
How could Mayo’s lack of support play and downright clumsiness be explained?
Asked how he could reconcile the 27-point turnaround in 13 days, Holmes shrugged: “You don’t become bad footballers in two weeks so we have to look at it. Is it mental? It is hard to analyse exactly what went wrong but we were beaten by a superior team who came with a big hunger and serious intent.
“They were on three points and we were on six points. We felt we needed to get to eight points (to retain division one status) and we came into this in what we believed was the right frame of mind to put in a big performance. But that failed to materialise and we have to look at where that went wrong.”
Picking up a first win in three games, Gavin showed no indication of relief but satisfaction having seen his players put their work into practice. “I think Mayo started well — they got two points — but our guys focused in well, and to get 2-12 from play was a good return offensively. And defensively I thought we’d a good structure, to limit a class side like Mayo to six points from play, any day, is a good return.
“There’s moments in a game where you see some things coming from the training field, and that’s the pleasing thing. But from the players’ perspective, they’ve got great faith in what’s going on, they’ve got great belief about the path that we want to take this year, and I’m just delighted given all the hard work that they’ve put in … it’s a small, small, small step.”
There was little indication on Saturday that Dublin have deviated much from last year. Their defence and midfield contributed half of their scores from play. It was noticeable how Flynn took up more of a role behind midfield on occasions and marshalled the half-backs but against an open, shapeless Mayo defence their hard running was rewarded.
The game was Dublin’s by half-time when they led 2-10 to 0-6. Denis Bastick was the unlikely scorer of a goal in the seventh minute when he reacted well after Bernard Brogan’s shot rocketed off the crossbar. Brogan made no mistake with his second opportunity although Kevin McManamon bounced the ball twice in the build up. As Kerry know only too well from the 2011 All-Ireland final, McManamon has previous in this regard but Kingdom referee Padraig O’Sullivan failed to pull him up on it.
Mayo came closest to one themselves in the 44th minute when Bastick performed an heroic last ditch block on Mark Ronaldson and from then on the game was nigh on processional. Mayo a shadow of themselves; Dublin very much as they live and breathe.
Scorers for Mayo: J Doherty (0-4, 3 frees); K McLoughlin (0-3, 1 free); M Ronaldson, D Kirby, A Dillon (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dublin: D Rock (0-6, frees); B Brogan (1-1); D Bastick (1-0); T Brady (0-3); C Kilkenny, J McCaffrey (0-2 each); D Connolly, P Flynn, J Cooper, P Ryan (0-1 each).
Subs for Mayo: D Kirby for A Freeman, S Coen for P Durcan (both 46); A Dillon for D O’Connor (50); M Sweeney for M Ronaldson (52); B Moran for S O’Shea (inj 53); G Cafferkey for D Vaughan (63).
Subs for Dublin: M Fitzsimons for R O’Carroll (inj h-t); J Small for E Culligan (inj 50); B Fenton for D Bastick, E O’Gara for B Brogan (both 59); J McCarthy for T Brady (61); P Ryan for K McManamon (63).
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry)
MAYO: R Hennelly; K Keane, T Cunniffe, K Higgins; P Durcan, L Keegan, C Boyle; S O’Shea, D Vaughan; D O’Connor, K McLoughlin, J Doherty; M Ronaldson, A O’Shea, A Freeman. DUBLIN: S Cluxton; P McMahon, E Culligan, R O’Carroll; J Cooper, C O’Sullivan, J McCaffrey; D Bastick, T Brady; P Flynn, D Connolly, C Kilkenny; B Brogan, D Rock, K McManamon.
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