Given the theme of second opportunities that emerged on a gripping afternoon, one can only imagine what Diarmuid Connolly would do if he had his time again.
Specifically, would Dublin’s gifted forward have been so keen to overrule Ciaran Kilkenny and take the last gasp sideline kick that he blasted wide, allowing Mayo to regain possession and score the equalising point? Surely not, particularly with just seconds left.
Connolly and Kilkenny had a lengthy exchange before Connolly, who scored the insurance point against Kerry, took on the responsibility and winced as his sideline kick flew wide.
In hindsight, Kilkenny’s apparent argument that he should take the kick short and attempt to simply hold onto possession looked a lot more sensible.
“Maybe they both wanted to kick it,” suggested Dublin manager Jim Gavin. “I’ve seen him (Connolly) kick them in training. So I have no issue with that. He’s well able to kick them over the bar from that distance and angle.”
Even if Connolly had deferred to Kilkenny’s advice, and Dublin had successfully ran down the clock, they may not have deserved it.
“I’m just delighted to still be in the Championship,” admitted Gavin.
“After that performance, we didn’t really deserve to win today and we’re just happy to be leaving the ground with the opportunity to win it again in two weeks.
“It (the performance) was not to the standards that we would go after. We were also playing a really good Mayo team, as we saw.
“We knew there was only going to be the bounce of a ball, which there was. But our guys showed great mental resolve to hang in there and push on again. We pushed on, went three points up in the last 10 minutes but Mayo are a really good side.
“I think over the full expanse of the game, over the full 70 minutes, we didn’t...we just didn’t perform to our standards. We didn’t deserve to win.”
Taking out the own-goals and converted frees, Dublin scored just six points from open play. Gavin agreed with the suggestion that this was never going to be enough to win an All-Ireland final though they scored just eight points from play in last year’s final and still beat Kerry.
“That certainly isn’t good enough to win an All-Ireland title, getting that much from play and some of our shot selection could’ve been better,” continued Gavin. “Execution on a wet day you might say is a factor but I wouldn’t lean on that too heavily.
“To come away, to be still in the competition after hitting six from play, you’re happy, getting the luck. We had the luck today and hopefully we’ll have it again in two weeks’ time.”
Gavin rejected the suggestion that Dublin’s slow start and lack of cut and thrust was down to the weight of expectation on their shoulders as they chased back-to-back titles.
“No, the players are very accustomed to that performance bubble,” said the 2013 and 2015 All-Ireland winning manager. “What’s said outside the group (doesn’t matter). We’re just meeting a very good side in Mayo, a top class side and there is only going to be that bounce of a ball between us. The players know there’s no guarantees in sport, none, and that’s why we all love sport.
“When two teams go head to head we don’t know whose going to win and we don’t know whose going to win the next day, that’s the great thing. The team that turns up and performs will deserve the title.”
Bernard Brogan was held scoreless and taken off, the fifth time in six Championship games he has been removed from play. He is among a group of Dublin players with work to do to hold onto their place for the replay.
Gavin kicked to touch on that line of questioning.
“I think when you look back on the games that we’ve had in the last couple of seasons, there is only a point or two in it when we play any Division 1 side,” he said. “It’s very rare that we get a run on teams and one thing about this Dublin team is they’re very adapatable, very flexible and the players understand that it’s a squad game so whatever 15 players we select to start the next game, or to finish the game, the players are quite adaptable in that regard.”
Gavin was disappointed with referee Conor Lane’s performance and suggested that if James McCarthy deserved a black card, then others did too.
“I suppose when you look back at why the black card was brought in, it was for cynical play, for blocks, pull downs or trips,” said Gavin. “I don’t think it (McCarthy’s situation) fits into that category. But from the referee’s performance, we’re just looking for that consistency. That certainly wasn’t out there today.”
Gavin said he had no great problem with a replay taking place, as opposed to extra-time simply being played.
“I’m just happy to be in the competition whether that was an opportunity to play another 15 minutes aside or turn up here again for a replay,” he said.
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