Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Mayo send out final warning to Donegal

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin. Mayo's Jason Gibbons celebrates in front of Bernard Brogan of Dublin after the final whistle
GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin. An Taoiseacht Enda Kenny at the game
GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship semi-final, Croke Park, Dublin. A Mayo fan celebrates a score

Mayo 0-19 Dublin 0-16: Just another unbelievable day in Croke Park.

Seldom has that anthem of the west ‘The Green and Red of Mayo' sounded as good, but against the emotion of Mayo dethroning the All-Ireland champions for the second year in a row and booking their place in this year's final against Donegal, it was perfectly apt.

This wasn't in the plan.

What made the day was the absence of Alan Brogan. Without him greasing the pistons of the Dublin attack, they showed in earlier games that they were prone to systems failure. It transpired once again. Mayo were already down Andy Moran. Before the game commenced, Chris Barrett was parachuted in to replace Colm Boyle, the victim of a midweek virus. It was to be Barrett's first game of the season, having been unused throughout the league and Championship.

In the early stages, the big blue house had Mayo hearts in jitters. Kevin Keane overcarried the ball, and Donal Vaughan was guilty of a tug on Michael Darragh Macauley. Both offences were punished with converted frees by Bernard Brogan.

At the other end, it took some coolness from young full-forward Cillian O'Connor to steady the Connacht side. With the Hill in throaty form and fancying their chances of putting him off, he planted two '45s' over in minutes eight and 10.

Michael Conroy, Alan Dillon and Barry Moran followed up with impressive points to open up a lead that Mayo would never lose.

Without Brogan the elder, Dublin couldn't make anything stick, instead wasting some fine approach work from the strong running Macauley.

In truth, they were outclassed as the Mayo attack were in perfect harmony, stringing together points and forcing the Dubs full-back line into some really wretched fouling. By half time, there was six in it.

In the second half, Diarmuid Connolly had an early chance for goal that David Clarke turned around the post. Stephen Cluxton nailed the resulting ‘45' and as if taking that as their cue, Mayo opened up their stride, hitting five unanswered points to roll out the lead to 10 points.

This is when they caught a bad dose of white line fever. By the 51st minute, they had an incredible 0-17 on the board. They would only add another two points. On 54 minutes we had our first case of a Mayo player lying on his back, claiming cramp. Funny that it came immediately after Dublin strung two points together; 15 minutes had gone by without a score and the two efforts that bookended this fallow period were ‘45s', drilled over with typical Cluxton nonchalance.

Bernard Brogan began to put his back into the game, coming deeper than usual to win ball and engineer movements. He won frees that he converted himself and watched as Eoghan O'Gara committed a dreadful miss with all the momentum flowing Dublin's way.

While Alan Brogan had joined the fray at half-time, he was withdrawn again after 20 minutes for Kevin McManamon. It's hard to know why the St Jude's man — the scorer of that vital goal in last year's All-Ireland final — isn't given more time.

From his introduction he was lively and powerful. If fellow sub O'Gara had found him with a simple fistpass during their fightback it could have been a different outcome altogether.

Three minutes remained when a long free, sent in by McManamon with heat-seeking accuracy, left Brogan in front of goal, three points down. He went for placement, but stand-in captain Clarke got his boot to it. The play ended with a point, and with the tannoy system informing the crowd there was five minutes of injury time to be played, the Dubs had their hands on Mayo throats.

They couldn't squeeze tight enough. An O'Connor free was to be Mayo's first score in 23 minutes, and despite waves of unrelenting pressure, the westerners refused to buckle.

A novel day. A novel All-Ireland series. A brilliant final in store.

DUBLIN: S. Cluxton (0-3, 3 '45s'), P. Flynn (0-2), C. Kilkenny (0-3), D. Connolly (0-2), B. Brogan (0-6, 6f). Subs: McMahon for Fitzsimons, A. Brogan for Cullen [both half-time], O'Gara for Bastick [48m], McManamon for A. Brogan [54m], Dias for Fennell [72m]

Mayo: B. Moran (0-1), K. McLoughlin (0-2), J. Doherty (0-1), A. Dillon (0-3); E. Varley (0-2, 1f), C. O'Connor (0-7, 3x '45s', 3f), M. Conroy (0-1). Subs: Gibbons for L Feeney [61m], McHale for Keane [64], McLaughlin for Doherty [68m], S. O’Shea (0-1) for A O’Shea [70m], Gardiner for Freeman [75m]

Referee: Joe McQuillan [Cavan]

Attendance: 81,364

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