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All-Ireland SFC Final: Cursed Mayo left on the point of despair

Dublin 1-15 Mayo 1-14

By Declan Bogue

Your correspondent has never mentioned the word 'curse' in relation to Mayo and their lack of All-Ireland success since 1951, but it feels now as if it could be the only logical explanation.

Note that we say 'feels like', because when the game is parsed and analysed, the difference and losing comes down to human error. And the turning point was another of those cruel chapters of Mayo's House of Pain.

Having gone in a point behind at half-time, 0-10 to 1-6 down, Mayo hit the first two points of the second half to edge in front. Dublin were on the backfoot and struggling with their high press. Paul Flynn sent a shot goalwards, but it had nothing like the kind of purchase to get over the bar.

Rob Hennelly had been a shock last-minute inclusion in goal. He came out to gather the ball, but instead spilled a routine catch. Dublin attacker Paddy Andrews was under him and when he made for the ball, Hennelly reacted with his gut and tripped him.

Penalty! The end of Hennelly's afternoon also, as referee Maurice Deegan awarded him a black card. David Clarke made his way to the goals, but Diarmuid Connolly's conversion was struck perfectly beyond him.

The Dubs rolled out the Panzer tanks after that. Bernard Brogan came on and clipped over a point. Michael Darragh Macauley's raw forcefulness was perfect for the final 25 minutes.

And the star contribution came from Cormac Costello. Hardly seen all year, he replaced Kevin McManamon on 56 minutes and set the world alight with three points from play - the last three Dublin scores of the game.

A key battle was that of Lee Keegan and Diarmuid Connolly. Keegan made a huge play at the end of the first quarter when a Seamus O'Shea pass to brother Aidan gave him a chance to shake Cian O'Sullivan off and transfer to the supporting run of Keegan, who rattled along the carpet to put Mayo in front with a superb goal.

In the next play, Dublin defender Johnny Cooper was black carded for a trip and the champions had questions asked of them in all quarters. With Mayo protecting the scoring zone well, Kevin McManamon forced Kevin McLoughlin and Diarmuid O'Connor into fouls in front of the Nally Stand that Rock converted. Connolly then produced a beautiful point.

Hennelly made a botch job of the next kickout. He tried to take it short, but Rock was on hand to knock it free. Connolly was in pole position to collect it with the Mayo defence horribly exposed, but Keegan held him back.

Referee Deegan acted harshly, awarding the black card to Keegan. Rock knocked over the free to add to the misery.

In the second half, Mayo pushed Aidan O'Shea and Barry Moran into a 'Twin Towers' two man full-forward line. On another day, he might have had a penalty with Philly McMahon's rough tackle in the large parallelogram.

O'Shea himself was guilty of another wild shot as he went through another All-Ireland final that largely passed him by.

While all this was going on, Dublin were not helping their case. There was an element of over-indulgence in some of their passing, while others made use of a decoy run too many and ran into traffic.

When they really needed a decisive action, Philly McMahon popped up in attack, driving into space and combining with Macauley to give Brogan a handy point. Costello, however, caught fire, demanding the ball on one occasion off Ciaran Kilkenny and unerring in his finishing.

In the end, it came down to a Mayo free. A forward's tackle by Costello on Durcan left O'Connor with a tricky free into the Hill. It came off the boot nicely, but had just too much hook on it as it dropped just wide of the upright.

Mayo had exhausted themselves in a valiant and brave cause once more, but although they strived and strived again, came up short.

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, J Cooper, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J Small; B Fenton, P Flynn; D Rock 0-9, 7f, K McManamon 0-1, C Kilkenny; P Andrews, D Connolly 1-1 (1-0 Pen), P Mannion

Subs: D Byrne for Cooper (20 black card), B Brogan 0-1 for Andrews (47), MD Macauley for Mannion (52), C Costello 0-3 for McManamon (56), E Lowndes for Small (60), D Daly for O'Sullivan (72)

Yellow cards: Fenton (31), Connolly (35), Small (35), Flynn (47), Kilkenny (62)

Black cards: Cooper (20)

Red cards: 0

MAYO: R Hennelly; B Harrison, D Vaughan, K Higgins; L Keegan 1-0, C Boyle, P Durcan 0-2; S O'Shea, T Parsons; K McLoughlin 0-1, A O'Shea 0-1, D O'Connor 0-1; J Doherty, A Moran 0-1, C O'Connor 0-9, 9f

Subs: S Coen for Keegan (35 black card), C O'Shea for Vaughan (ht), D Clarke for Hennelly (41 black card), B Moran for A Moran (55), A Dillon for Doherty (60),

Yellow cards: Vaughan (35)

Black cards: Keegan (35), Clarke (41)

Red cards: 0

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)

Attendance: 82,249

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