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Dublin supremo Gavin hails 'great' display but expects better in final

Dublin 3-14 Mayo 1-10

Ruthless streak: Dublin’s Brian Fenton was on target as the champions moved to within one game of an historic fifth All-Ireland title in a row
Ruthless streak: Dublin’s Brian Fenton was on target as the champions moved to within one game of an historic fifth All-Ireland title in a row
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Dublin manager Jim Gavin tends to speak in much the same manner as his team play their football - measured, honestly and with total conviction.

Mind you, the care with which he chooses his words is akin to that exercised by his players in ensuring that opponents are kept in their place.

So when the Irish Aviation Authority executive takes stock of his team's destruction of Mayo in the first of the weekend's All-Ireland football semi-finals, he does so from the perspective of someone who embraces the fact that the basics were executed rather well as opposed to lauding any masterly tactical strategy.

The word 'great' tends to infiltrate quite often but then few managers in any code have a stronger right than the taciturn Gavin to employ this particular adjective.

"In the second half we got a couple of scores on the run, which was very pleasing but I think they were very good team scores, good skill execution, some great high-fielding, great hand-passing and kick-passing," stressed Gavin.

"There were some great team moves there and some great team play and I think that's what you look for from the players."

By his own controlled standards he almost waxed lyrical when he added: "Their game intelligence is really high, we put all the trust in them and we empower them. As a coach and management team, we can't play the game for them. We just give them the framework and it's up to them to go out and execute their skillset."

No trade secrets unveiled there, then. Just a brisk assessment of a job not so much well done as carried out to perfection.

There was Mayo sailing serenely along at the interval with a 0-8 to 0-6 cushion, the knowledge that they appeared to have Dublin's chief threats contained and the clear impression that the second half could formally stamp their passport into final.

Yet within a spell not dissimilar to that which has formed the basis of added time in various championship matches this summer, Gavin's troops had left Mayo's season in debris, further shortened the odds on their ability to transform their drive for five from conjecture into reality and cemented the belief that they are truly a class apart.

The accuracy of Cillian O'Connor and Patrick Durcan coupled with the unceasing endeavour of Aidan O'Shea, Conor Boyle and Chris Barrett may have ostensibly inched Mayo further towards the promised land in the first half but long before the third quarter was concluded Mayo had been cast into anonymity yet again.

Con O'Callaghan's brace of goals in the 37th and 47 minutes, Dean Rock's infallibility from frees, Brian Menton's master-class at midfield and Paul Mannion's tour de force in attack highlighted a Dublin second half performance that was not so much top drawer as from another planet.

To their credit, Mayo never threw in the towel but they were reduced to playing with the hopelessness and acute fear of a side that had suffered a humiliating 12-point turnaround in about as many minutes.

Even when Lee Keegan managed to stab in Mayo's goal in the 51st minute, it came packaged as a consolation score and that small degree of comfort was erased when Fenton thundered through to tuck away Dublin's third goal in the 60th minute.

The same player might well have landed a fourth six minutes later but goalkeeper Robbie Hennelly deflected his effort over the bar - one of very few plus factors on what was an uncomfortable outing for the Mayo custodian.

Diarmuid Connolly's introduction as a late, late substitute; Cillian O'Connor's dismissal after incurring two yellow cards and the welcome return to action from the substitutes' bench of Tom Parsons after a year's absence were merely minuscule distractions as Dublin meandered through the closing minutes.

It's perhaps appropriate that manager Gavin who should have the last word on a match in which his team were just that.

"We asked the guys to back themselves and believe in the skill-sets they have and that's what they did," he pointed out.

"I thought Mayo performed really well in those opening exchanges but our guys adapted to those circumstances really well. I thought we showed good composure to stay in the game and to push on when required."

Dublin: S Cluxton; D Byrne, J Cooper, M Fitzsimons; J McCaffrey, J McCarthy, J Small; B Fenton 1-1, M D Macauley; N Scully 0-1, C O'Callaghan 2-0, B Howard 0-1; P Mannion 0-5, D Rock 0-6 (6f), C Kilkenny. Subs: C O'Sullivan for Macauley, E Murchan for Small, C Costello for Mannion, P McMahon for Cooper, D Connolly for Scully, P Andrews for O'Callaghan.

Mayo: R Hennelly; C Barrett, B Harrison, S Coen 0-1; L Keegan 1-0, C Boyle 0-1, P Durcan 0-2; A O'Shea, S O'Shea 0-1; F McDonagh, D Vaughan, M Ruane; C O'Connor 0-3 (2f), D O'Connor, J Carr 0-1. Subs: K Higgins for Vaughan, K McLoughlin for McDonagh, A Moran for Carr, E O'Donoghue for Boyle, T Parsons for S O'Shea, F Boland 0-1 for D O'Connor.

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).

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