Dublin 2-14 Mayo 0-15
The year 2020 has changed many things but not the dominance of the Dublin football team. Once again in an All Ireland final, they found a Mayo side game for the fight with the Blue dynasty. Mayo possess an ability to get close to this team in the way almost no one else can.
And to their great credit, Dublin once again found the answers, surviving a black card and managing the clock expertly in the final minutes to ensure their name would be on Sam Maguire once again.
For Mayo, it was, agonisingly, more of the same. This final defeat will not fall in the top echelon of the heartbreak. Only the absolute epics go there. But it will rankle all the same. They gave Dublin only the briefest sightings of David Clarke’s goal, but on both occasions they were punished.
And just a point down at the water break in the second half, they were a picture of frustration at the end as Dublin kept them at arms’ length.
Dublin do not do romance. Just ruthlessness. There was a reminder of that early on as an all too familiar feeling fell over Croke Park after just 12 seconds. Dublin won the throw up and James McCarthy accelerated away from Aidan O’Shea. The space opened up and McCarthy galloped into it. And as Dublin players so often do, he slipped the pass at just the right moment. Dean Rock was on hand to bat to the net past David Clarke.
For a moment it felt like we were going to be in for a long night.
But Mayo are nothing if not durable and they responded well. Oisin Mullin put in an excellent first half and opened the scoring for his side. Cillian O’Connor added two frees to restore parity and the sides went about feeling each other out again.
Tied at the first half water break (1-3 to 0-6) Mayo grabbed two quick points from marks through O’Connor, who was finding some joy on David Byrne.
But as happens so often, Dublin punished the slightest of mistakes. They grabbed their second goal through O’Callaghan, who was put through after O’Connor stepped out while tracking Niall Scully. Like the first goal, the ball was punched to the net.
Ryan O’Donoghue’s second point saw the sides level for the fourth time in the half before John Small and Ciaran Kilkenny (on his third shot on goal) hit the last two points of the half to send Dublin in at the break 2-6 to 0-10 ahead. However, with almost the last action of the half, Robbie McDaid took out Matthew Ruane, prompting referee David Coldrick to flash black. Soon afterwards, opposing players clashed in the tunnel while coming off the pitch.
The game was crackling and the stage was set.
Mayo just edged the period before McDaid’s return, ‘winning’ those ten minutes by 0-3 to 0-2. At one stage, O’Shea was hauled down by Cooper when there was a sniff of a goal chance. Cooper escaped censure but went in David Coldrick’s book a few minutes later before being withdrawn, limping, just before the water break.
Lee Keegan too had been buried by Mick Fitzsimons as he closed in on goal. Coldrick waved played on when, on replay, it might have been a free in.
Dublin still had their noses in front at that stage (2-9 to 0-14) but it felt like Mayo’s ability to whip up the storm had deserted them. The final quarter saw them score just one point through sub Darren Coen with Cillian O’Connor reduced to hammering a shot on goal with almost the last action of the game.
It mattered little. Dublin were champions again, six in a row as a handful of their players move onto eight All-Ireland medals. On the night of the Christmas All-Ireland final there was history everywhere.
Dublin: D Rock 1-5 (4f), C O’Callaghan 1-1, C Kilkenny 0-3, J Small, B Fenton, N Scully, B Howard, P Mannion (1f) 0-1 each
Mayo: C O’Connor 0-9 (5f, 2m), R O’Donoghue 0-2, C Loftus, O Mullin, D Coen, S Coen (1m) 0-1 each
Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, D Byrne, J Cooper; E Murchan, J Small, R McDaid; B Fenton, J McCarthy; N Scully, C Kilkenny, S Bugler; P Small, C O’Callaghan, D Rock SUBS: B Howard for Bugler (ht), P Mannion for P Small (51), C Basquel for Cooper (54), C Costello for Scully (70), P McMahon for Murchan (75)
Mayo: D Clarke; C Barrett, O Mullin, L Keegan; P Durcan, S Coen, E McLaughlin; C Loftus, M Ruane; K McLoughlin, R O’Donoghue, D O’Connor; T Conroy, A O’Shea, C O’Connor SUBS: M Plunkett for Durcan (ht), J Carr for Conroy (50), D Coen for O’Donoghue (58), J Flynn for Loftus (62), J Durcan for McLaughlin (71)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)