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Dublin and Mayo draw in tense All-Ireland final

Dublin and Mayo draw in tense All-Ireland final
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Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea challenges Dublin’s Brian Fenton in the All-Ireland football final

Defending champions Dublin and Mayo will do it all again after a 2-09 to 0-15 draw at a wet Croke Park on Sunday. The replay is set for Saturday 1 October with a throw-in time of 5pm.

Two own goals from Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin and Colm Boyle in the first half handed the advantage to Dublin who looked like they would break their opponent’s hearts again but Mayo claimed the game’s last three points to keep their dream of bringing Sam Maguire west again alive.

The replay was the least Mayo deserved as they came back from five points down at half-time and showed great character to fight back with the equaliser in the eighth minute of injury time.

However, the Connacht side might live to regret the fact they didn’t kill Dublin off in this game as the off-form defending champions will surely produce a better performance in the replay.

This will be the first All-Ireland final replay since 2000 and the GAA can look forward to another bumper crowd as 82,257 supporters crammed into Croke Park.

There is no love lost between these sides with Kevin McManamon getting a yellow card in the first few minutes for a bad tackle on Diarmuid O’Connor and there was a number of tackles throughout the game that threatened to boil over. Referee Conor Lane from Cork had his hands full in the difficult conditions but he marshaled the game well in his first All-Ireland final.

Mayo opened the scoring through Tom Parson, following some great work from Andy Moran and when Cillian O’Connor doubled Mayo’s lead in the eighth minute, it looked like their early strategy of pushing up on Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs was working well.

The problem with this strategy was highlighted in the 10th minute when Dublin cut through an exposed Mayo defence and scored a fortunate goal.

A Bernard Brogan attempted shot was blocked near the goals but McLoughlin deflected the loose ball into his net with his right foot.

Bernard Brogan’s shot is deflected off the foot of Kevin McLoughlin for Dublin’s first goal

To make matters worse for Mayo, they scored a second own goal for Dublin 11 minutes later. 

This time it was Boyle who put the ball into his own net after Diarmuid Connolly sent in a long free. Dean Rock failed to gather it but the ball ricocheted in off Boyle who was trying to make a tackle.

That left the scoreline at 2-0 to 0-3 but the scoreboard didn’t tell you that Mayo were well on top. An example of this is the fact it took a Dublin player 31 minutes to get their first score, with a free from Rock.

The defending champions also had to cope with the loss of James McCarthy to a black card for an off the ball block. It was reckless from McCarthy but also showed the strength of the Dublin bench with Paddy Andrews coming on and scoring two beautiful points before half-time.

Dublin had a period of pressure at this point but the slippery conditions meant the passing accuracy was low for both sides. The other issue for Dublin was Rock, so often so reliable from placed balls this season, was having an off day. 

Jim Gavin’s side ended the half well though as Rock converted two frees and Andrews brace saw them walk in at half-time 2-4 to 0-5 up.

Stephen Rochford is in his first season in charge of Mayo and, as Keith Higgins told us in our exclusive interview this week, when Rochford speaks the players listen. He must have given a great speech at the break because Mayo were level within 10 minutes of the restart.

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea challenges Dublin’s Brian Fenton in the All-Ireland football final

Points from Andy Moran, a beauty from Patrick Durcan and three from Cillian O’Connor had the Mayo supporters on their feet and believing this was going to finally be their year.

The Dublin supporters were wondering what happened to their side as they hit a number of bad wides, including a terrible effort from Jonny Cooper and another missed free from Rock.

Dublin went 14 minutes without scoring in the second half and when you consider it was 31 minutes before Rock became the first Dublin player to get a score beside his name, you can appreciate why the Dublin supporters were confused by events.

The closing stages of a match is when the talent, fitness and quality of the Dublin team and bench shines through and with the sides level at 2-06 to 0-12 points, the Dubs went into a three point lead through scores from John Small, a free from Rock and a massive point from Diarmuid Connolly.

Added to this was the fact Mayo lost Alan Dillon only 12 minutes after he came on, it was looking like another All-Ireland final defeat for the Connacht side.

With seven minutes of injury time to play, Dublin did something this team have never done before, they started to wind down the clock early. They kept possession instead of attacking but with this amount of time to play it was always a risky strategy.

They did manage to work a sideline ball about 35 yards out from the Mayo posts with three minutes left. Had they continued with the possession strategy, they probably would be celebrating back-to-back Sam Maguire titles now.

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly tussles with Mayo’s Lee Keegan, second from left, David Clarke, left, and Keith Higgins

However, Connolly saw the spotlights and went for a point. The ball went to the right and wide and this allowed Mayo one last chance to attack Dublin.

They worked the ball up to Cillian O’Connor and when he pointed to level the sides, the Mayo fans in Croke Park, and the GAA, raised the roof with the noise. The draw was the least Mayo deserved but you have to fear that Dublin will not play as badly in the replay as they did today. Five points from play isn’t good enough from a Junior B side, let alone the All-Ireland champions.

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton embrace after the final whistle

Mayo never make it easy on their supporters and they have another 13 days to scramble for tickets and dream the impossible again. They have waited 65 years for an All-Ireland senior football title, 13 days mightn’t seem that bad if they finally claim Sam Maguire again.

Dublin: 1. Stephen Cluxton (Capt), 2. Philly McMahon, 3. Jonny Cooper, 4. David Byrne, 5. James McCarthy, 6. Cian O’Sullivan, 7. John Small (0-1), 8. Michael Darragh Macauley, 9. Brian Fenton (0-1), 10. Paul Flynn, 11. Kevin McManamon, 12. Ciaran Kilkenny, 13. Dean Rock (0-4, 0-3f), 14. Diarmuid Connolly (0-1), 15. Bernard Brogan

Subs: 17. Paddy Andrews (0-2) for 5. James McCarthy (black card – 24), 24. Paul Mannion for 11. Kevin McManamon (47), 22. Michael Fitzsimons for 8. Michael Darragh Macauley (53), 26. Eoghan O’Gara for 15. Bernard Brogan (62), 21. Darren Daly for 4. David Byrne (66), 18. Denis Bastick for 10. Paul Flynn (75)

Mayo: 1. David Clarke, 2. Brendan Harrison, 3. Donal Vaughan (0-2), 4. Keith Higgins, 5. Lee Keegan, 6. Colm Boyle (1-0 og), 7. Patrick Durcan (0-1), 8. Seamus O’Shea, 9. Tom Parsons (0-1), 10. Kevin McLoughlin (1-0 og), 11. Aidan O’Shea, 12. Diarmuid O’Connor, 13. Jason Doherty (0-1), 14. Andy Moran (0-2), 15. Cillian O’Connor (capt) (0-6, 0-4f)

Subs:  22. Alan Dillon (0-1) for 8. Seamus O’Shea (54), 17. Chris Barrett for 6. Colm Boyle (58), 24. Barry Moran for Andy Dillon (67), 19. Stephen Coen for 13. Diarmuid O’Connor (67), 20. Evan Regan for 14. Andy Moran, (71), 26. Conor Loftus for 20. Evan Regan (78)

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)

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