All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin overwhelm Mayo
All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final
DUBLIN 3-14 MAYO 1-10
By John Harrington at Croke Park
Dublin blitzed Mayo with a devastating scoring burst at the start of the second-half to secure their place in the All-Ireland Final and keep alive their five-in-a-row dreams.
It looked like a shock might be on the cards when Mayo led by two points at half-time, but a very different Dublin re-emerged from their dressing-room.
They hit an unanswered salvo of 2-6 in the first 12 minutes of the second-half to kill the match in typically ruthless fashion and remind everyone why theyre arguably the greatest team to ever play the game.
Until then it looked like we were witnessing yet another entry into the canon of great Dublin-Mayo matches. Before a ball was even kicked, there was intrigue.
Mayo made three changes to the team named in the programme as Donal Vaughan, Matthew Ruane, and Diarmuid OConnor came in for Kevin McLoughlin, Fergal Boland, and Darren Coen.
Just as interesting were the manner in which James Horan moved his chess-pieces around the board.
Patrick Durcan was pushed up to wing-forward to take care of Jack McCaffrey, Ruane was giving a man-marking role on Brian Fenton, and Aidan OShea was deployed in a sweeper role.
The match-ups were always going to be crucial in this match, and for the record, heres how they shaped up from the outset.
David Byrne v Cillian OConnor, Michael Fitzsimons v James Carr, Jack McCaffrey v Patrick Durcan, James McCarthy v Diarmuid OConnor, John Small v Fionn McDonagh, Brian Fenton v Matthew Ruane, Michael Darragh MacAuley v Seamus OShea, Niall Scully v Donal Vaughan, Con OCallaghan v Lee Keegan, Brian Howard v Stephen Coen, Paul Mannion v Brendan Harrison, Dean Rock v Chris Barrett, and Ciaran Kilkenny v Colm Boyle, with Aidan OShea and Jonny Cooper sweeping for their respective teams.
Brian Fenton of Dublin celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin.
It was Mayo who effectively dictated those match-ups thanks to the domino effect of the specialised man-marking roles Durcan, Ruane, and Keegan were carrying out, and they set the tone in more ways than that in the early running.
The sight of Dublin forwards having to run back deep into their own half to track the bombing runs of Mayo defenders became a common one and testified to the fact that Mayo were setting the agenda.
Cillian OConnor opened the scoring after two minutes with a long-range free, and then a minute later Seamus OShea scored a nice point from play with the outside of his right boot.
Mayo were dominating possession and hassling and harrying Dublin to great effect when they didnt have the ball.
Dublin hadnt experienced this sort of intensity all year, and it seemed to take them aback.
Eventually though they started to find some semblance of a rhythm and two Dean Rock frees had drawn them level by the 11th minute.
James Carr then landed a classy point for Mayo, but when Paul Mannion then scored two in a minute Dublin supporters must have hoped their team were now starting to hit their stride.
Instead it was Mayo who found another gear as they hit the next three points in a row as two from Cillian OConnor sandwiched one from the increasingly influential Patrick Durcan.
Then came an eight minute period of scoreless, yet incredibly intense play as both teams had long periods of possession yet couldnt find a scoring breakthrough.
Already every turn-over felt like a big one, and there was a suffocating intensity about the defending at both ends of the field.
A Dean Rock free eventually broke the mini deadlock, but then Mayo enjoyed another good spell as Colm Boyle drove over a brilliant point from long-range and then Patrick Durcan landed his second of the day.
Dublin had the last say of the half, a fine Brian Howard point, but as the Mayo players headed for the dressing-rooms with a 0-8 to 0-6 lead, the standing ovation they received from their supporters testified to how happy the Westerners were with their lot at that stage.
How quickly things then turned though at the start of the second-half.
Dean Rock converted a free immediately after throw-in and then a minute later Con OCallaghan scored his and Dublins first goal of the match when he profited from a Lee Keegan slip and finished coolly.
Con O'Callaghan of Dublin celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin.
Dublin had suddenly caught fire. Niall Scully scored a point when he looked like he might get a goal and then Paul Mannion hit two points and Dean Rock another free in the space of a couple of minutes.