Championship meetings between ourselves and Dublin in recent years have, without exception, been of the highest quality. League encounters between the two counties have, in contrast, been forgettable and, for us, depressingly familiar in how they’ve played out.
Tonight’s four-point loss to Dublin under the lights at MacHale Park represents but the latest chapter in a long run of dispiriting spring defeats to them. The defeat also pushes us into what has now become an annual battle to retain our top tier status in the League.
We made one change ahead of throw-in tonight. It was, though, a significant one with Lee Keegan – making his first start since his hip surgery in November – lining out instead of Jason Gibbons. Dublin, meanwhile, made four last-second switches to their announced fifteen before the match got underway.
The visitors struck with purpose within two minutes. Paul Mannion gathered the ball out on the stand side, left Eoin O’Donoghue trailing in his wake, cut inside at speed and lashed the ball high into the net. It was, in every sense, the worst possible start for us.
We got going soon after from a placed ball. Jason Doherty, fed by Adam Gallagher, was fouled and he popped over the subsequent free.
We were cut open a second time in Dublin’s next attack. Ciaran Kilkenny was in on goal but his shot off the left boot went over the bar.
Leeroy signalled his return to the fray at the other end, firing over from nearly forty yards out. From the restart, however, Dublin came straight down the field, Dean Rock pointing for them. A free from the same player, following a foul by Eoin O’Donoghue on Mannion, put Dublin four clear with ten minutes played.
From our next attack Adam Gallagher, showing well for possession, was fouled. Jason Doherty cut the gap to three with the free. A scoreless few minutes then elapsed before Rock, following a foul on Fenton, notched his third free of the night for them.
The next score was Ballaghaderreen made and executed. David Drake fed Footballer of the Year Andy Moran who, after making a dummy pass that caused two Dublin players to collide into each other rather comically, knocked it over the bar. Brian Fenton responded with one from play for them to keep them in control.
Another Rock free pushed them five clear. From the restart, however, a super fetch in the middle by Aidan O’Shea initiated an attack from which Kevin McLoughlin fired over.
On the half-hour we were fortunate to avoid conceding another goal. James McCarthy scythed through but Robbie saved with his legs, Kilkenny pointing from the rebound.
John Small became the first player to be carded as we came forward again. From the resultant attack, Aidan O’Shea offloaded to Stephen Coen and the Hollymount/Carramore man pointed.
But Dublin once again replied at the other end straight away. Dean Rock opted not to go for the posts from a fifty-yard free but instead fed it to Paul Mannion who restored Dublin’s five-point advantage.
With the half-time whistle approaching, some patient build-up play by our lads ended with Kevin McLoughlin bagging his second point of the evening. Dublin, though, had the final say of the half, knocking one over from play to leave them five clear at the break.
We had a glorious opportunity to force our way back into it right after the restart. Jason Doherty won a turnover and played in Adam Gallagher for the goal chance but the Mayo Gaels man shot narrowly wide.
Aidan O’Shea was yellow carded for a foul on McCarthy soon after. Dublin came forward but we’d pulled everyone bar Andy back behind the ’45 and we patiently held them off. Eventually we turned over the ball but the attack we then mounted ended with Lee shooting wildly off target.
Our next effort at the posts was, however, better. Robbie trotted up to take a long-range free and his kick sailed straight between the posts to open the second half scoring.
Lee and one of the Dublin players entered the book after that. During the break in play Diarmuid Connolly and Cian O’Sullivan both joined the fray, replacing Paul Mannion and John Small respectively.
Stephen Coen’s shot came up short but Dublin messed up clearing their lines, with Andy nipping in to claim possession. He was fouled but Jason Doc made a total hames of the free, blasting it wide.
Then came the killer blow. A mix-up in our full-back line allowed Niall Scully, rising to meet a cross from Rock, to punch it past Robbie to the net.
There was still half an hour left to play at this stage. But now seven points in arrears it was clear that this match was already done and dusted.
A free from Jason cut the gap to six but another free from Rock restored Dublin’s seven-point advantage. Dublin were now in an unshakeable comfort zone.
It probably made sense for us to run the bench at this stage. Off went Diarmuid O’Connor and Kevin McLoughlin, with Conor Loftus and Fergal Boland coming on.
What few chances we had we spurned. Jason, Andy and Robbie all missed frees, as the cost of Cillian O’Connor’s absence through suspension became ever clearer to the large attendance at MacHale Park.
Shairoze Akram came on for clubmate David Drake, all urgency from the contest having now evaporated. Dublin, having done more than enough to win the game, were happy to ease off the accelerator while one would have to hope that we’d opted to conserve our energy for the three League matches we’ve yet to play.
We did, though, come with a late, late gallop. Too little too late it proved to be but at least it did our points difference some good.
It started with a burst by Eoin O’Donoghue that ended with Danny Kirby getting fouled. Conor Loftus, our fourth freetaker of the evening, pointed the resultant placed ball to take our tally into double figures.
We came on the attack again. Aidan O’Shea was fouled by Mick Fitzsimons, the Cuala man picking up a second yellow for his troubles, and Conor Loftus once more pointed the free.
Another attack, another foul in a scoreable position, this one on Andy. Once again Conor stroked it over but this one was also the last kick of the game. Dublin won at the finish by four points.
It was a loss we can have some regrets about. Any match against Dublin where you cough up goals early in each half is going to be a tough one but all those second half misses – in particular the frees that Cillian would surely have nailed – made our task so much harder and ultimately proved extremely costly to us.
Would it have been a different outcome had we been less profligate after the break? It’s hard to know. Dublin could well have kept the foot to the floor for longer than they needed to had we mounted a serious comeback in the second half.
So, this one ultimately went the way most of us felt it would. We’re now two points from four matches and, once again, relegation from Division One is a clear and present danger for us.
After those losses to Galway and Kerry, our hopes of surviving the drop was always going to rest on getting the results we need in the final three matches of this year’s League campaign. Following this dispiriting defeat, that calculus remains unaltered. Only now we really do have to discover how to start winning matches once again.
Mayo: Robbie Hennelly (0-1, free); Caolan Crowe, Ger Cafferkey, Eoin O’Donoghue; Colm Boyle, Michael Hall, David Drake; Stephen Coen (0-1), Lee Keegan (0-1); Kevin McLoughlin (0-2), Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor; Jason Doherty (0-3, frees), Andy Moran (0-1), Adam Gallagher. Subs: Seamus O’Shea for Gallagher, Conor Loftus (0-3, frees) for O’Connor, Fergal Boland for McLoughlin, Shairoze Akram for Drake, Danny Kirby for Doherty.
Who was our MOTM against Dublin?
- Aidan O'Shea (15%, 131 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (14%, 119 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (12%, 102 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (12%, 102 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (8%, 71 Votes)
- Adam Gallagher (7%, 61 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (6%, 48 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (5%, 44 Votes)
- Robbie Hennelly (4%, 33 Votes)
- Andy Moran (3%, 29 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (3%, 27 Votes)
- Eoin O'Donoghue (2%, 19 Votes)
- Caolan Crowe (2%, 17 Votes)
- David Drake (2%, 16 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (2%, 16 Votes)
- Shairoze Akram (1%, 11 Votes)
- Danny Kirby (1%, 10 Votes)
- Michael Hall (1%, 6 Votes)
- Fergal Boland (1%, 5 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (0%, 4 Votes)
Total Voters: 603