Fintan O’Toole reports from Croke Park
CILLIAN O’CONNOR WAS the hero for Mayo when he nailed a last-gasp point from play to rescue a draw against Dublin and ensure there will be an All-Ireland senior football final replay for the first time in 16 years.
Mayo trailed by three when Diarmuid Connolly swung over a 68th minute point for Dublin but they hauled themselves back from the brink.
O’Connor converted a close-range free after being fouled himself, Donal Vaughan clipped over another from play before Mayo’s captain stood up to provide inspiration when they needed him most.
82,257 fans witnessed the dramatic conclusion of a remarkable game. It was a bizarre match in many ways that featured two own goals, no score from a Dublin player until the 30th minute and just two white flags raised from open play by Dublin’s starting attack.
And yet in the finale it was Mayo who were chasing Dublin. Stephen Rochford’s side were relieved to grab a draw as it looked like they were on the brink of heartbreak once more on All-Ireland final day.
Mayo began brightly with early points from Tom Parsons and O’Connor but were rocked in the 9th minute when the ball ricocheted in their square off Brendan Harrison and Kevin McLoughlin before nestling in the bottom corner.
Dublin’s joy was increased when they got a second fortunate break in the 22nd minute. This time Diarmuid Connolly’s wonderful delivery was spilled by Dean Rock but rebounded off the luckless Colm Boyle’s leg and into the net past netminder David Clarke.
After those setbacks, Mayo then saw Paddy Andrews – introduced after Michael Darragh MacAuley was shown a black card – kick a pair of wonderful points for Dublin. The reigning champions were in front 2-0 to 0-4 after a half hour but had surged 2-4 to 0-5 clear by the interval.
And yet Mayo emerged to boss the second-half exchanges. They strung together five points on the bounce courtesy of Andy Moran, Patrick Durcan and O’Connor (3) to draw level by the 46th minute.
Dublin’s challenge was floundering but their best players on the day – John Small, Ciaran Kilkenny and Brian Fenton – steadied them. Fenton and Dean Rock pushed them two clear yet Mayo retorted through their veterans Moran and Alan Dillon.
It was level heading down the stretch before Dublin made what looked like a match-winning burst with points from Small (65), Rock (68) and Connolly (69). However Mayo’s bravery surfaced in a pulsating injury-time period as they salvaged a draw.
Scorers for Dublin: Dean Rock 0-4 (0-3f), Paddy Andrews 0-2, John Small, Brian Fenton, Diarmuid Connolly 0-1 each. (Kevin McLoughlin, Colm Boyle 1-0 own goal each)
Scorers for Mayo: Cillian O’Connor 0-7 (0-5f), Donal Vaughan, Andy Moran 0-2 each, Patrick Durcan, Tom Parsons, Alan Dillon, Jason Doherty 0-1 each.
1. Stephen Cluxton (Parnells – captain)
2.David Byrne (Naomh Olaf)
3. Jonny Cooper (Na Fianna)
4. Philly McMahon (Ballymun Kickhams)
5. James McCarthy (Ballymun Kickhams)
6. Cian O’Sullivan (Kilmacud Crokes)
7. John Small (Ballymun Kickhams)
8. Brian Fenton (Raheny)
9. Michael Darragh MacAuley (Ballyboden St Enda’s)
10. Paul Flynn (Fingallians)
11. Kevin McManamon (St Jude’s)
12. Ciaran Kilkenny (Castleknock)
13. Dean Rock (Ballymun Kickhams)
14. Diarmuid Connolly (St Vincent’s)
15. Bernard Brogan (Oliver Plunket’s-Eoghan Ruadh)
17. Paddy Andrews (St Brigid’s) for McCarthy (black card) (24)
24. Paul Mannion (Kilmacud Crokes) for McManamon (45)
22. Michael Fitzsimons (Cuala) for MacAuley (52)
26. Eoghan O’Gara (Templeogue Synge Street) for Brogan (61)
21. Darren Daly (Fingal Ravens) for Byrne (66)
18. Denis Bastick (Templeogue Synge Street) for Flynn (74)
1. David Clarke (Ballina Stephenites)
2. Brendan Harrison (Aghamore)
4. Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis)
7. Patrick Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels)
6. Colm Boyle (Davitts)
5. Lee Keegan (Westport)
3. Donal Vaughan (Ballinrobe)
8. Seamus O’Shea (Breaffy)
9. Tom Parsons (Charlestown)
12. Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber)
10. Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore)
13. Jason Doherty (Burrishoole)
14. Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen)
11. Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy)
15. Cillian O’Connor (Ballintubber, captain)
22. Alan Dillon (Ballintubber) for Seamus O’Shea (55)
17. Chris Barrett (Belmullet) for Boyle (58)
24. Barry Moran (Castlebar Mitchels) for Dillon (inj) (66)
19. Stephen Coen (Hollymount-Carramore) for Diarmuid O’Connor (67)
20. Evan Regan (Ballina Stephenites) for Moran (71)
26. Conor Loftus (Crossmolina) for Regan (inj) (76)
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)
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