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Dublin: 2 °C Saturday 23 March, 2019

5 talking points after Dublin triumph and Mayo miss out in All-Ireland battle

The 2017 football season concluded today.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

1. Brilliant Dublin grind out another narrow final win

Yet again Dublin did not enjoy a stroll to success in an All-Ireland final but it shows why this team is so admirable that they lifted Sam Maguire for the fifth time in seven years. Today was the fourth of those Dublin titles that was achieved by a single point success.

They did not scale the heights today like this summer’s beatings of Westmeath, Kildare and Tyrone but Jim Gavin’s men still found a way to grind out a victory. Their composure in the finale was terrific from Dean Rock floating over the winning point from that free, to the movement and passing of every Dublin player involved in retaining possession in the dying moments.

Their greatness was already assured before today but the latest example of their sheer refusal to quit affirmed that even more.

2. Mayo do so much right but lift no cup

Once again Mayo pushed Dublin right to the wire. They had some of the game’s leading performers like Chris Barrett, Lee Keegan, Kevin McLoughlin, Andy Moran. They made a splendid recovery from the shock of conceding an early goal to Con O’Callaghan.

They were in the ascendancy at the interval, they got the injection of confidence from Lee Keegan capping a terrific team move with his 54th minute goal, and enjoyed a 1-15 to 1-13 advantage with seven minutes of normal time left.

But still for Mayo, there was that numb sensation of defeat at the final whistle. They ticked so many boxes and got so many aspects of their game right, yet to defeat Dublin a monumental performance is required throughout a game.

Including injury-time, there was 16 minutes of action after Cillian O’Connor’s 63rd minute score but Mayo only managed to notch a solitary point after that.

3. Red card setbacks for both teams

In as hard-hitting and intense encounter as this, it looked likely from the outset that Joe McQuillan would be brandishing cards. By the final whistle he had shown the red card twice, the yellow card nine times and the black card once. The two dismissals were a critical moment in the match.

John Small had been one of Dublin’s most impressive players in the opening period, launching over a super point into the Hill 16, but received his second booking for a frontal charge of Colm Boyle. What happened next was a blow for Mayo as after being awarded the free, Donal Vaughan intervened to fell Small.

The Ballinrobe man saw red for that challenge, a throw ball then took place and any advantage Mayo had accrued was gone. It would prove significant in such a tight contest.

Donal Vaughan receives a red card from referee Joe McQuillan after a strike on John Small Donal Vaughan is shown a red card. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

4. Dublin hit the vital points in finale

In the first half it was striking to see how Dublin were struggling for scores considering the frequency at which they have been raising flags all summer. They hit 1-5 in that opening period but only three of those points were from play.

The second half was a different tale from a Dublin shooting perspective. They scored 0-12 and Dean Rock’s match-winning free was their only score from a dead ball. 11 strikes over the bar from play illustrated how they probed and prised Mayo apart more.

They had matched their first-half point-scoring tally in the opening six minutes of the second half courtesy of Paul Mannion, Dean Rock and Kevin McManamon. In addition Dublin critically kicked for home with a more powerful stride as they notched four of the last five points in the game.

5. 2017 another heartbreak chapter for Mayo’s football story

Ten games have made for an exhilarating championship summer for Mayo football but there was to be no joyous conclusion. They have displayed spades of resilience and bravery throughout this season, while the quality of their football has certainly improved.

All those aspects were in evidence today but the All-Ireland final day ended with that familiar sinking feeling for the Mayo football fraternity. It’s been a marvellous journey in 2017 but for Stephen Rochford and his players, the end result was the same as last year. A single point short as Dublin were crowned champions.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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