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Dublin: 13 °C Friday 22 February, 2019

Keegan and Connolly return to the field, Mayo's poor free-taking and Mannion shines for Dubs

5 talking points after Dublin’s four-point win over Mayo tonight.

1. Business as usual for Dublin

FROM THE MOMENT Paul Mannion fired a shot past Rob Hennelly in the second minute, Dublin were in control of this game.

Paul Mannion scores a goal Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

They picked up their fourth consecutive victory of the campaign and a second impressive away win following the 2-13 to 1-11 defeat of Tyrone.

Like in 2017, Dublin were late back to training this spring but they’ve set the early pace in Division 1 and look on track to make the league final for a sixth straight season.

Mayo’s winless streak against Dublin now stretches back 12 meetings and six years, losing nine and drawing three of their subsequent games.

2. Old rivals Keegan and Connolly make seasonal debuts

The sight of Lee Keegan and Diarmuid Connolly taking a full part in their respective warm-ups this evening added a tinge of intrigue to this encounter.

Ciaran Kilkenny and Lee Keegan Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

After having a double hip operation in November, Keegan made his surprise return to the Mayo starting line-up as a man-marker on Ciaran Kilkenny.

Typically, both Keegan and Kilkenny’s jerseys were ripped inside the opening quarter and both players cancelled each other out for a large part of the game.

Connolly played a full league game for St Vincent’s last weekend and made his first appearance of 2018 for Dublin as a second-half substitute. He was relatively quiet although he did make a couple of eye-catching passes.

3. Mayo count the cost of poor free-taking

Conor Loftus curled over three late frees for Mayo to put some respectability on the scoreline, but they struggled with placed balls before his introduction.

In the absence of the suspended Cillian O’Connor, Jason Doherty had an uncharacteristically poor night on the frees, before Andy Moran skied a dead ball from a scoreable position.

Goalkeeper Rob Hennelly converted a 45 but sent a long-range wide, before Loftus dispatched three efforts from a relatively straightforward position.

If Mayo had converted a couple more frees and Adam Gallagher had buried his third-quarter goal chance, they’d have come a lot closer.

Michael Darragh Macauley and Aidan O'Shea Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

4. Tactical battle

Mayo started with just one third of their All-Ireland final defence and when Mannion dispatched an early goal, it looked like the floodgates might open for the visitors.

But Stephen Rochford placed Michael Hall as a seventh defender soon afterwards and it largely worked as Mayo held Dublin to 1-6 from play for the remainder of the game.

Dublin scored just 1-1 after half-time as both sides went 20 minutes without scoring in a drab second-half.

Dublin were content to play keep ball for long spells and struggled to break down the Mayo rearguard. But Jim Gavin’s side know breaking down a packed defence is a far easier proposition in the wide expanses of Croke Park come summertime.

Paul Mannion Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

5. Paul Mannion shines in Castlebar

Ask any inter-county defender which forward they least enjoy marking and Paul Mannion is surely high up on every list.

The 24-year-old is one of the fastest players in the game and his powerful frame makes him very difficult to stop once he gets out of the traps. He appears to be settling into the role of corner-forward after spending significant game-time last season on the wing.

Mannion posted 1-1 tonight and continued his bright start to the season.

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Kevin O'Brien

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