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5 big picture takeaways from the 2013 All-Ireland Final between Dublin and Mayo

The clash was featured on TG4′s All-Ireland Gold series today.

Ciaran Kilkenny tackling Seamus O'Shea during the 2013 All-Ireland final.
Ciaran Kilkenny tackling Seamus O'Shea during the 2013 All-Ireland final.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE FASCINATING 2013 All-Ireland Final between Dublin and Mayo was aired on TG4 earlier today.

Two great rival counties produced a compelling contest in the decider seven years ago. They would go on to meet in two more All-Ireland finals – three if you including the 2016 replay – with Dublin prevailing on each occasion. 

Their 2013 triumph was Jim Gavin’s first All-Ireland success as manager of the Dublin seniors. 

The final was error-strewn, with both sides equally culpable of making sloppy mistakes. Several kicks at the posts ended up as either wides or shots that dropped short into the keeper’s hands.

But the 2013 All-Ireland final was also an open and expansive game of football. And a time when defensive playing styles were becoming widespread in the sport, this was a relieving sight for the football purists.

It wasn’t an excessively physical game but Dublin defender Rory O’Carroll sustained a concussion following a clash of heads with Mayo’s Enda Varley in the closing stages of the game.

O’Carroll’s team-mate Jonny Cooper also clashed heads with Andy Moran and was replaced by Denis Bastick.

Dublin’s 2013 triumph doesn’t form part of their five-in-a-row sequence, but it was certainly the foundation of their historical achievements.

mayo-players-dejected-at-the-end-of-the-game Mayo players gather together after the final whistle. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

1. Mayo’s missed chances 

This was Mayo’s second consecutive All-Ireland final appearance under James Horan. Their performance in 2012 was flat throughout and now they were back to make amends. 

They raced out of the blocks in the early stages of the 2013 decider, winning battles for possession and advancing in numbers. But their shooting was off, kicking three wides from their first four attempts at the posts.

The trend continued in the second half, as they hit some wayward passes around the middle of the field that killed off the chances they were trying to create.

Dublin were far from flawless but one sequence which illustrated how much more clinical they were than Mayo happened around the 63rd minute. A shot from Lee Keegan, which landed in Stephen Cluxton’s hands, was followed by a wide from Mickey Conroy on the Hogan Stand side of the pitch.

From the next attack, Dublin defender Ger Brennan drilled the ball over the bar from distance to push his side into a 2-11 to 1-11 lead. Their efficiency was key for Dublin.

Mayo forward Cillian O’Connor also mistakenly opted to go for a point from a last-minute free. He later said that he thought they had more time to seek out an equaliser.

diarmuid-connolly-and-paul-flynn-with-lee-keegan Lee Keegan tries to get past Diarmuid Connolly. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

2. Lee Keegan v Diarmuid Connolly Rivalry

It’s one of the most enduring rivalries in modern Gaelic football and this was one of the early chapters of their story.

One of Dublin’s deadliest forwards, Diarmuid Connolly needed a player who could negate his influence on the game. And it was Lee Keegan who was tasked with marshalling the St Vincent’s star.

The Mayo defender ended up outscoring his Dublin opponent in the 2013 final. Known for his rampaging runs forward, Keegan hit 0-2 that day, and could even have finished with a tally of three points had that second-half shot not dropped short into the keeper’s hands.

Although Connolly contributed just one point to the scoreboard that day, he was involved in plenty of the build-up play. And his overall effort was enough to help Dublin over the line.

As for the Keegan-Connolly saga, more intriguing battles were to come further down the line.

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ciaran-kilkenny-has-a-shot-saved-by-robert-hennelly Rob Hennelly saving a shot from Ciaran Kilkenny. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

3. Rob Hennelly’s saves Stephen Cluxton’s frees

Dublin were 2-12 to 1-14 victors in the end, but the margin could have been much more had Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly not intervened.

All-Ireland finals have not always been kind to Hennelly, as he would go onto discover in the 2016 All-Ireland final replay. But in 2013, he produced some impressive saves that kept Mayo’s cause alive.

Ciarán Kilkenny was the first to test out Hennelly’s reflexes with a point-blank shot from a narrow angle, only to see his effort bounce back into play. Michael Darragh MacAuley was up next as he charged through the Mayo cover, but his final product was also kept out.

Eoghan O’Gara tried to snatch a goal in the second half, forcing arguably Hennelly’s best save of the game. After collecting a high ball in, O’Gara opted for power in his shot, but Hennelly reacted with an acrobatic save.

Cluxton had already showcased his ability to nail long-range frees under pressure after scoring the winner in the 2011 All-Ireland. He continued to execute that skill in the 2013 final, scoring a ’45 and a free from the ground.

eoghan-ogara-and-keith-higgins Keith Higgins getting to the ball ahead of Eoghan O'Gara. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

4. Keith Higgins’ versatility 

He could slot into forward and defensive systems with ease, but for the 2013 All-Ireland final, Keith Higgins was selected to start at centre-forward. 

He built up some experience in this role after their All-Ireland quarter-final win over Donegal. The Ballyhaunis man lined out in the forwards again for the semi-final against Tyrone before being named in attack once more for the final showdown against Dublin.

Higgins chipped in with a point in the final, although he did revert back to the Mayo defence as the game progressed. A player of Higgins’ pace and ability made him adaptable to both positions, and it was always a useful card for Mayo to play.

5. Bernard Brogan and Andy Moran displays

bernard-brogan-celebrates-winning Bernard Brogan savouring the victory in Croke Park. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The respective goalscorers in the game played prominent roles throughout the final. Brogan finished as Dublin’s top-scorer on the day, hitting 2-3 to push his side to victory.

Getting two goals was an impressive feat, given the sharp form that Hennelly was in that day for Mayo.

Moran’s goal arrived at a crucial time in the game when Mayo were at risk of drifting out of the game. After going into the half-time break with a one-point lead, Mayo were now three points down with almost 50 minutes on the clock.

Conroy played an important role in engineering the opportunity as he collected the breaking ball from a Colm Boyle before feeding Moran who had peeled away from his marker to set-up a one-on-one.

Moran then drew Cluxton out wide before passing the ball along the ground to put it rolling into the back of the net.

These were the peak years for both Moran and Brogan, with the latter picking up an All-Star award that year. Both players brought the curtain down on their inter-county careers after the 2019 season following years of incredible service.

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