WHILE this was a victory based on a fine team performance it still produced some outstanding individual displays, starting with goalkeeper David Clarke whose save to deny Bernard Brogan a certain goal has probably kept Mayo in the championship, while corner back Keith Higgins produced an almost flawless display.
Both Aiden O’Shea and Barry Moran took the midfield burden in turn on their shoulders, O’Shea putting in a massive first half, while Moran had a huge last quarter when the pressure was on.
Up front, the role of Kevin McLoughlin was huge in shaping Mayo’s game and it was during his departure to have an injury attended to that Dublin stormed back. However, and not for the first time, the leadership qualities and his ability to read the game so well of Alan Dillon proved pivotal in Mayo’s win and the Ballintubber ace was our main man.
Having built up a 10-point cushion it was inevitable that the All-Ireland champions would come back at Mayo, and come back they did with a vengeance to close the gap to three points.
Had Bernard Brogan beaten David Clarke we will never know how this game would have ended but the pendulum was swinging towards Dublin prior to that save, which may well have kept Mayo in the championship.
Score of match
You could pick any of a handful of the Mayo points in the first half, when they produced some spellbinding football, and again early in the second when they kicked on with five unanswered points to take a grip on the game.
However, the big score of this game came from the ice-cool Cillian O’Connor, who kicked a huge free just as Dublin had
drawn to within two points. It also ended a barren spell for Mayo, which lasted all of 22 minutes, and restored that three-point cushion.
The amount of time wasted by Cavan referee Joe McQuillan with his paper work. I reckoned play was held up for at least five minutes as he tried to track down suspects instead of getting on with the game.
Having said that, his time wasting was a help to Mayo, particularly in the closing stages, when Dublin were building up a head of steam.
With an injury to Lee Keegan during the game and Colm Boyle down with a virus before the match the Mayo management had to face some big decisions and they got them right with the likes of Chris Barrett and Riche Feeney doing very well when brought into the defence, while the decision to give Enda Varley the nod ahead of a number of other attacking options was vindicated given the superb performance of the Garrymore man.
Jason Gibbon and Seamus O’Shea also proved to be two huge impact substitutions as the Mayo bench proved stronger than that of Dublin in the end, with Pat Gilroy faced with the Alan Brogan dilemma, which never worked out.
Tactically, the Mayo management won this game by the same margin as the team.
Only, and I stress only, Donegal now stand in the way of Mayo and their first All-Ireland since 1951.No pressure lads!
This will be the first time since 1948 that Connaught and Ulster teams have met in an All-Ireland final and only the second championship meeting between Mayo and Donegal.
The last time they met was in the semi-final of 1992 when Donegal, then under Brian McEniff, went on to claim their one and only All-Ireland title by beating Dublin.