Mayo fall between a Rock and a hard place
A DEAN Rock free five minutes into injury time secured Dublin’s place in history as they lifted the Sam Maguire for the third successive time, Mayo once again coming up short by a point – 1-17 to 1-16 – in what was a rollercoaster of a final at Croke Park.
It was a cruel result for Mayo, who appeared to have found the measure of the defending champions when Lee Keegan finished brilliantly to the net 13 minutes into the second half. The momentum was with the Connaught men as Jim Gavin’s side looked vulnerable for the first time in this year’s championship.
Dublin at that stage were two points ahead - 1-11 to 0-12 - with both sides reduced to 14 men at that stage after John Small (second yellow) and Donal Vaughan (straight red) were sent off arising out of an incident where Colm Boyle took a huge hit from Small.
But Jim Gavin knew his team was in trouble and had already looked to the bench at half-time, drafting in Kevin McMenamon and Diarmuid Connolly, the former proving to be a key figure and the latter earning the free which was to ultimately seal the championship for Dublin.
Keegan’s goal certainly breathed new life into Mayo in a game which was level on nine occasions as Dublin, like Mayo, refused to wilt and a replay looked the most likely outcome given the closeness between the two sides.
And it was certainly heading in that direction when Cillian O’Connor kicked Mayo level with a superb point on 68 minutes.
Possession was always going to be vital but Dublin were now pushing up on Mayo as both sides had chances to take the lead in seven gruelling minutes of added-on time but ultimately it was Rock’s pressure kick on 75 minutes that left Mayo searching once again for that Holy Grail.
A goal from Con O’Callaghan with Dublin's first attack had Mayo on the back foot straight away but they battled back to lead at half-time by 0-9 to 1-5.
They had Dublin rattled and continued to rattle them as the second half developed, with the defence - and Chris Barrett in particular - all superb, while both Stephen Cluxton and David Clarke were called into action. Jason Doherty was through on the Dublin 'keeper who produced a superb save, while Clarke got his leg to a ball to deny Paul Mannion a certain goal.
Mayo lost nothing in defeat, losing by the same margin as last year in the replayed final, but they left Croke Park with the feeling that they could have had an extra passenger home with them. The search for Sam Maguire will, no doubt, continue in 2018.
Dublin: S. Cluxton; J. Cooper, P. McMahon, M. Fitzsimons; J. Small (0-1), C. O’Sullivan, J. McCaffrey; B. Fenton (0-1), J. McCarthy (0-2); C. Kilkenny, D. Rock (0-7, 4f), C. O’Callaghan (1-0); P. Andrews, E. O’Gara (0-1), P. Mannion (0-3).
Subs used: P. Flynn, D. Connolly (0-1), K. McManamon (0-1), B. Brogan, N. Scully, C. Costello.
Mayo: D. Clarke; C. Barrett, B. Harrison, P. Durcan; L. Keegan (1-0), K. Higgins, C. Boyle (0-1); S. O’Shea, T. Parsons; K. McLoughlin (0-2), A. O’Shea, D. Vaughan (0-1); J. Doherty (0-2), C. O’Connor (0-7, 4f), A. Moran (0-3).
Subs used: D. O’Connor, S. Coen, C. Loftus, D. Drake, D. Kirby, G. Cafferkey.
Referee: J. McQuillan (Cavan).