Sensational Mayo dethrone the champions in Croke Park
All good things must come to an end. Dublin's period of dominance of the All-Ireland series wasn't just good, it was great – which makes Mayo's 0-17 to 0-14 extra-time victory over the six-time defending champions at Croke Park this evening all the more incredible.
Take a bow, players and backroom team, for you produced one hell of a performance to knock the mighty Dublin down. From Robert Hennelly in goal all the way to Ryan O'Donoghue at top of the right, each and every starter and every man who joined the fray at various stages during the contest gave a display laced with grit, determination and, at times, flair.
It didn't look good at half-time when the champions enjoyed a 0-10 to 0-4 lead but the second half was superb as they clawed back the deficit to finally level the game deep into injury time, and the momentum switched in the first half of extra time when the game was there to be won.
As I said, incredible!
In the first half Dublin toyed with Mayo at times, very professionally – and clinically – maintaining possession, forcing the Connacht champions to work incredibly hard just to hold them at bay.
At least Dublin didn't get in for a sight of goal in that first half, meaning Mayo could cling on to some hope at least.
But there was clear daylight between the teams in terms of winning possession and holding on to it. And Dublin kicked some great scores too, with Mayo, by contrast, registering a number of disappointing wides.
Inspirational long-range points from midfield duo Matthew Ruane and Conor Loftus book-ended an advanced mark by Ryan O'Donoghue and a free by Robert Hennelly, acccounting for all of Mayo's first-half scores.
Dean Rock was Dublin's scorer in chief in that first period, four of his five points coming from the placed ball, while Ciarán Kilkenny scored three (one mark). Con O'Callaghan's one point didn't fully do justice to his busy performance, though his influence was somewhat quelled in the second quarter.
Paddy Small also found the target in the opening half as Dublin went in 0-10 to 0-4 ahead, a lead they wouldn't relinquish until the dying seconds of second-half injury time.
It was a fantastic second half from Mayo, who harried the reigning champions into submission, forcing them into uncharacteristic mistakes and pinning them back for long periods.
They also held them to just three points in the second half – and it must be a long time since anyone did that to Dublin in championship football.
Paddy Small and Dean Rock (two, one free) got all of Dublin's scores in the second half, while Mayo reeled them in thanks to O'Donoghue (four, three frees), Hennelly (two, one free and one 45'), Tommy Conroy, Kevin McLoughlin and substitute Jordan Flynn.
The equaliser, Hennelly's 45', came deep in injury time, and he showed coolness under huge pressure to lob it over the bar after sending it wide on the first attempt but getting a reprieve as a substitution was ongoing when he took the initial effort.
In extra time Dublin pounced first through Seán Bugler but Mayo reeled off four on the trot, Conroy levelling and then putting Mayo into the lead for the first time before sub Darren Coen and O'Donoghue, who had a sensational game, added two more.
The second half of extra time was an exercise in keeping Dublin at bay. They haven't been used to playing catch-up with time running out and they just couldn't crack the Mayo nut as every man in green and red put his body on the line to see out victory.
Etch their names in your memory, for these Mayo men have done something remarkable. The challenge now is to finish the job in the All-Ireland final on September 4.
Mayo: Robert Hennelly (0-2); Padraig O'Hora, Lee Keegan (0-1), Michael Plunkett; Patrick Durcan, Stephen Coen, Eoghan McLaughlin; Matthew Ruane (0-1), Conor Loftus (0-1); Diarmuid O'Connor, Kevin McLoughlin (0-1), Darren McHale; Tommy Conroy (0-3), Aidan O'Shea, Ryan O'Donoghue (0-6).
Subs used: Enda Hession, Jordan Flynn (0-1), Darren Coen (0-1), James Carr, Bryan Walsh, Brendan Harrison, James Durcan (temporary).
Dublin: Evan Comerford; Michael Fitzsimons, Eoin Murchan, Jonny Cooper; James McCarthy, John Small, Seán MacMahon; Brian Fenton, Brian Howard; Paddy Small (0-2), Ciarán Kilkenny (0-3), Niall Scully; Dean Rock (0-7), Con O'Callaghan (0-1), Cormac Costello.
Subs used: Colm Basquel, Tom Lahiff, Seán Bugler (0-1), Seán MacMahon, Philly McMahon, Robert McDaid.
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)
*See Tuesday's print edition for comprehensive match coverage