Mayo fight back to earn replay with Dublin

SportBy Sean McGoldrick
Dublin's Kevin McManamon is tackled by Lee Keegan of Mayo
Dublin's Kevin McManamon is tackled by Lee Keegan of Mayo

DUBLIN 2-12 MAYO 1-15

Football wise it might not have been the classic which had been anticipated. But for drama, excitement and controversy this drawn All-Ireland semi-final will live long in the memory.

One red card for Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly - which rules him out of the replay unless he can successfully appeal the decision - black cards for Michael Darragh Macauley and Denis Bastick, a goal-line clearance, two penalties and appeals for another and Mayo's best comeback since beating Dublin in the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final.

Referee Joe McQuillan was a central figure in a game in which the tension inevitably boiled over in the end. With so much at stake there was precious little room for sportsmanship.

This was the third time the two counties finished level in an All-Ireland semi-final and incredibly it was the fourth time in their last five championships meetings that Dublin had scored 2-12 against Mayo.

Perhaps their fourteen score tally resonated somewhere in their consciousness because having amassed 2-12 by the 61st minute they failed to score during the remaining 14 minutes - referee Joe McQuillan played five minutes of injury time.

With a replay in six days' time Dublin really don't have time to dwell on how and why they didn't close out this contest.

Up until the hour mark they had effectively controlled the game. They poured players back behind the ball once they lost possession and were content to concede a succession of scorable frees to Mayo so long as Stephen Cluxton's goal was protected and Mayo's key forward Aidan O'Shea was subdued.

Cillian O'Connor was unerringly accurate with his free-taking and not surprisingly he ended up as the game's leading scorer with a 1-9 tally - all from placed ball.

Dublin full back Rory O'Carroll picked up O'Shea in the early minutes but had to retire after four minutes with a wound that apparently required ten stitches. He didn't reappear and Philly McMahon did the man marking duties on O'Shea.

He did a most effective job ably assisted on occasions by Stephen Cluxton and sweeper Cian O'Sullivan. McMahon though could find himself in trouble for the replay as the TV cameras caught him making an apparent lunge with his head on O'Shea in the latter stages of the contest.

By then the game had been turned on its head. Dublin deservedly led 1-7 to 0-7 at the break; the key score came after five minutes when Paul Flynn - who effectively operated as a seventh defender for most of the contest - was bundled over in the square by Jason Doherty.

Diarmuid Connolly experted dispatched the penalty against Robert Hennelly who had replaced David Clarke in the Mayo goal before the start. There were more woes for Mayo when they lost Donie Vaughan after ten minutes with a suspected shoulder injury which will probably rule him out of the replay.

He was marking Ciaran Kilkenny until his departure; having already scored one point Kilkenny added two more before the break as he proved too able for Vaughan's replacement Patrick Durcan.

Mayo did begin the second half in aggressive fashion with O'Shea finally getting some traction. McMahon was pulled up for an off-the-ball tackle on him.

O'Connor kicked the free and O'Shea won Cluxton's restart and the ball was worked through to Diarmuid O'Connor who pointed in the 38th minute. Amazingly he was the first Mayo forward to score from play.

Indeed, Mayo's only score from play prior to that was a point from Lee Keegan. Crucially Dublin kept their noses in front during that third quarter and the game took on a familar narrative as Mayo missed five crucial chances in a 17-minute spell.

Dublin did lose Macauley to a black card after he was adjudged to have pulled down Keith Higgins with 20 minutes left but the Leinster champions looked to have made their drive for home at the start of the final quarter.

In the 57th minute Jack McCaffrey who had been subdued up until that point made one of his trademark runs; he linked up with Brian Fenton but his shot was brilliantly smothered by Hennelly.

However, Kevin McManamon a half-time replacement for Dean Rock, underlined his predatory skills to side foot the loose ball to the net. Bernard Brogan, his brother Alan - who replaced Paddy Andrews - and McCaffrey all hit points in the next five minutes.

Cillian O'Connor's converted 45 was Mayo's only reply and frankly their cause looked hopeless. With a seven-point advantage Dublin looked secure. Perhaps the fact that this was their first experience of having to close out a championship match this summer proved their undoing.

Other seemingly insigificant factors came back to haunt them as well. The decision by team manager Jim Gavin to replace his specialist free taker Dean Rock with Kevin McManamon initially looked an inspired choice as the substitute helped himself to a 1-1 tally from play.

But the decision ultimately backfired as Stephen Cluxton missed three frees in the second half - including one from virtually the same spot as he had kicked the winning free in the 2011 All-Ireland final against Kerry.

He missed that chance four minutes into injury time and after the dismissal of Connolly who clashed with Keegan - before then there was there drama galore.

Veteran Andy Moran - who replaced Mayo's surprise pick David Drake who started instead of Barry Moran - kick started the Mayo revival with a 63rd minute point.

Sensing that they were facing elimination from the All-Ireland series Mayo then threw caution to the wind as they poured forward and Dublin couldn't cope. Tom Parsons was immense while two defenders played big roles with captain Keith Higgins pointing and then Colm Boyle winning what looked a fairly dubious penalty in the 68th minute.

Two minutes earlier Dublin had got out of jail when Moran evaded a clearly rattled Stephen Cluxton. But even though Cillian O'Connor was unmarked in a better position Moran shot himself and Dublin substitute John Small brilliantly stopped the ball on the line.

O'Connor kept his cool to drive the penalty to the net to leave it a one-point game and Cluxton's woes continued when he miscued his subsequent kick out and the ball passed through O'Shea and O'Connor's hand before Moran kicked the equalising point.

It could have been worse for Dublin; a brave blocking dive by Jack McCaffrey from substitute Michael Sweeney kept them in the hunt and perhaps a draw was a fair result.

Dublin will take some consolation from the fact that when they previously drew with Mayo in All-Ireland semi-finals they won the replays in 1955 and 1985. Can history repeat itself in 2015?

The replay has been fixed for Croke Park next Saturday with a 5pm throw-in.

Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O'Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J McCaffrey (0-1); B Fenton, MD Macauley; P Flynn, C Kilkenny (0-3), D Connolly (1-2, 1 pen gl, 1f)); D Rock, P Andrews (0-2), B Brogan (0-2). Subs: M Fitzsimons for O'Carroll 4m (blood permanent); K McManamon (1-1) for Rock ht; J Small for Cooper 43m; D Bastisk for Macauley (BC) 49m; A Brogan (0-1) for Andrews 55m; T Brady for Fenton 58m; E Lowndes for Bastick (BC) 68m.
Mayo: R Hennelly; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins (0-1); D Vaughan, L Keegan (0-1), C Boyle; S O'Shea, T Parsons; D O'Connor (0-1), A O'Shea, K McLoughlin; D Drake, C O'Connor (1-9, 8f, 1 45 1g pen), J Doherty. Subs: P Durcan for Vaughan 10m; A Moran (0-2) for Drake 45m; A Freeman (0-1); B Moran for S O'Shea 65m; for Doherty 67m; M Sweeney for D O'Connor 68m;
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)