OpinionCharlie Redmond

Charlie Redmond: Mayo surprised Dublin with attitude, but it won't happen again

Ciaran Kilkenny is bottled up by Brendan Harrison and Keith Higgins
Ciaran Kilkenny is bottled up by Brendan Harrison and Keith Higgins

Last Sunday’s final was one of the strangest games of football I have ever seen.

As soon as I saw the rain I felt cheated because I instinctively knew that as a spectacle the game would not live up to its potential.

Inevitably on a greasy surface with new balls being used there were going to be lots of handling errors. I remember when we played Down in the 1994 All-Ireland it was wet and cold but as a player you simply have to get on with it.

I felt particularly sorry for the free-takers. It is extremely difficult to get proper contact on a shiny new ball when the surface is wet and I thought it was a day for kicking frees from the hand.

I know both Jim McGuinness and Stephen Rochford rubbished the story that the former Donegal manager was any way involved in Mayo’s preparation and we have to accept their word at face value.

But for a minute I thought I was watching Donegal when I saw the body language of the Mayo players right from the throw-in. They were belligerent and right in the faces of their opponents. 

Frankly, I didn’t expect that attitude from Mayo and I don’t think the Dublin players did either.

As at half-time in the semi-final against Kerry, the Dublin fans didn’t know what to think. 

Whereas in the Kerry match we had played all the football in the first half and found ourselves five points behind at the break, against Mayo we hadn’t played at all and yet we were leading by five points.

I was doing some media work with Jack O’Shea after the semi-final and he made an interesting prediction which came to pass last Sunday. He suggested that Dublin would find it very difficult to raise their game again so soon after the emotional high of beating Kerry in a classic match.

But the shoe is on the other foot now and the pressure is on Mayo to reach the same level of performance. They were probably the happier team when the final whistle blew – after all they hit the last three points to earn a second chance.  

But when they reflect on what happened they will wonder  why they needed to score three points in injury time to secure a draw against a Dublin team that never hit their stride. From their point of view it doesn’t augur well for the replay.

Dublin never really got going which was unprecedented –even if a team is not going well there is usually a ten-minute spell during which they dominate. I’m sure there was a sombre atmosphere in the Gibson Hotel last Sunday night when the Dublin squad had their post-match functions.

To a man they would have reflected on their own performances and been so relieved they were still in the Championship and still have a chance to make amends next Saturday.

The big question is why Dublin were so flat. While the defence wouldn’t be happy conceding 0-15, overall they did well. 

Even though Jonny Cooper and John Small are both in contention for All Stars we cannot ignore the fact that Rory O’Carroll and the 2014 Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey (right) are not around.

Furthermore, the very unjust dismissal of James McCarthy so early meant that we were missing his forward thrusts.  

While it was on the word of linesman Joe McQuillan that McCarthy was sent off, had the referee interpreted the rules the same way for the rest of the contest we would have ended up with a ten-a-side game.

Before looking ahead to the replay there are two other issues I want to touch on. There has been a lot of talk about whether Diarmuid Connolly did the right thing in going for a point from that sideline under the Hogan Stand.

Diarmuid has done enough over the years for Dublin to earn the right to go for it. 

After all, had Maurice Fitzgerald not gone for a point from that famous sideline in Thurles years ago we would have been deprived one of the greatest points of all times. 

And I say that even if his point cost Dublin a famous victory that day. 

Had Connolly scored he would have been deemed a hero, as a point would have wrapped up the game.

Also, the off-the-ball stuff  last week reinforced my view that there should be two refs in Gaelic football. The presence of a second ref would cut out all that messing straight away.

We won’t know until throw-in next Saturday who will be playing, because both managers will simply announce the same teams. There is no way they are going to reveal their hand until the last minute.

At most Dublin may make one change up front but my gut instinct is that Jim Gavin will go with the same 15 players and give them an opportunity to prove last Sunday was an aberration. 

I don’t think this Dublin team are in decline; they have the weight of greatness on their shoulders. This will probably be the last time this particular group play together – teams change all the time.

The Dublin players will know exactly what they are facing next Saturday; they will be better prepared and prove themselves again by winning back-to-back titles.