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gaa verdict Now it is up to the Mayo players to decide if this journey is to have a fairytale finish

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Mayo players Aidan O'Shea, behind, and Jordan Flynn celebrate after their side's victory over Dublin in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Mayo players Aidan O'Shea, behind, and Jordan Flynn celebrate after their side's victory over Dublin in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Mayo players Aidan O'Shea, behind, and Jordan Flynn celebrate after their side's victory over Dublin in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Maybe that was a win this Mayo team had to have, over the team who had caused them so much grief over the years.

It is a win that will rightly be celebrated all over the county and beyond, wherever Mayo people gather.

We’ve always known this team had heart, skill, class and passion.

Last weekend, without two of their best players in Cillian O’Connor and Oisin Mullin, they stepped up and delivered a win that was sweet, sweet to every Mayo man, woman and child.

One that was hewn out of every piece of Mayo in them. They would not settle for another defeat, not even when six points down at half-time and facing into the abyss of yet another loss to the Dubs.

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Young Mayo supporters are pictured during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final win over Dublin at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Young Mayo supporters are pictured during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final win over Dublin at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Young Mayo supporters are pictured during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final win over Dublin at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

But it brings me back. I was that soldier in 2006. I helped Mayo beat the Dubs in a semi-final in ‘the Battle of the Hill’.

Fat lot of good it did us a few weeks later in the decider.

And then came 2012 and that great win in the, yes, semi-final over Dublin. And we know what happened after that too.

So the job is far from done. Mayo people want to go that one last step, to win the Sam.

Do Kerry stand in the way? Might Tyrone have a say in it yet?

But, for now, Mayo folk can celebrate a famous win and one that will long be savoured.

Oh God, how we’ll treasure it if it all ends with the day Mayo folk have longed for.

My congratulations to the likes of Robert Hennelly. He has had good times and bad times in the Mayo goal.

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He has been knocked down and he had gotten up again. Just like his team-mates he has shaken off the shackles of the past to focus on the now.

As a goalkeeper he has represented the county with pride, but how we needed that late ‘45’. Without it, I believe Dublin might have played out the last few minutes and clung on for a win.

There were many minutes when I doubted this Mayo team, and their performance in the first half was dismal.

But every game has to be seen in its fullest.

The manager James Horan made the hardest call of his life and took his captain, Aidan O’Shea, off before his soldiers had time to regroup.

It was edge-of-the-seat stuff from there to the end. But Mayo decided they had had enough.

Enough soft ball to Dublin from the kick-out, enough standing off, it was time to throw everything into the frying pan and see what would happen.

Mayo won a game not an All-Ireland, they dethroned the team of this generation, maybe the team of any generation.

Now it is up to the Mayo players to decide if this journey is to have a fairytale finish.

For Mayo the first half of this semi-final was a tale of two very familiar stories.

The first was dreadful shooting for points, as the lessons of previous years against Dublin seemed to be lost.

Has nobody spotted what Dublin do – which is work the ball until they get Dean Rock, Ciarán Kilkenny or Con O’Callaghan, their marksmen, into a shooting position. They rarely, if ever, try pot shots.

But here in a gruesome 35 minutes, if you are a lover of the Green and Red, Mayo went wildly for scores and they sailed wide and wider of the Hill 16 posts.

It was also the night that we wondered if the absence of Cillian O’Connor would came back to bite Mayo.

A couple of points that Cillian would have slotted blindfold went abegging.

Mullin was a big loss too, his runs from out of defence might have made a difference at the time to a Mayo team struggling to find their feet in the match.

They managed to locate it from within their hearts as they forced Dublin into errors.

Some of their players, who are legends of the game, began to make basic mistakes.

Mayo men like Lee Keegan, Tommy Conroy, Ryan O’Donoghue and Paddy Durcan stepped up and began to lead.

They kicked points, they drove Dublin back, they blocked and harried when the champions had the ball, they at last began to work good scoring positions.

Hennelly did his bit from the placed balls and slowly Mayo began to get the better of a Dublin team that was laboured and slow and seemed just to want to play out time with the ball in hand.

Perhaps Mayo’s ineptitude in the first half had put it in Dublin minds that this game was there for the taking, they just had to play out time against a Mayo team with no scoring power.

And that is something Horan is going to have to address over the next few weeks.

Mayo in the first half were not good enough, and no amount of paying tribute to what happened afterwards will change that.

We are not there yet, not in the Promised Land, but by God we have a chance to get there now.

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