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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Noel Connelly rues Mayo lapse in 'key period'

Mayo joint-manager Noel Connelly and Dublin manager Jim Gavin after Saturday’s replay
Mayo joint-manager Noel Connelly and Dublin manager Jim Gavin after Saturday’s replay

Noel Connelly isn't the first Mayo manager to attempt to sum up the misery of his team's dressing-room on a big day in Croke Park but he gave it a crack anyway.

"They are disappointed but as we have seen before, there is great character in that dressing-room," he began, attempting to sound an optimistic note.

"They will dust themselves off, go back to the clubs and they will be a few months away from the Mayo set-up and when it comes to next spring, they will come again - have no doubt about that - most of the lads in that dressing-room are the right side of 30, wouldn't be worried about that."

Quite how often they can dig into their resolve and get nothing in return is open to question, though. These players were beaten All-Ireland finalists in 2012 and '13.

They've now lost two All-Ireland semi-final replays in successive season.

Mayo have played football in September for the past four years without ever getting their hands on the Sam Maguire.

Saturday was, perhaps, their lowest ebb of the lot.

Four up and Dublin at arms reach, they were simply steam rolled.

"That was the period we spoke about," Connelly revealed.

Crucial

"That was key for us. Had Lee picked off his (point) .... we turned over a few balls in the middle third - those were crucial attacks, we feel that if we had scored a couple more in that period of dominance, gone five or six up - it may have been a different game.

"Those scores might have given us the lift in the guys' legs to finish it off.

"Four points up, we were always trying to get the extra man back into things - you can't invite them on either- Dublin of old - if you invite them on, the crowd get behind Dublin and they will go for you," he continued.

"When we were four points up, it was still early in the second-half so we couldn't go for home at that stage.

"In hindsight, dropping two players back when we were four up, we could have done that - but Dublin finished the game stronger than us and that's just it."

Connelly went on to reveal that Mayo had prepared for Diarmuid Connolly playing and refused to cite the quick turnaround as mitigation in his team's lull.

"They did look out on the feet," he pointed out.

"There's no doubt about that but in fairness to Dublin, they had the same turnaround as us. Very hard to put your finger on the pulse with that one. But with 15 minutes to go, we seemed to be lethargic in a lot of areas in the field.

"They are a fine running team," he continued.

"And can't allow them space. And they got the overlaps once or twice and got the rub of the green, I think - Ger turned in the first goal.

"You can't allow Dublin to get ahead of you, full stop.

"The aim of every team that plays Dublin is not to concede goals because they flourish off that, and their confidence is up and they kick on from that in most games, saw that today.

Difficult

"When they got ahead, it was very hard to break them down.

"They kept the ball well, moved it through the phases very well and we found it difficult to get it back off them."

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