'Reality check' for Mayo as Cluxton retains armband
PAT HOLMES was able to explain the 'how' but not the 'why' of Mayo's abysmal collapse to a ruthless Dublin, so it was left to Lee Keegan to best summarise what this 14-point defeat means in the bigger scheme of things.
"It's all about Dublin," the two-time All Star defender admitted. "They scored 2-18. It's a complete reality check for us tonight.
"They were hungrier for the ball. A lot of our guys just didn't get out of second gear. You could see it - they were just fresher and sharper. It's really disappointing for the huge crowd here in Castlebar. I don't really have words to sum up what happened here."
On this evidence, there are myriad issues to address. Do Mayo persist with Aidan O'Shea's detours into full-forward when midfield is labouring? And is it time they tempered their traditional man-for-man approach and embraced a more defensive set-up?
Yet, just a fortnight earlier, they had trimmed Monaghan by 13 points.
"You don't become bad footballers in two weeks, so we have to look at it," said joint-manager Holmes. "Is it mental? It is hard to analyse exactly what went wrong, but we were beaten by a superior team who came with a big hunger, who looked like they had serious intent.
"When you get beaten like that, there will always be questions about the way that you set up. In our first four league games our defensive record had been very, very good ... you can go into the minutiae of it but the fact is that we were very well beaten."
Dublin boss Jim Gavin confirmed afterwards that Stephen Cluxton will be his captain for the third year running, and that Rory O'Carroll didn't emerge after half-time as he felt ill.
Gavin's delight with Dublin's response to their recent wobble was obvious. "The performance was up there with what we're looking for," he reflected. "There are moments in a game where you see some things coming from the training field, and that's the pleasing thing."
His players have "great belief about the path that we want to take this year, and I'm just delighted for them that all the hard work that they've put in ... it's a small, small, small step," Gavin clarified after a brief pause, as if feeling the need for perspective on a strange mismatch.