Friday 24 January 2020

Anatomy of destruction ... 12 minutes that buried Mayo

GOAL: Dublin’s Brian Fenton of Dublin celebrates victory. Pic: Sportsfile
GOAL: Dublin’s Brian Fenton of Dublin celebrates victory. Pic: Sportsfile

It took Mayo 35 minutes of ferocious tackling, patient probing and (for the most part) impressive shot execution to put them within sight of the promised land.

Two points up at the half-time bell ... maybe their efforts warranted a bigger cushion but James Horan must have been a happy manager.

Fast-forward to the 47th minute: Dublin are ten up and out the gap.

What happened? The champions had shaken off their relative lethargy and become masters of their own All-Ireland destiny. More specifically, they had torpedoed Mayo with an unanswered 2-6 in arguably the most impressive dozen minutes of Jim Gavin's seven-year reign.

How did it happen? Here's how - the anatomy of Mayo's destruction ...

SUPERB: Paul Mannion. Pic: Sportsfile
SUPERB: Paul Mannion. Pic: Sportsfile

36 MINS: The throw-in is meant to be Aidan O'Shea's fiefdom, but here Michael Darragh Macauley emphatically fists the ball forward and Chris Barrett, caught napping, pulls the arm of Dean Rock. From beyond the 'D', Deano nails the free. A momentum shifter ...

37 MINS: What if Paddy Durcan's seemingly on-the-money attempt at his third point had crept over? Coulda, woulda, shoulda ... Stephen Cluxton claws it to safety and Dublin work the ball up the length of the Cusack Stand side.

Macauley foot-passes to Paul Mannion, who gathers low under pressure from Brendan Harrison and then pops it to Ciarán Kilkenny. The Dublin schemer's over-the-top handpass opens up the Mayo defence, Lee Keegan having lost his footing on the turn. Con O'Callaghan doesn't need a second invitation: his low finish inside the near post turns this semi-final on its head.

39 MINS: A rejuvenated Kilkenny is again at the heart of this move, releasing the inrushing Niall Scully for a goal chance that flashes over instead.

40 MINS: Three up, Dublin are now scenting blood and they go after Rob Hennelly's long-range kickouts with a vengeance. Mannion, one of the few Dubs who consistently backs himself outside the 'scoring zone', hits a spectacular left-footed point from the left wing.

42 MINS: Keegan is starting to suffer and is called for a pull on O'Callaghan as the ball comes in. Meat and drink for Rock, who taps over.

42 MINS: Brian Fenton soars to claim a 'mark' from the next kickout, and the move culminates in Mannion turning away from his embattled shadow, Harrison, for a point off his favoured left.

46 MINS: Cillian O'Connor picks up the first of his two yellows, censured for a high tackle on Jonny Cooper. Kilkenny stands over the resultant free and pings it long and direct to O'Callaghan, 20 metres out. Dublin's goal machine skips around Keegan as if the former Footballer of the Year wasn't there and, once again, aims low inside Hennelly's near post.

47 MINUTES: Now it's time for a party piece. Mannion has possession on the right flank, under the shadow of the Hogan Stand, soloing to himself. Harrison is guarding the path to goal; you could argue that he has done nothing wrong. But then, in trademark fashion, Mannion pulls the trigger and his shot curls in a sumptuous arc inside the left upright.

And that, emphatically, was that. We still had time for Keegan's cleverly dinked goal on 52 minutes (his third in consecutive championship matches against Dublin); and Fenton's reply nine minutes later (his third goal of the summer, and a third assist of the evening from Kilkenny) ... but the damage had been done.

"A team like Dublin are always going to come at you," said Horan. "They came at us and I suppose we were on the ropes but we didn't deal with it well."

Few teams do when the Dubs catch fire ...

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