Thursday 14 December 2017

Haven't the foggiest

Headache for Dubs as refixture of abandoned game still up in the air

RIGHT call, shame about the consequences. That the was unanimous verdict from Castlebar as Dublin and Mayo cursed the impenetrable blanket of fog that forced their Allianz Football League game to be abandoned at half-time on Saturday night.

In one sense, Dublin were well placed at the midpoint, leading 0-8 to 0-5. The counter-argument is that, numerically challenged following the controversial sending-off of James McCarthy after 24 minutes, they were facing a backs-to-the-wall half to hold on.

Both theories were duly rendered irrelevant by the weather gods. The thickening fog was already threatening visibility towards the end of the first half, and it quickly got a whole lot worse.

Sligo whistler Marty Duffy took the only decision that could be made after an extended half-time hiatus saw no improvement.

"When I stood in the middle of the field I couldn't see the four corners, any of them," Duffy explained as he exited McHale Park.

The key conundrum now concerns a date for the refixture. Dublin were already staying west for the night, and manager Pat Gilroy would have been "happy enough" to play it again yesterday while Mayo, he indicated, were similarly disposed. But this was deemed a non-runner by the powers-that-be.

There are no NFL fixtures until early March, but that potential window of opportunity is complicated by clashes with the inter-provincial series this coming weekend and then the Sigerson Cup weekend on February 24/25.

White smoke was expected to emerge after a CCCC meeting today. With four NFL rounds scheduled for consecutive weekends in March, there is the distinct possibility that 'Mayo/Dublin II' could be pushed back until the weekend of March 31/April 1.

"It depends on what happens with the Sigerson (quarter-finals) during the week. I think they have 11 involved and we could have eight involved at the weekend," Gilroy pointed out.

"If all the teams involved get through this week, it would be a nonsense for us to play it then as both teams would be down too many players.

"I can't see it being played next weekend as the inter-provincials are on, so I'd say it will be pushed back to the end of the league," he predicted.

Dublin chairman Andy Kettle offered a similar view, saying: "Obviously we would like to see it fixed as soon as possible, but there are a lot of logistical problems.

"Unfortunately we are fairly far apart so it would rule out any midweek fixture."

One intriguing option would entail switching the game to GAA HQ.

Mayo boss James Horan certainly wasn't dismissive about losing home advantage, saying: "I never mind playing in Croke Park. We will see what the CCCC come up with."

For his part, Gilroy said it would be "great" to play in Croker if Mayo were willing to do so.

As for the 'match' itself, Gilroy pronounced himself far happier with the performance when measured against their opening round defeat by Kerry.

"The sending-off really disrupted us. We lost our momentum. But it was a lot sharper than it was last week. We were doing things a lot more efficiently," the Dublin boss surmised.

The irony is that Mayo dominated the kickout stats -- we counted five clean catches alone from Barry Moran. Once in possession, though, they tended to either run into a Sky Blue defensive brick wall, turn over the ball wastefully or kick it harmlessly into Stephen Cluxton's midriff.

This enabled Dublin to punish them swiftly on the counter-attack, with seven unanswered points flowing between the sixth and 17th minute.

Diarmuid Connolly clearly was in the mood to banish his misfiring Kerry display, clipping three points from play while denied a goal by David Clarke's quick reflexes with a point-blank save.

Eoghan Reilly had to be rescued from an unmerciful roasting after just 12 minutes; Kevin Keane fared marginally better.

With Kevin McManamon a typical amalgam of energy and incisiveness, Dublin looked poised to accelerate over the horizon ... but then that contentious straight red for McCarthy offered Mayo a lifeline, and they'd reduced the margin to three points before the goalposts literally disappeared from sight.

"It is disappointing because it was turning out to be an interesting game," said Horan.

"We were doing a lot of things right but we were killing ourselves up front, hitting it into the goalie's hands, and our first touch was off.

"Dublin penalised us every time we did that."

PLAYER OF THE HALF: Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin)

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