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GAA Football

Double red card the turning point in a game of fine margins

Dublin's John Small gets his marching orders from Joe McQuillan
Andy Watters

TURNING POINT

THERE were 48 minutes gone when John Small went through the back of Colm Boyle and left the Davitt’s clubman in a heap. Small had already been booked and must have known he was in trouble when he heard the blast of Joe McQuillan’s whistle.

Had Donal Vaughan retained his composure, Mayo would have had an extra man for the crucial last 20 minutes. But he lost his cool, retaliated and was shown a straight red.

With both sides down a man, the Dubs coped better with the extra space on offer and another game that could have gone either way, went their way.

TOP SCORE

THE first score of the game was never topped for quality. Con O’Callaghan – a rookie surrounded by grizzled veterans – made his presence felt with his first involvement in his first All-Ireland final.

The Cuala clubman picked the ball up deep in opposition territory before charging forward on a weaving run that left Mayo defender Colm Boyle in his wake. With the goal in his sights, he produced a sliderule finish that sent Hill 16 into raptures and got the Dubs away to the perfect start.

REF WATCH

Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

THIS was a physical game and there were borderline fouls that McQuillan could have called throughout it. But the Cavan whistler opted to let the game flow and seemed to communicate well with the players. Clamped down decisively when things threatened to boil over – sending off Small and Vaughan in the second half.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT DUBLIN

JIM Gavin doesn’t always get it right – but he gets it right enough in the end.

The selection of Eoghan O’Gara was a gamble – his last Championship start came in the defeat by Donegal three years ago – and it didn’t pay off; indeed arguably he could have been sent off after an unsavoury clash with a grounded Mayo player.

Yet Gavin removed him at half-time, along with the even less involved Paddy Andrews, and their replacements Kevin McManamon and Diarmuid Connolly made the difference between winning and losing.

Dublin clearly missed the pace and directness of Jack McCaffrey, who went off injured early on, but the depth of talent in their squad was shown once again; Bernard Brogan and Cormac Costello only got on in the 65th and 74th minutes respectively.

Gavin also demonstrated his desire to win by sending on six forwards.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT MAYO

STEPHEN Rochford threw something of a curveball but one that worked out well. Paddy Durcan’s inclusion had been mooted, but it was for the out-of-sorts Diarmuid O’Connor rather than Colm Boyle. 

Initially that line-up helped Mayo contain Dublin’s fearsome attack and the younger O’Connor also looked motivated when he did come on for the final third of the match.

Mayo’s pressure on Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs forced him to go long at times before the break and their midfield seized on a few of those.

However, for all the positive differences, familiar flaws remained. Cillian O’Connor missed a couple of kickable frees; indiscipline led to them losing a player; and their bench isn’t good enough, as evidenced by three of their six subs only being brought on after the 69th minute. And, as so often, Aidan O’Shea faded as an influence on a big game after beginning brightly.

KEY BATTLE

Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin) v Lee Keegan (Mayo)

AS he did with Diarmuid Connolly last year, Lee Keegan was detailed to man-mark Dublin’s main man, and he did that job very well. Dublin’s so-called ‘quarterback’ was on the ball very little compared to his usual heavy influence and Keegan was even able to get up the field to score his side’s goal.

That impact made a match of this final, but Kilkenny had the last laugh, despite being black-carded after scuffling on the ground with Keegan after the match-winning free went over.

 

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