GAA Football

All-Ireland SFC semi-final - Dublin v Mayo: all the analysis as the Dubs move into another final

Lee Keegan kept Con O'Callaghan quiet for much of the game - but the Cuala star still bagged the two goals that killed off Mayo's hopes early in the second half. Picture by Philip Walsh
Kenny Archer and Neil Loughran

DUBLIN TACTICAL TAKE

THE one supposed chink in Dublin’s armour is at full-back, but they didn’t actually need one; indeed Rory O’Carroll wasn’t even named in the 26, while Jonny Cooper was preferred to Cian O’Sullivan.

That’s not to say they aren’t defensive-minded, with Niall Scully dropping very deep before the break, Brian Howard too, and even Con O’Callaghan back there at times, as they protected their ‘D’, inviting Mayo to try to score from distance.

The half-time transformation involved pushing up very high on Mayo, sending O’Callaghan right up to the full-forward line, and getting Ciaran Kilkenny on the ball higher up the pitch. Those two combined for the first two goals and that was effectively that.

Dublin’s high press forced Rob Hennelly to kick long and Brian Fenton in particular was able to win the aerial exchanges.

MAYO TACTICAL TAKE

JAMES Horan got everything right in the first half. Played much of the opening 35 without a presence in the square as James Carr and Cillian O’Connor pulled wide, leaving space for the likes of Colm Boyle, Paddy Durcan and Aidan O’Shea to punch holes through the centre.

Defensively, Mayo picked up where they left off in Castlebar seven days earlier, producing the kind of disciplined display that frustrated the life out of Donegal, forcing turnover after turnover and reading the movement of all Dublin’s key men.

Lee Keegan didn’t give Con O’Callaghan room to breathe, the decision to move Diarmuid O’Connor on to Brian Fenton when Matthew Ruane was struggling to get close worked well. With Ruane, then O’Connor, in alongside Seamus O’Shea at midfield it allowed his brother Aidan to loiter around the 40, and Dublin struggled to find space. That was the first half.

The second half, and the match, was over within 12 minutes of the break. From two points down, Dublin were 10 points up by the 47th minute after pushing Mayo back and punishing them in devastating fashion. Mayo lost six kick-outs in-a-row in this period, during which Con O’Callaghan – pushed into the square – scored two goals while Paul Mannion chose that moment to shoot the lights out from everywhere.

Tried moving Aidan O’Shea into full-forward late, but the time super-subs Kevin McLoughlin and Andy Moran were thrust into the action, this game was already gone.

TOP SCORE

DUBLIN’S first goal was a trademark Kilkenny-O’Callaghan production, incorporating a long fist-pass over the defence and a drilled finish, but the second was even better – from the same pairing. The Castleknock man launched a free long and the Cuala star caught the ball, dummied his way past Lee Keegan, and coolly slotted a low shot past a wrong-footed Rob Hennelly.

 

TURNING POINT

ONE captain denying another. Dublin skipper Stephen Cluxton kept out a shot from Paddy Durcan very early in the second half – and the champions sped up the other end, swiftly finding the net through Con O’Callaghan, with assistance from Paul Mannion and Ciaran Kilkenny. The boys in blue might have been two points behind but instead they were two in front – and they never looked back from that moment onwards.

KEY BATTLE

Lee Keegan (Mayo) v Con O’Callaghan (Dublin)

O’CALLAGHAN started at centre-forward and Keegan kept him on a short leash in the first half. Yet just as was the case against Donegal a week previous, Mayo were caught sleeping at the start of the second half. Donegal pushed Michael Murphy into full-forward, and Dublin did the same with O’Callaghan. Keegan followed, and just two minutes in he slipped at the vital moment when the ball found the Cuala powerhouse advancing on Rob Hennelly. O’Callaghan made no mistake.

Nine minutes later he took a few steps out, caught a long ball into the square, stopped, stood Keegan up before effortlessly side-stepping the best man-marker in Ireland and side-footing into the net. It was breathtaking stuff.

Considering O’Callaghan didn’t actually register a point and wasn’t involved in a whole lot beyond the two goals, Keegan – who scored a second half goal of his own - actually did okay. But history is unlikely to be so kind.

REF WATCH

CORK whistler Conor Lane handled this game fairly well. Was perhaps a bit over-zealous with the yellow card in the first half, Stephen Coen and Brian Fenton could both consider themselves harshly dealt with, but tried to let the game flow. Had no choice but to show a second yellow to Cillian O’Connor for his impetuous late barge on Davy Byrne.

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