Talking points from an epic All-Ireland football final
17 September 2017
Eoghan O'Gara's controversial tackle on Colm Boyle
Dublin are All-Ireland champions again following their exciting victory in a match that was packed with major talking points.
Having beaten Mayo by 1-17 to 1-16 in today’s absorbing decider at Croke Park thanks to Dean Rock’s injury-time winner, the Dubs have now won five All-Irelands in seven years, including the last three.
This truly was a game for the ages and one that honestly could have gone either way. Here are some of the main talking points from the match:
Eoghan O'Gara starting ahead of Diarmuid Connolly: O’Gara was a late addition to the winners’ starting XV, replacing his clubmate Niall Scully. He was in turn replaced at half time as Jim Gavin threw in Connolly and Kevin McManamon, with Paddy Andrews also making way.
The early loss of Jack McCaffrey through injury: Dublin got off to a flying start when Con O’Callaghan bulged the Mayo net in the second minute but their best-laid plans were disrupted when their former Footballer of the Year hobbled off early.
Lee Keegan nullifying Ciaran Kilkenny: Kilkenny has been Dublin’s chief playmaker this year and Keegan did an exceptional job in limiting his influence on the game.
Dean Rock’s free at the end of the first half: It was bizarre to see Rock swinging over a Dublin free after Paddy Andrews ran into Kilkenny. How was it a free? It was cancelled out by an equally phantom free awarded to Mayo three minutes after the restart.
Eoghan O’Gara lucky to stay on? The Dublin full forward made contact with Colm Boyle’s face as the Mayo man was lying on the ground in injury-time at the end of the first half. The reaction to that moment on social media suggests that he was lucky not to be sent off.
Stephen Cluxton's normally radar-like kick-outs malfunctioning. Cluxton made history today by becoming the first man to captain his county to four All-Irelands but his distribution was not as telling a factor as it normally is.
Saves at either end. The game remained on a knife edge throughout and there were terrific back-to-back saves early in the second half when Cluxton denied Jason Doherty (43) and David Clarke thwarted Paul Mannion (45).
Donie Vaughan's rush of blood. In the 47th minute, John Small committed a frontal challenge that was almost certainly going to earn him a second yellow card. But the Mayo full back rushed in and made contact with the Dublin No.6 and both sides were reduced to 14. This was a huge moment.
Lee Keegan’s goal: In the 54th minute, with the game starting to slip away from Mayo, Keegan took a pass from Andy Moran and hammered the ball to the net - the challengers suddenly led by 1-12 to 1-11.
Chris Barrett's defending – the magnificent Mayo centre back repelled both Con O'Callaghan and Dean Rock with two massive turnovers around the 60-minute mark.
Should Mayo have had a penalty? In the 62nd minute, Keegan was taken down on the edge of the square and it looked like Mayo should have been awarded a penalty. O'Connor's free made it 1-15 to 1-13.
James McCarthy's telling contribution. McCarthy lofted over two tremendous second-half points for Dublin, including a 66th-minute equaliser. He also won Clarke’s late, late kick-out and picked out Connolly, who was fouled for the free that allowed Rock to fire the winner.
Fine margins: moments before Rock's winner, Cillian O'Connor's free at the Hill 16 end came back off the right upright. Four inches to the left and Mayo - who led by two points after 62 minutes - could be All-Ireland champions.
Dean Rock's nerves of steel: After getting off to a nervy start, Dean Rock had the honour of kicking the winning point - one of seven from him today. The Ballymun match-winner kicked two beautiful points from play from the wrong side and one of his two fisted points was very the definition of masterful improvisation.