SFC semi-final: Mayo hang on to dethrone champions

September 02, 2012

Dublin's Cian O'Sullivan with Aidan O'Shea of Mayo during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Mayo 0-19
Dublin 0-16

Mayo withstood an incredible final quarter rally from Dublin in front of 81,364 spectators at Croke Park to qualify for their first All-Ireland final since 2006.

James Horan's charges will meet Donegal in a novel decider in three weeks' time after an absorbing contest which saw them almost squander a 10-point lead with less than 20 minutes of normal time remaining. In a breathtaking finale, Dublin outscored their Connacht opponents by 0-9 to 0-2, but still came up short in their quest to hold on to the Sam Maguire.

The Connacht champions made light of their underdog status to lead by 0-12 to 0-6 at the break, and looked to be on course to repeat their 12-point Allianz League victory over the Dubs when they powered into a sensational 0-17 to 0-7 advantage after 51 minutes. But despite being well short of their best, the All-Ireland champions refused to give up the ghost and reeled off eight points without reply to cut the gap to just two, 0-15 to 0-17, by the 67th minute.

The unerring Cillian O'Connor lifted the siege for Mayo with their first score in 22 minutes before Bernard Brogan left two in it again. But the Westerners had the final say when Seamus O'Shea slotted over the insurance point in the fifth of seven frenetic injury-time minutes.

While Mayo played with the greater intensity and were full value for their victory, Dublin will rue their failure to perform for three-quarters of the game. They badly missed the influence of Alan Brogan, who was unable to start due to the groin injury he picked up in the Leinster final six weeks ago. The 2011 Footballer of the Year was introduced at half-time, but lasted less than 20 minutes as Pat Gilroy's men saw their reign as All-Ireland champions come to a disappointing end.

Both teams made one change each to their selected line-ups with Chris Barrett replacing Colm Boyle in the Mayo half back line and Ciaran Kilkenny coming in for his first championship start in place of Alan Brogan. The All-Ireland champions drew first blood when Bernard Brogan slotted over a first-minute free after a nervous looking Kevin Keane had hopped the ball twice. Brogan doubled Dublin's lead with a second free in the fourth minute after Donal Vaughan had pulled back the rampaging Michael Darragh Macauley.

Cillian O'Connor settled Mayo from a seventh-minute '45 into the Hill 16 end. Two minutes later, the Ballintubber youngster levelled the scoring from an almost identical '45. Bryan Cullen was fortunate not to pick up a yellow card for a cynical trip on Alan Dillon before Michael Conroy pointed the Connacht champions into an 11th minute lead.

Mayo then had a major let-off when Paul Flynn - under pressure from Lee Keegan - rattled David Clarke's crossbar after collecting Bernard Brogan's centre. Keegan was replaced a short time later by Richie Feeney after picking up a nasty finger injury. Dublin's poor shooting continued with a Kilkenny wide before Dillon fisted Mayo into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead after further good work by Conroy in the right corner of attack.

Mayo now had their tails up and posted their fifth point in-a-row when Dillon and Feeney combined to set up Barry Moran for an excellent score in the 20th minute. Diarmuid Connolly responded with Dublin's first point in 17 minutes and their first from play, only for the impressive Dillon to hit an instant reply at the other end.

Connolly kicked his second before Ciaran Kilkenny reduced the deficit to the minimum, 0-5 to 0-6, after Macauley had created the opening. Bernard Brogan had half a goal chance before the deadly accurate O'Connor nailed his third '45 on the half-hour mark. Enda Varley then scored a controversial eighth point for Mayo after referee Joe McQuillan had failed to spot two hops by Jason Doherty in the build-up.

Kilkenny kept the Dubs in touch, but the Westerners finished the half with four points in as many minutes to put clear daylight between the sides for the first time. Kevin McLoughlin pounced on a mistake by Cian O'Sullivan for the first, Jason Doherty then struck a glorious right-footed effort, Enda Varley pointed a free after O'Sullivan fouled Conroy before McLoughlin completed the first half scoring in the second of three minutes of stoppage time.

Following the resumption, David Clarke was forced to make a save with his foot to deny Diarmuid Connolly at the expense of a '45 which Stephen Cluxton converted. Cillian O'Connor restored Mayo's six-point advantage with a free from his hands before a melee broke out in the Dublin goalmouth after half-time substitute Philly McMahon appeared to lash out Enda Varley, who was forced to retire with a suspected broken nose.

After consulting with his umpires and linesmen, referee McQuillan incredibly didn't book McMahon, instead issuing yellow cards to Alan Dillon and the Dublin duo James McCarthy and Rory O'Carroll. The flashpoint certainly didn't have an adverse effect on Mayo who enjoyed a golden spell that yielded four more points without reply.

Kevin Nolan was punished for over-carrying by O'Connor from a free out of the hands just inside the Dublin '45. Substitute Richie Feeney then got in on the scoring act before O'Connor found the target yet again with his first from play.

Jason Doherty pulled a glorious goal-scoring opportunity wide before Alan Dillon's third point made it 0-17 to 0-7 in favour of a by now rampant Mayo team. It was impossible to see a way back for a Dublin side that had struggled for much of the championship, but they weren't prepared to go down without a fight and showed great character and resilience to battle their way back into contention.

Points from Cluxton ('45), Kilkenny, Paul Flynn and Brogan (three frees) cut the gap to four before Mayo sub Jason Gibbons was forced to make a vital block to deny Brogan. In the ensuing scramble, the ball last hit Dublin sub Kevin McMenamin before going over the end-line, but the referee awarded a '45 to the Metropolitans which Cluxton again converted.

The margin was down to two points when Paul Flynn pointed after Brogan was denied an equalising goal by a brilliant David Clarke stop. As the tension continued to mount, Cillian O'Connor and McMenamin both had bad wides. Michael Conroy also fisted wide before O'Connor finally broke Mayo's scoring duck after Alan Freeman has won a crucial free about 42 metres from goal.

Brogan (free) and Seamus O'Shea traded points in the 74th and 75th minutes of injury-time. Dublin had one last chance to force a replay when Stephen Cluxton dropped a '45 into the Mayo goalmouth, but Keith Higgins took the ball off his own goal-line and only then could the Connacht champions celebrate a famous win.

Mayo: David Clarke; Kevin Keane, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Chris Barrett; Barry Moran (0-1), Aidan O'Shea; Kevin McLoughlin (0-2), Jason Doherty (0-1), Alan Dillon (0-3); Enda Varley (0-1 free), Cillian O'Connor 0-07 (3 '45, 3f), Michael Conroy (0-1). Subs: Richie Feeney (0-1)for Keegan, Alan Freeman for Varley (blood), Colm Boyle for McLoughlin (blood), Jason Gibbons for Feeney, Shane McHale for Keane, Kevin McLoughlin for Doherty, Seamus O'Shea (0-1) for A O'Shea.

Dublin: Stephen Cluxton (0-3 '45s); Michael Fitzsimons, Rory O'Carroll, Cian O'Sullivan; James McCarthy, Ger Brennan, Kevin Nolan; Eamon Fennell, Denis Bastick; Paul Flynn (0-2), Michael Darragh Macauley, Bryan Cullen; Ciaran Kilkenny (0-3), Diarmuid Connolly (0-2), Bernard Brogan (0-6 frees). Subs: Alan Brogan for Cullen, Philly McMahon for Fitzsimons, Eoghan O'Gara for Bastick, Kevin McMemamin for A Brogan, Craig Dias for Fennell.

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).

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