Mayo are through to the 2012 All Ireland senior football final after a scintillating contest against Dublin yesterday afternoon in Croke Park before an attendance of 81,364. A fantastic game with all the trimmings of passion, tenacity, melees, come-backs and ultimate heartache for the reigning champions has now set up a unique first ever senior final between the men from the Moy and Donegal.
It’s a game that has already gripped the imagination of the GAA public and if people thought there was a drought for tickets last week, you can rest assured that this is doubly the case now.
But for all the excitement of Mayo, they nearly threw it away in the last quarter. At half-time Mayo were six points ahead after a blistering few final minutes before the interval.
Questions will, however, be asked as to how the failed to nail their colours to the mast until literally until the final whistle, which included almost seven minutes of injury time, but few will deny them their final place, after being panned by the critics last week, not unlike Donegal.
While Donegal have waited 20 years to lift the Sam Maguire again, the wait in Mayo has been ever longer - 61 years, so there will be no shortage of hunger from either side on September 23rd.
Bernard Brogan got the proceedings underway with a brace of frees to get the Dubs going, but two ‘45s by Cillian O’Connor brought them back level. Michael Conroy put Mayo ahead in the 12th minute and with further contributions from Alan Dillon’s with a fisted point and shortly after passing to Barry Moran, it was the red and green that were three up after 20 minutes; 0-5 to 0-2.
Dublin’s Paul Flynn hit a humdinger against the crossbar, that would have brought the sides level, but another 17minutes were to elapse before Diarmuid Connolly got their first point from play.
Ciaran Kilkenny, who replaced Alan Brogan, narrowed he gap to just one but there followed a Mayo deluge in the final minutes of the half
Kevin McLoughlin (2), O’Connor with his third ’45, and another brace from Enda Varley, who had replaced the injured Andy Moran.
Alan Brogan replaced Bryan Cullen at the interval and a Cluxton point narrowed the gap. Mayo net minder David Clarke cut out a brave effort from Diarmuid Connolly.
Things looked like they were getting out of control, but as tempers flared it was the Mayo men who kept their composure and suddenly they were ten points to the good, 0-17 to 0-7. O’Connor calmly struck over two frees, while sub Richie Feeney also hit the target. Then more indecision in the Dubs defence allowed Cillian O’Connor and Alan Dillon in for scores to open up a massive 10 points lead. A number of injuries were also to ensure extra gut wrenching drama at the end of the game for both sides.
With Alan Brogan now having to retire in the 53rd minute, it looked ominous for Dublin, but Cluxton and Kilkenny brought it back to eight. Paul Flynn scored brilliantly and when Brogan junior freed for the fourth time, the comeback was well underway.
Michael Dara Macauley took a foothold in the middle and with Kevin McManamon who was brought on, along another second half sub with Donegal connections, Eoghan O’Gara, began to exert huge pressure on the Mayo defence.
Bernard Brogan had a great chance for goal with three minutes left on the normal time left when he took a Kilkenny pass, but his shot was brilliantly saved by Clarke who was at full stretch to stop.
Mayo had not scored in 21 minutes when Cillian O’Connor landed his sixth from a free, and it was Seamus O’Shea who kicked the insurance point five minutes into added time. It was not to be Dublin’s day and manager Pat Gilroy admitted afterwards that the game had been lost in the first half, despite a spirited comeback by the Dubs at the end.
Mayo scorers: C O’Connor 0-07 (3 ’45, 3f), A Dillon 0-03, K McLoughlin, E Varley (1f) 0-02 each, B Moran, M Conroy, R Feeney, S O’Shea, J Doherty 0-01 each.
Dublin scorers: B Brogan 0-06 (6f), C Kilkenny, S Cluxton (3 ’45) 0-03 each, D Connolly, P Flynn 0-02 each.
Dublin: S Cluxton, M Fitzsimons, R O’Carroll, C O’Sullivan, J McCarthy, G Brennan, K Nolan, E Fennell, D Bastick; P Flynn, MD Macauley, B Cullen, C Kilkenny, D Connolly, B Brogan. Subs: A Brogan for Cullen, P McMahon for Fitzsimons, E O’Gara for Bastick, K McMemamin for A Brogan
Mayo: D Clarke, K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins, L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Barrett, B Moran, A O’Shea, K McLoughlin, J Doherty, A Dillon, E Varley, C O’Connor, M Conroy. Subs: R Feeney for Keegan, A Freeman for Varley (blood), C Boyle for McLoughlin (blood), J Gibbons for Feeney, S McHale for Keane, McLoughlin for Doherty, S O’Shea for A O’Shea.
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)