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01st Aug 2021

Mayo will never have a better chance to put Dublin hoodoo to bed

Patrick McCarry

Another Leinster Senior Football Championship to forget.

Dublin are the champions of Leinster for the 60th time.

Even when they led by 0-9 to 0-5 at half-time, you knew the race was already run. Dublin had been awful in the first half while Daniel Flynn and Jimmy Hyland had impressed for the Lilywhites.

You just sensed that Dublin would finally turn wides and under-hit shots into points. Everyone feared that Dublin would come roaring out at the start of the second half. They started well, but there was no knock-out blow.

With 10 minutes to go, it was 0-16 to 0-8 and the game was drifting towards the dampest of squibs. Flynn got folks out of their seats, though, with a stunning goal that would have needed Evan Comerford and Stephen Cluxton in goal to stop.

That was the only real punch that landed. The Dubs lifted another title without wearing too much damage.

This Dublin team are into another All-Ireland semi-final and are two steps away from their seventh Sam Maguire in a row. If you were Mayo, though, you would be fancying your chances.

Mayo have had a heap of retirements and injuries over the past nine months, but Dublin are without a stack of talent too.

There’s no Cluxton, Paul Mannion, Jack McCaffrey, Cian O’Sullivan, Kevin McManamon. The Dubs still have several big-hitters, but they are not at their 2016-2018 peak. Kerry vs. Dublin may yet be our 2021 final, but these semi-finals should be close.

Dublin supporters will tell us that we have seen all of this before. A Leinster procession – albeit tighter than in usual years – before they ramp it up for true knock-out football.

They will also point to Brian Howard, Ciarán Kilkenny, Con O’Callaghan and Brian Fenton. Doubt any team with those lads in it and you’ll be left looking the fool.

But there is no denying that Dessie Farrell’s side are struggling to go through the gears. You cannot have that many major personnel changes without the wings being clipped somewhat.

Wexford, Meath and Kildare have all been able to stay with Dublin much more than in recent years. Dublin at their most ruthless would have smashed the bookies’ spread. 10+, 15+, 22+. Go against them and they would make you pay.

Following their 0-20 to 1-9 victory, former Meath star Colm O’Rourke had a great way to sum up what most of us are thinking about the Dubs.

“Dublin are a bit like Dracula,” he remarked. “When I see a stake through them, I’ll believe that they’re dead!”

One of these days, the sun may rise and turn this Dublin reign to dust. The stake may be planted in Dublin’s chest.

Mayo must be feeling confident that they can prove this reigning champs can be defeated. Cillian O’Connor is out, but other Mayo players have stepped up to share the scoring burden. Ryan O’Donoghue and Mattie Ruane have looked good, Aidan O’Shea is still causing opposition teams havoc. Paddy Durcan is on course for another All Star.

The semi-final will separate the pretenders from the true contenders. Mayo are capable but, even though this Dublin team look weaker than usual, they will still need to be at their very best to get the job done.