Headless chickens with shotguns: Mayo misfire as Dublin slumber through in 2nd gear



Ready, Fire, Aim! Mayo couldn’t score smack in an opium den.


It wasn’t one for the purists.


If this game was a dog, it would have been a scabby mongrel. With fleas.


This was winter football at its worst.


Neither team, nor referee for that matter, covered themselves in glory at McHale Park on Saturday night. 2 points is what we needed, 2 points is what we took.


Move on. Nothing to see here, but plenty to talk about.


At this stage in the team’s evolution, the National League means more to Dublin fans than it does to the players or management.


As the 5 in row grail loomed large last summer, Jim didn’t start heavy training until May. The annual Leinster stroll awaited. Nothing doing until the Super 8’s in July; loads of time to peak at the pointy end in August when it really mattered.


Will Dessie do anything differently? Not likely.


Dublin looked decidedly uninterested in the first half. Simple, run of the mill, high percentage passes went astray with alarming frequency. With the notable exceptions of Ciaran Kilkenny and Kevin Mac, the movement up front was running at a glacial pace.


No doubt some of the lads were wishing they were still out East in Bali instead of out West in Castlebar. I get that.


We can all get that.


It looked uncharacteristically apathetic.


It wasn’t raining but the pitch looked heavy. Even the ball looked like it couldn’t be arsed bouncing.


As for the Westerners? Well, Mayo are as Mayo do.


They came out guns blazing, firing off wild shots into the night sky; all whoops and hollers, manic intensity and big hits, much to the delight of the green and red hoards who had come out in force to bay for blue blood.


And sure why wouldn’t they? Hasn’t it been 8 years since they’ve beaten us in…well, anything?


It looked like a mid-winter shock to the system for the Dublin lads. Kerry? Ah yeah, we’ll turn it on for that game.


Mayo? Um…oh yeah…that crowd again...OUCH! Oh s*%t…we’d better get moving here, lads, or we’ll get the heads bait off us…


It looked like the lads had forgotten.


Mayo are one of the most physically intense teams in the country, and some of the best tacklers in the game - a skill they perfected during James Horan’s first tenure that they never forgot.


They’re well able to match Dublin for physicality, probably the only team that really do.


It took all of 15 minutes for Jordan Flynn to try and decapitate John Small, an incident that could be deemed harsh or fair depending on whose side you were on.


Flynn was in the air and had a closed fist on impact but actually connected with his forearm. If you follow the rule book, as referee Barry Cassidy did, and treat a strike to the head as a straight red, then it was a sending off. If you take the view that we would ‘normally’ see a yellow card for such a challenge, then Flynn should have stayed on the field.


T’was no way a sending off, said a rejuvenated Joe Brolly on Eir Sport, visibly upset that the Dublin half back hadn’t jumped to his feet, sung and tap danced. It’s terribly disappointing from John.


Now, most Dublin fans would know that to truly stretch John Small out, you’d have to start with horse tranquiliser and keep the Samoan front row on standby, just in case. Even then, there’d be no guarantees. Smaller is tougher than reinforced concrete.


Let’s put it this way. He did get a hit to the head and could have been very badly injured, and we want to see less of this in Gaelic football, but he wouldn’t have done his chances of a Golden Globe much harm either.


We’d better leave it there, lest Colm O’Rourke accuses us of turning it into a namby-pamby, pansy-boy game.


Oh, sweet Jesus...


Not sure what’s funnier, the fact that Colm yearns for the bygone days of Dublin Vs Meath where you earned your stripes by breaking a guy’s jaw or that he said this on live TV in 2020.


We all know what you meant, Colm, and we know you’re not homophobic, but I’m pretty sure you can’t say that. You’ll upset someone.


Anyway, back to the game.


Dean Rock scored an implausibly brilliant fisted goal in the second half following great work from Kevin Mac in the top corner. If the cross was inch perfect, the finish to the opposite corner was sublime.


Mayo were brave as always, but as clueless as ever up front. Headless chickens with shotguns.


The eternally sanguine, Andy Moran, cited the emergence of some young defenders as evidence of Mayo’s progress. Joe was predictably less optimistic.


Mayo have always had defenders, Andy, it’s forwards that you need.


Actually, it’s the polar opposite to Kerry, they need defenders. Suggest you do a deal, heard they were looking…


Whatever chance Mayo had of beating Dublin with Andy Moran, they have little or no chance without him. It’s hard to see where James Horan takes his team from here.


In the end, it was the old guard that dug it out for Dublin. When newly appointed Captain for the National League, James McCarthy, got moving in the second half it was curtains for Mayo and Man of the Match for the second week in a row, Ciaran Kilkenny, ran the whole show from start to finish.


Encouragingly, there were solid appearances from rookies, Dan O’Brien, of Kilmacud Crokes and Na Fianna’s Aaron Byrne.


Monaghan up next in Croker.

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