The Season Ticket
Dublin 1-17 Mayo 1-16 | All-Ireland final talking points
History makers The Dubs claimed their first three in a row for 94 years, and broke plenty of records in the process. The boys in blue are the first county to win three successive All-Ireland football titles since Kerry in 1986, and have further staked their claim as one of the best teams to ever line out in Croke Park. Stephen Cluxton has become the first captain to lift the Sam Maguire four times in the GAA's 133 year history. Con O'Callaghan has become the first ever player to end a season with an All-Ireland SFC medal; an All-Ireland U-21 medal and an All-Ireland club hurling championship medal. Jim Gavin has also become only the third manager to win four or more All-Ireland football titles, joining Sean Boylan (also four) and Mick O'Dwyer (a record eight) on that list.
Vaughan sees red Tensions boiled over in the 47th minute after a high tackle by John Small on Colm Boyle. The Dublin defender had already been booked, and was eventually shown a second yellow by Joe McQuillan for his reckless challenge. However, Donal Vaughan then angrily shoved Small to the ground in response to the challenge on Boyle, and received a straight red for the incident. It was a foolish and costly reaction to the challenge, and having an extra man for the remainder of the second half could have been the difference for Stephen Rochford's side. His decision to barge into Small also meant that instead of a free in a decent position, the ball was thrown up. "If we had an extra man...we could speculate, but today we have come second and it’s about Dublin and fair dues to Jim [Gavin]," Stephen Rochford said afterwards.
The kick-outs Much of the pre-match discussions centred on how Mayo would cope with Dublin's kick-outs. Stephen Cluxton is arguably the Dubs' most important player, and Tyrone were unable to cope with his rapid, pinpoint distributions in the semi-final. Many pundits disagreed over whether Mayo should concede Dublin's kick-outs or push up and go man for man deep in Dublin's half. Stephen Rochford's side went toe to toe with Dublin, whose off the ball movement was strangely lacking in the first half, and this tactic caused Cluxton real problems. After conceding that early goal, Mayo dominated the majority of the first half, and perhaps should have led by more than a point at the break. Cluxton was struggling to pick out his teammates with his usual unerring accuracy, and kicked six kick-outs astray in the first 35 minutes, some of which led directly to Mayo scores. Dublin deployed a similar tactic after Rock's late free to prevent a quick restart by David Clarke, and Ciaran Kilkenny was shown a black card for an off the ball incident asd the Dubs tried to hem Mayo in. Struggling for an outlet, Clarke's resulting kick-out went straight out over the sideline, and Dublin then expertly kept possession until the final whistle around 90 seconds later.
Fine marginsMayo deserve immense credit for their ability to bounce back each year, and they have shown over the past few seasons that they are the team best equipped to overthrow Dublin. Today's final was the third time that Mayo have lost by a single point to Dublin in an All-Ireland final, and the game was influenced by several key moments. Cillian O'Connor hit the post with a free from an acute angle in stoppage time which would have put Mayo ahead, and moments later Dean Rock showed nerves of steel to score a free of his own (admittedly from a less tricky position). "We had a free late on that hit the post," a deflated Stephen Rochford said afterwards. "It’s just fine margins.I couldn’t ask for any more from the lads." Mayo may also feel aggrieved over several refereeing decisions, such as the contentious free awarded to Ciaran Kilkenny - which led to a point - when he collided with his own player Paddy Andrews in the first half, and the fact that Con O'Callaghan appeared to take too many steps in the buildup to his excellent goal. Jason Doherty had a fantastic goal chance in the second half, but shot straight at Cluxton after Andy Moran's brilliant layoff. Dublin, however, deserve immense recognition for their ability to get over the line, particularly when they are not playing at their best.
Can Mayo come again? Mayo's resilience is phenomenal. As the Dublin players celebrated jubilantly, Lee Keegan wept on the grass, and his Mayo teammates looked inconsolable. The Connacht county played 10 Championship matches this summer, but once again fell agonisingly short at the last hurdle. Many said last year after their All-Ireland final replay loss that it would be difficult for Mayo to come again - and the early signs this summer suggested as much - but this Mayo team never give up, and are the bravest team in the country. "The 2018 Championship won’t be long coming round," Stephen Rochford said in his post-match interview. "They [Mayo players] have the same hunger as Dublin have to win, we’ve just come out the wrong side of results too many times for our liking. "I know it’s hard to think about that now, but we’ll move into the League in due course and no doubt we’ll circle the wagons and give something a rattle next year." Next year is another year, but for now, Mayo's 66 year wait must go on.