Apart from Dublin, every county in Ireland is feeling Mayo's pain

Apart from Dublin, every county in Ireland is feeling Mayo's pain
Cillian O'Connor of Mayo fails to convert a free late in the second half. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

FORMER Meath star, Colm O'Rourke, posed the question almost the entire country wanted to ask.

“What have the people of Mayo done to deserve this?” the ace forward from another and completely different era said on tv.

It was uttered in the sincerest way possible and summed up the feelings of probably the other 31 counties and, indeed, far-flung places across the globe.

The day should have all been about Dublin, their magnificent three-in-a-row and a celebration of a game, which had you on the edge of the seat to the final whistle.

Yet, it left you with a hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach because only those with hearts of granite couldn't but feel for all involved with the Mayo camp and their long-suffering supporters.

“There are no words,” a clearly shell-shocked woman uttered to the cameras as she and everyone else tried to get their heads around this one.

Mayo will take a long time to recover from the 1-17 to 1-16 defeat and you'd wonder if they ever will because there's a limit to what the body physical and the body spiritual can take.

Just watching and listening to crest-fallen manager, Stephen Rochford, afterwards offered a hint of the obvious hurt.

His crackled voice was laced with emotion as he attempted to make sense of a game in which Mayo, twice, had the Dubs by the throat but still couldn't deliver the killer blow.

It will be a long and disheartening winter up west as they reflect on the many what-might-have-beens and wonder how they managed to let it slip.

Having a slender one-point lead at the interval made a mockery of their first-half dominance despite falling behind to a truly wonder goal from the remarkable Con O'Callaghan.

In fairness to the Mayo defence, there was little they could have done to prevent such an early blow because the Dublin attacker made something out of nothing and his finish with the outside of his right boot was simply unreal.

Still, Mayo took over the rest of the half by forcing keeper and captain, Stephen Cluxton, into the most uncharacteristic mistakes from his usually accurate re-starts.

Critically, though, Mayo couldn't capitalise, registering bad wides from play and frees, as well as dropping balls into Cluxton's grateful arms. 

Half-time couldn't come quickly enough for the champions.

The expected changes in attack worked instantly and the game took on a different complexion in the third quarter as Dublin did what Mayo couldn't do in the first-half...kick points.

Then came the decisive moment, Donal Vaughan's rush-of-blood which led to his straight red card for an act of stupid retaliation on Dublin's James Small, who was already on a yellow before he floored Colm Boyle.

Hindsight is wonderful and keeping your head in these pressure-cooker situations is, indeed, problematic at the best of times, but how must Vaughan be feeling after his crass action.

Instead of Cillian O'Connor pointing a very kickable free to restore parity at 0-12 to 1-9, referee Joe McQuillan, rightly, threw up the ball to resume hostilities.

It should have been 15 against 14 in Mayo's favour with a good half-an-hour still to be played, given the lengthy injury-time.

Such a scenario would have helped turn the heat back on the Dubs, particularly Cluxton's kick-out, but, if anything, the extra room suited the holders more.

And yet Lee Keegan's thunderous goal nudged Mayo ahead only for Dublin to respond quickly with the sides level entering additional time.

O'Connor struck an upright with his free before Dean Rock nailed his winner. 

That was the slim difference at the end. 

For Mayo, it's another 'what if?' All-Ireland final.

Earlier, losing minor finalists, Derry, could only through their hands in the air an admit they were a distant second to a brilliant Kerry side led by the remarkable David Clifford, who finished with 4-4.

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