It ends in this room, down under the Hogan Stand. It always does, good or bad. Dessie Farrell comes in and talks quietly and thoughtfully about what has transpired. Dublin’s long unbeaten run, stretching back to 2014 is over. And that being the case, he has glowing words for the Mayo team that managed it.
“I have huge admiration for them. It’s something we touched on inside for ourselves. The Dublin team have been very humble and shown a lot of humility in victory over the years and I think we are exceptionally gracious in defeat as well. Hats off to Mayo. That second half performance, we just couldn’t live with them and the best team won on the day.
“They did it in the Connacht final as well. We knew they were going to bring a lot. We struggled to get out past their high press. We made a couple of mistakes, a couple of bad decisions. I thought at one stage if we could get a score or two it might start to ease the pressure and we could ride out the storm.
“But we could never get that extra score ahead and you could see it building then and it was very hard to disrupt the momentum they generated. They got back into it and got the draw and won it in extra-time.
“We had played so badly in that 70 minutes that you felt we were going to try and make amends and redress that situation. The black card was a killer then. At that stage, when bodies are tired and you have to go chasing, a black card is a killer. It was very difficult to get the ball back. A black card at any stage is problematic, the way teams are capable of keeping possession. But particularly in extra time when there are tired bodies and tired limbs, it was exceptionally difficult. That probably spelled the death knell at that stage.”
Plenty of us had been saying it was coming. That Dublin weren’t the force of old. That the summer was going to end badly for them if they didn’t buck up their ideas. Had he seen any slippage?
“Not particularly. Obviously we would have liked to have been coming into this stage of the competition with a little more momentum. You would have liked your collective team form to be a little better than it was. We showed glimpses of it here and there in patches, in some really good patches.
“The first half was really good at times but the second half was the direct opposite of that. It’s hard to diagnose but it revolves around the lack of consistency across the quarters that was hurting us through the championship and it manifested itself again today.
“Massive disappointment obviously. What that group have achieved, the vast majority of them, has been tremendous. They’ve managed to keep going back to the well, to keep doing it and keep doing it, which I can assure you isn’t easy when you know the hours that go into it and the commitment required and the detail behind it all.
“A lot of people see players turn up here on a Saturday or a Sunday and they don’t really understand how it takes hold of your life outside that. For them to be able to consistently do that over the last five or six years, the bulk of them, that’s been a phenomenal achievement. Some of them have experienced this before, a lot of them haven’t. Overwhelmingly, it’s disappointment in there and that’s natural enough.”
For James Horan, the turnaround after half-time didn’t overly shock him. Nothing ever does. He always preaches doing the right thing. They didn’t in the first half and yet they were only six behind having kicked some terrible wides. Fix that and go from there.
“Not much,” Horan says when asked what he told them at the break. “Just got back to our structure a little bit. They were getting their kick-outs away very easily. We were a bit out of sync with that. (We) just went through a few things there and talked about lifting our energy a bit and doing what we’re strong at. Nothing too mind-boggling.
“It was very similar to the last game. The group of lads that are in there, there’s a lot of trust and a lot of belief. We have a huge amount of work done so we were fairly confident that we could get motoring. Just disappointed that we didn’t get motoring earlier.
“You know what they’re going to do and the way they’re going to play. We were going out to them in ones, trying to press the ball and he was just popping it off to the next guy. You need to go out to them in twos or threes and try to cover the out balls. It was a matter of putting a bit more pressure and try not to be as deep. We were a lot more physical, there was a lot more contact in the second half.”