1. Impact of Dublin’s bench

IN THE 50TH minutes, Mayo had hauled themselves back to level terms after a Cillian O’Connor free. Shortly after, Dessie Farrell sprang Paul Mannion off the bench, joining fellow substitute Brian Howard on the field and the pair of former All-Stars played a decisive role in Dublin’s dominant final quarter.

No side in the country can compete with that sort of strength in depth. Even in their pomp the Kilkenny hurlers didn’t have such proven winners in reserve for the biggest day of the season.

As Farrell mentioned in his post-game interview, his side showed remarkable composure and poise on the home straight. It’s no surprise, given how often they’ve been in that position in the past. 

They survived Robbie McDaid’s black card and showed tremendous game management in the last 10 minutes to see the game out.

2. More heartbreak for Mayo

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and Lee Keegan after the game.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

This wasn’t as devastating as Mayo’s final defeats of 2016 or 2017. Howard, Mannion and Dean Rock clipped scores to move Dublin five clear by the 62nd minute and from that point they were five clear and never looked like losing.

Mayo ruffled plenty of feathers and matched Dublin’s athleticism, but they were unable to sustain it for the full 70 minutes. James Horan’s side gave Dublin by far their sternest test of the season and the loss of Paddy Durcan at half-time was monumental. 

In reality, they probably needed a goal to really give themselves a chance of winning this, but Dublin looked solid defensively.

The concerns over Mayo’s defence following the Tipperary game rang true inside 13 seconds when Dean Rock palmed into the net. They responded brilliantly to that early concession and competed really well on Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs, while David Clarke continually found a man in green and red in the middle third. 

But by the finish Mayo ran out of steam and ideas, with their long balls into Aidan O’Shea easily dealt with by a packed Sky Blue defence. Mayo’s young guns will learn greatly from this experience, yet for the likes of Clarke, Lee Keegan, O’Shea and the O’Connor brothers, their big day out ended in failure once again.

Had they come along in any other era, that crew would have at least one Celtic Cross, but Dublin are a ruthless winning machine.

3. Special year for Small brothers

Dublin’s John Small amd Paddy Small lift the trophy.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It was around this time last year when Declan Small, long-serving Ballymun Kickhams chairman and father of John and Paddy, passed away. 

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His sons did him more than proud on the football pitch in 2020, delivering Ballymun’s fourth ever senior county title and playing massive roles in Dublin’s six-in-a-row success.

12 months on from his sad death, the pair were celebrating with the Sam Maguire again. Paddy started his first ever All-Ireland senior final while John was a rock at the back for Farrell’s team. Their father would be immensely proud of their achievements. 

4. When will Dublin’s march stop?

Dublin have lost just two championship matches since 2011 and they haven’t been beaten since Donegal in 2014. At this stage we’ve all run out of superlatives to describe this phenomenal group of players.

We’re about seven months away from the next All-Ireland final and it’s hard to see past the seven-in-a-row being achieved by the time July rolls around. Kerry, Donegal, Mayo and Tyrone have all been talked up as potential sides to topple them, but they’re all a level below the Sky Blues.

Their work-rate remains at an exceedingly high level and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get over the line. That sort of ruthlessness is the hallmark of all great champions in any sport and this Dublin team look hungry for more success.

Veterans like Michael Darragh Macauley, Kevin McManamon, Cian O’Sullivan and Paddy Andrews and even Stephen Cluxton may decide to call it a day, but the production line remains strong. Farrell introduced 10 newcomers to the panel this year, while others such as Sean Bugler broke onto the starting team, and their U20s reached the All-Ireland final.

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The dynasty looks set to run and run.

5. Kilkenny and O’Callaghan brilliance

Con O’Callaghan was named man-of-the-match.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Kilkenny has been playing closer to goal this season and he finished the campaign with 1-20 from five games, racking up a three-point haul in the final.

He undoubtedly benefited from Durcan’s enforced withdrawal but worked hard for every score he got. The only award missing from his mantle is Footballer of the Year and this might be the season he achieves that.

Man-of-the-match Con O’Callaghan enjoyed a magnificent final. His 22nd minute goal arrived at a time when Dublin were struggling and it was key to putting them back on track. Earlier in the half he had a shot on goal blocked when taking a point was the more sensible option, but O’Callaghan is a predator always on the hunt for a green flag. 

He spoke afterwards about visualising scoring a goal in this game and so it transpired. The Cuala ace has the power, skill and mentality to keep him at the top of the game for years to come. You can’t but sit back and admire him.

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