In the latest in this series on the greatest matches he ever witnessed, RTÉ GAA commentator Darragh Maloney looks back at that 2006 All-Ireland SFC semi-final between Mayo and Dublin.


There are two things most people think of when they reflect on the 2006 All-Ireland Football semi-final between Mayo and Dublin and the comeback from seven points down is usually the second one; the first is nearly always the row before the start of the match.

The debate over whether the chaos before the start helped Mayo, or whether they would have won anyway, still goes on but Mayo did win by one point and Dublin didn't score for the first 17 minutes.

I was reminded recently by Sportsfile photographer Oliver McVeigh that a similar incident took place before the 2003 All-Ireland Final between Armagh and Tyrone. On that day, Tyrone came out first and went down to Hill 16 and they were then joined by the Armagh players. However it did not help Armagh as Tyrone won the game.

When the Mayo players broke away after their team photograph and headed down to Hill 16, it was a surprise to those of us standing on the sideline as Dublin normally go to warm-up at that end. I am not sure why that tradition has become the norm but it has been that way for as long as I can remember.

Dublin had yet to come out onto the field but their players and management could be seen talking at the bottom of the tunnel under the Hogan Stand. We wondered would they go down to the Canal End or go down to join the Mayo players?

In the RTÉ studio, Colm O’Rourke described Mayo’s actions as "a foolish thing to do" while Joe Brolly thought it was "a futile gesture."

The Dublin players walked down to Hill 16 in a tight bunch and applauded the fans before the mayhem began. It was a dangerous place to be and sure enough, a member of the Dublin back-room team required several minutes of attention from medics after being hit by a stray football.

The argument over whether it worked as a way of disrupting Dublin divides along county lines but Mayo raced into a 0-04 to 0-00 lead after 15 minutes and it took Paul Caffrey’s side 17 minutes to get their first point from Conal Keaney.

What can’t be argued about is the fact that it was a brilliant game.

In the middle of that four-point burst was that stunning sideline score from Ciaran McDonald. Ger Canning, on commentary, compared it to the Maurice Fitzgerald point in Thurles five years previously and it was the perfect comparison in terms of pure skill from the Crossmolina player.

Dublin settled down with a goal after 23 minutes when goalkeeper David Clarke failed to hold an Alan Brogan shot and it was slotted home by Keaney and that brought them level.

Before that, Dublin could have lost Ciarán Whelan after a challenge on Ronan McGarritty, for which he received a yellow card. The sides were tied twice more before Mossy Quinn put Dublin ahead with a free. Mayo hit back with two quick points and were 0-09 to 1-05 ahead at the break.

With Kerry waiting in the final, Dublin made a huge push to claim their first appearance in the decider for 11 years with a stunning scoring blitz at the start of the second half. Alan Brogan scored three points in four minutes while Jason Sherlock scored a goal in the 37th minute.

Dublin outscored Mayo by 1-6 to 0-1 in the first 10 minutes of the second half to turn a one-point deficit into a seven-point lead and Mayo were reeling.

Mayo manager Mickey Moran had already brought David Brady on in the second half and he introduced Andy Moran in the 46th minute and the Connacht champions set about clawing their way back into the game.

They scored the next two points from Ger Brady and Alan Dillon before Moran scored the goal he reportedly promised his manager beforehand, in the 51st minute. In the space of four minutes, the Dublin lead had been trimmed to two points. It was Moran’s first goal in the championship and it was the first one Dublin had conceded in the 2006 competition.

Substitute Andy Moran scored Mayo's all-important goal

The superb Kevin O’Neill, who played with Na Fianna in Dublin at the time, brought them back to within one before Dillon had them level with a quarter of the match remaining.

Dublin were really struggling to cope with the momentum shift and were behind after a Conor Mortimer free gave Mayo the lead in what Kevin McStay described on TV as "the match of the decade."

It took Dublin ten minutes to equalise but they managed it through Alan Brogan and then Ciaran McDonald slotted over his second point of the match to give Mayo a one-point lead and three minutes to hang onto it.

Mossy Quinn had been taken off so substitute Mark Vaughan took over the place-kicking duties in added time as Dublin chased another equaliser. He had a ’45 punched away by David Clarke and hit a long-range wide with close to the last kick of the match.

One hundred years after they first met, Mayo had their first championship win over Dublin and set up a repeat of the 2004 All-Ireland final against Kerry.

Alas, for Mayo fans, the outcomes in the deciders would follow similar patterns.