THE least impressive of Kerry’s four victories in the National Football League left manager Jack O’Connor frustrated in Tralee yesterday. And, there was the added concern about a knee injury to Marc Ó Se which will be assessed this morning, although the player is optimistic about a quick return.
If the Kerry boss was irritated, Mayo manager John O’Mahony was downright annoyed at what he termed the ‘crazy’ scheduling of the U-21 championship which prevented him from starting any of the five players who had lined out against Galway on Saturday.
“How in the name of God can we talk about burn-out in the GAA when we have the Sigerson, the U-21 and the NFL heaped up on each other,’’ he questioned.
There were a lot of praiseworthy individual home performances in different sectors – Tom O’Sullivan and Tommy Griffin, for instance, excelled on the left flank of the defence — and Kieran Donaghy along with Tomás Ó Se in the second half, was hugely influential.
But, on the day, Colm Cooper’s outstanding form (which yielded eight points) made the difference.
O’Connor didn’t need to articulate his disappointment with the overall display, because it showed on his face when he spoke to the media. After the big wins away to Tyrone and Derry, he suggested his players were ‘not as tuned in’ for a game which he had perceived to be ‘a banana skin.’ “It’s easier to tune in when you are away, because the players are together the night before and the morning of the game,’’ he explained.
And, indicating that the job of trying to come up with a ‘settled’ team and squad was very much a work in progress, he commented: “there was a lot of lateral passing around the middle of the field, with no real penetration. In many ways, it’s a good thing to win a game and get a kick up the a**e as well!’’
Kerry had to contend with a Mayo game-plan which had corner-forward Kieran Conroy marking Donaghy, with late replacement Pat Harte regularly dropping back from midfield. It meant Padraig Reidy (initially) was free in a Kerry defence which was dominant over the first 20 minutes until the visiting forwards got a better supply of ball.
Donaghy got the game’s opening score in the 11th minute and Kerry had two more on the board before a gradual Mayo recovery produced a well-take point from Ronan McGarrity who, with the help of Harte’s pace and ability in the air, had become more involved around the middle, further aided by the mobility of their half-backs.
However, it was noteworthy that Mayo never managed to even draw level, despite promising play from Trevor Mortimer, Alan Dillon and Austin O’Malley (their best forward over the two halves).
Admittedly things might have been different had Dillon not been foiled in a good goal attempt by Reidy in the 7th minute and by Diarmuid Murphy 20 minutes later.
Most of Kerry’s forward play revolved around Donaghy and Cooper, which meant that the half-forwards were often redundant – even though Declan O’Sullivan got in some very good work in the centre. However, it wasn’t until the quality of ball coming into the full-forward line improved that the threat increased.
At the break it was 0-8 to 0-4 and over the course of the second half – in which Mayo had the margin down to a point after six minutes and twice came to within two points before the final whistle – there were times when Kerry looked in trouble because of the combination of unforced errors, sloppy passing and aimless kicking.
With Cooper again to the forefront and Darran O’Sullivan hitting a marvellous point in the 55th minute, Kerry were to manage just one more score in remaining time.
More positively, Tomas Ó Se was outstanding at half-back, Anthony Maher got in some very good work at midfield and Tadhg Kennelly – one of three substitutions made in the 48th minute – was energetic, supportive and strong in the tackle.
In the circumstances, they were fortunate Mayo didn’t make better use of the chances that came their way, with wing-back Andy Moran consolidating his good form with two scores. Notably, O’Malley didn’t fare as well after Reidy moved to full-back and Conor Mortimer continued to struggle against the confident Tom O’Sullivan.
Marc Ó Se was off the field (in obvious pain and holding his left knee after a challenge with minor star Aodhan O’Shea) when Mayo almost stole a goal in the 65th minute. O’Shea broke down the ball at the edge of the square and Conor Mortimer attempted to play it on the ground. But, the danger was averted when Murphy reacted quickly and come off his line and smother the shot. After that, a Kerry win was guaranteed.
*A minute’s silence was observed in memory of Mick Murphy from Ventry who played a starring role in the famous 1955 All-Ireland win over Dublin and captained the county to victory in the Munster final three years later.
Scorers for Kerry: C. Cooper 0-8 (0-3 frees); K. Donaghy and Darran O’Sullivan 0-2 each; M. Quirke 0-1.
Scorers for Mayo: A. O’Malley, C. Mortimer (0-2 frees) and A. Moran 0-2 each; R. McGarrity, P. Harte, A. Dillon (free), A. Kilcoyne and T. Mortimer 0-1 each.
KERRY: D. Murphy; P. Reidy, A. O’Shea, T. O’Sullivan; T. Ó Sé, M. Ó Sé, T. Griffin; A. Maher, M. Quirke; P. Galvin, Declan O’Sullivan, D. Walsh; C. Cooper, K. Donaghy, Darran O’Sullivan (capt.).
Subs: A. O’Mahony for A. O’Shea, S. Scanlon for Quirke and T. Kennelly for Walsh (48); D. Bohane for Griffin (56); R. Ó Flatharta for M. Ó Se (injured, 65; K. O’Leary for Darran O’Sullivan (66).
MAYO: D. Clarke; L. O’Malley, G. Cafferkey, C. Barrett; P. Gardiner, T. Cunniffe, A. Moran; P. Harte, R. McGarrity; M. Ronaldson, T. Mortimer, A. Dillon; C. Mortimer, A. O’Malley, K. Conroy.
Subs: A. Kilcoyne for Ronaldson (52); A. O’Shea for Dillon (65).
Referee: P. Fox (Westmeath).
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