Plenty of punches but no knockout

Kerry 2-14 Mayo 2-14: RTÉ TV’s attempts to secure an on-field interview immediately after the final whistle here were all in vain. None of the protagonists wished to talk. None of them could be blamed. Nothing, after all, had been won.

The only talking being done was far away from the microphones in the Cusack Stand/Hill 16 corner of the pitch as Kerry and Mayo players squared up to each other with puffed-out chests as if to claim psychological bragging rights ahead of the replay.

Who has them? Well, Kerry will surely benefit from an extra 79 minutes of football when their three outings up to now had been dwarfed by Mayo’s seven. They can point to 2014 as one of the several times when they have ate the cherry whole when offered a second bite of it and when the dust settles, they will be relieved that they have another opportunity.

As for Mayo, the team that go by the synonyms of perennial bridesmaids and kingmakers, there will be little to gain from knowing they were the better team when it wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard.

Having said that, their form continues to rise and a first-half return of seven scores from 17 opportunities, when they could have crushed Kerry, is a statistic they can improve.

An extra match won’t jade Mayo — not this close to the summit — and Kerry will appreciate that.

This year’s sport has seen some pretty hollow draws, the New Zealand-Lions third test being the most obvious, but when these sides were level on 12 occasions, an ultimate draw wasn’t so much fair as reflective of the general play — both teams amassed 10 wides — even if Mayo had more reasons to be rueful.

Going into yesterday, they had played over 320 minutes more championship football than Kerry and they were withdrawing plenty from that bank of action in the first half. To attain that elusive All- Ireland, they will have to at least replicate Tyrone’s marathon run of 12 years ago but the more miles they clock, the better their engine appears to run.

They hot-trotted into this semi-final when Andy Moran bulged the net in the fifth minute. Cillian O’Connor wasn’t able to gather a diagonal ball but three Kerry players had committed to O’Connor while Moran stole behind and belted the ball past Brian Kelly.

The positioning of Lee Keegan on the half-forward line and Aidan O’Shea at full-back appeared to unruffle Kerry who had lined out in orthodox fashion. The yawning gap between Kerry’s full-back and half-back line looked ripe for plucking but the next goal in the 13th minute was Kerry’s, Stephen O’Brien doing well to collect a ball on his shoulder from Kieran Donaghy after Seamus O’Shea was turned over in the centre.

The score brought Kerry level and they followed it up with another couple of points, Killian Young looping over a point and then James O’Donoghue availing of a neat pass through from Peter Crowley.

But then Mayo hit them for 1-3 in the space of five minutes, beginning with a Moran point and then followed by Colm Boyle’s 20th minute goal. Boyle benefited from his marker slipping but he was clever in dummy passing to Keegan before rifling his shot.

Kerry may have recorded clean sheets against Cork and Galway but that didn’t tell the tale of how those teams combined had totalled nine goal-scoring chances. With their first two opportunities, Mayo converted although they were thwarted three times in the 23rd minute when O’Connor twice and Moran were halted by a combination of desperate Kerry defending before the evergreen Moran registered a point.

Moran truly was a wonder in the first half but then Jason Doherty, linking up between the half and full-forward lines, was just as deadly in servicing them.

A third goal would have pushed them six points ahead but that Moran point turned out to be the last of the half for them as Kerry recovered, led by Donaghy who was showing himself to be just as effective on the ground as in the air. Donaghy was Kerry’s only scorer from play for the remainder of the half as Geaney sent over three frees, Mayo struggling to gain any foothold from David Clarke’s kick-out after conceding a score.

Kerry were blessed to be level at the interval, 1-8 to 2-5, and their management knew it too. A fifth of their team had been replaced by the beginning of the second half and while Geaney opened up the scoring on the resumption Mayo enjoyed another purple patch with four points on the bounce. Whether it was isolating the Kerry full-back line or creating overlaps, they were prospering.

They led by three when David Moran in the 46th minute dissected the Mayo rearguard and while his strike was parried by Clarke, Johnny Buckley was on hand to finish it to the net to level matters. Another Geaney point followed and the initiative had changed hands once more.

Kerry went ahead a further two times before the end and Mayo jumped ahead once in the 61st minute when Cillian O’Connor boomed over a beauty. Clarke had to be on his toes to keep out Jack Barry in the 53rd minute.

There were no scores for six minutes prior to Paul Murphy kicking Kerry’s last point, Geaney doing so well to lay it on for him. Kerry had won a free when they fouled it, Mayo working the ball up for Paddy Durcan to equalise. Mayo won the following kick-out only for Tadhg Morley to intercept a Tom Parsons pass. Bryan Sheehan won himself a free off Donie Vaughan but the distance and conditions were too difficult, even for a kicker of his quality and the ball landed into the hands of Aidan O’Shea.

Maurice Deegan called time to prompt a collective sigh as the counties for a third time in championship football couldn’t be divided after regulation time.

Kerry’s replay record can’t be discounted but then neither can Mayo’s stubbornness. Once more, then, with feeling.

Scorers for Kerry:

P. Geaney (0-7, 4 frees); S. O’Brien, J. Buckley (1-0 each); J. O’Donoghue (0-3, 2 frees); K. Young, K. Donaghy, B.J. Keane, P. Murphy (0-1 each).

Scorers for Mayo:

A. Moran (1-5); C. O’Connor (0-4, 1 free); C. Boyle (1-0); T. Parsons (0-2); J. Doherty, D. Vaughan, P.Durcan (0-1 each).

KERRY:

B. Kelly; S. Enright, M. Griffin, K. Young; P. Crowley, T. Morley, P. Murphy; D. Moran, A. Maher; M. Geaney, J. Buckley (c), S. O’Brien; J. O’Donoghue, K. Donaghy, P. Geaney.

Subs for Kerry:

J. Savage for M. Geaney (22); J. Barry for A. Maher, J. Lyne for M. Griffin (both h-t); D. O’Sullivan for J. Buckley (55); B.J. Keane for J. O’Donoghue (62); B. Sheehan for K. Donaghy (70+3).

MAYO:

D. Clarke; C. Barrett, A. O’Shea, B. Harrison; C. Boyle, D. Vaughan, K. Higgins; S. O’Shea, T. Parsons; D. O’Connor, L. Keegan, K. McLoughlin; C. O’Connor, J. Doherty, A. Moran.

Subs for Mayo:

P. Durcan for C. Boyle (43); S. Coen for S. O’Shea (59); D. Drake for D. O’Connor (68); C. Loftus for J. Doherty (70+4).

Referee:

M. Deegan (Laois).


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