The game looked to be going Mayo’s way when they led by six point with seven minutes left, but they had to live on their nerves as Kerry reduced the deficit to the minimum, had a goal-bound shot deflected on to the post, and held their breath as Paul O’Connor had the distance but not the accuracy from a last minute 45.
Hindsight is a great thing, but the Kerry mentors will ask themselves why they didn’t bring on David Murphy earlier than they did. The Legion youngster led the Kerry revival when introduced 10 minutes from time and landed three excellent points. However, it would have been rough on Mayo had they lost, as they held the upper hand for most of the hour.
The sides shared four points in the opening five minutes but then Mayo midfielders Peter Collins and Dermot O’Connor took control and by the end of the opening quarter, they were marginally in front, 0-5 to 0-4.
The game lacked any real sparkle although Mayo were that bit more inventive and, following a sweeping move from defence, Aidan Campbell’s shot was deflected into his own net by Kerry corner-back Shane Enright. It proved to be the crucial score of the game and helped Mayo to an interval lead of 1-5 to 0-7.
The Westerners stretched their advantage with two excellent points after the break as Kerry began to struggle. However, the Kingdom were given a lifeline when Kieran O’Leary won a penalty for a leg block, but Mayo keeper Shane Nallen had little difficulty saving Paul O’Connor’s weak effort.
From that let-off Mayo swept downfield and had stretched their lead to 1-9 to 0-8 by the end of the third quarter. The winning post was clearly in sight when two further points were added.
Kerry finally made the desired substations, notably bringing on David Murphy, and, as Mayo sat back, Kerry came in waves, reducing the deficit to the minimum with time almost up.
There was still time to win the game or at least force a replay, but Kerry wasted two gilt-edged chances and Mayo hung on for a deserved victory.
: Mayo: P. O’Connor 0-4 (frees); S. Enright 1-0 (og); A. Campbell, C. Barrett, R. O’Boyle, P. Hanley, D. O’Shea, T. Cunniff, D. O’Connor, G. O’Boyle 0-1 each. Kerry: P. O’Connor 0-5 (0-1 free); K. O’Leary (0-1 free) D. Murphy 0-3 each; T. Garvey 0-2; P. Curran 0-1.
: G. Kissane, C. O’Mahony, K. Young, S. Enright; G. Duffy, M. Moloney, S. Lynch; K. Brennan, A. O’Sullivan; J. Falvey, M. O’Donoghue, P. Curran; T. Garvey, P. O’Connor, K. O’Leary. Subs: Aidan O’Sullivan for Lynch; B. Looney for Garvey; E. MacGearailt for Alan O’Sullivan; D. Murphy for Falvey; M. Boyle for O’Donoghue.
: S. Nallen; P. Healy, G. Cafferkey, D. Conway; C. Barrett, T. Cunniff, D. Hughes; P. Collins, D. O’Connor; P. Hanley, A. Campbell, D. Kilcullen; G. O’Boyle, P. O’Connor, R. O’Boyle. Subs. D. O’Shea for Conway; J. Noone for D. O’Connor.
: D Fahy (Longford).