That it didn’t come in the championship places an asterisk beside it but as psychological boosts go, it won’t be dismissed all that quickly.
Although Kerry were carrying a half a dozen sick bodies, Mayo will glean a lot of encouragement from fighting back twice to deny Kerry a first league final since 2008. The second occasion in extra-time saw a revival conjured up by Colm Boyle, who fashioned a goal almost out of nothing.
By the time the wing-back angled a shot far from Brendan Kealy’s reach, he had three Kerry defenders around him but he looked the least bit daunted.
Halfway into the second 10-minute period, it put Mayo in the ascendancy and substitute Richie Feeney glided over the winning score in the final minute.
There was still time for Bryan Sheehan to make a stab at a difficult 45 attempt but his strike was wide of the mark. Jack O’Connor didn’t appear all that bothered afterwards but here were Kerry again coughing up late leads in Croke Park when they looked anything but troubled.
With Sheehan from frees and Barry John Keane each dropping over a couple, Kerry were 1-17 to 1-14 ahead prior to Boyle’s goal.
They began additional time much better than they had finished normal time when a Cillian O’Connor free levelled things up 1-13 apiece after Darran O’Sullivan had fouled the Mayo substitute.
Before that, Pat Harte struck home an almighty penalty following Kieran Donaghy’s ambulance ball across Kealy’s goal in the direction of Alan Dillon.
Paul Galvin, who might have been blown up for fouling Kevin McLoughlin in the large rectangle moments earlier, felled Dillon in a desperate attempt to clean up Donaghy’s mistake.
It was an unforced error and so out of sync with a Kerry effort that had eventually come alive after a shaky start which saw them fall five points behind after 14 minutes.
Sheehan’s booming 62nd-minute free had put them four points up after Mayo had responded with a brace to James O’Donoghue’s ground-kick goal.
Donaghy may have been a culprit but he was a nuisance to Mayo in the build-up to that goal and his fingerprints were all over Kerry’s three previous scores after moving from the wing to full-forward. He also laid off the ball to Darran O’Sullivan who was denied a goal in the 45th minute by an impressive David Clarke stop.
For those 20 minutes in which Kerry collected 1-5, Mayo were scoreless, having led Kerry 0-9 to 0-7 at the interval.
Kerry’s start had been sluggish and Mayo gleefully vacuumed up a handful of wayward passes around their 40 as Kerry attempted to attack. Their full-back line wasn’t getting much protection either and Conor Mortimer had four points to his name by the 10th minute.
Two of them came from placed balls with his fourth a deftly-taken snapshot after Michael Conroy had threaded through a tasty pass.
A Dillon punt put Mayo 0-6 to 0-1 up, which was just rewards for their positive attitude, as opposed to Kerry who were taking plenty out of the ball.
They woke up with a flurry of scores, Colm Cooper the first of the full-forwards in succession to shoot over.
Kerry were back on level terms via Sheehan in the 29th minute. A third Mortimer free gave Mayo some more breathing space before Cooper punished a foul on Marc Ó Sé and Sheehan slid one over from play to tie things up.
Andy Moran then benefited from a slip from Galvin after a poor pass to power a strike just over Kealy’s bar and Mortimer followed his example when he took advantage of a McLoughlin burst to add his sixth.
Despite a fightback, Kerry’s listlessness was eventually punished.
Mayo won’t be throwing this win back any time soon.
Scorers for Mayo: C Mortimer 0-7 (4fs), C Boyle 1-1, P Harte (pen) 1-0, A Dillon, C O’Connor (f) 0-2 each; A Moran, A Higgins, R Feeney 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kerry: B Sheehan 0-6 (5fs), C Cooper 0-4 (3f)s, J O’Donoghue 1-0, BJ Keane 0-2, P Curtin, K O’Leary, A Maher, P Galvin, D O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Subs for Mayo: P Harte for Doherty (33), E Varley for Conroy (48), D Geraghty for B Moran (56), R Feeney for Gibbons, C O’Connor for Mortimer (both 70), A Campbell for Harte (85), Conroy for Dillon (90).
Subs for Kerry: J O’Donoghue for O’Leary (43), D Walsh for Curtin, E Brosnan for O’Mahony (both 47), J Lyne for McGuire (74), BJ Keane for Young (inj 78), J Buckley for Crowley (inj 83).
Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois).