The search is continuing this morning.
What’s concrete is that this was one of the poorest performances by a Kerry team since their All-Ireland semi-final loss to Meath in 2001.
In total, they went close to 43 minutes without raising either flag, Conor Cox’s 31st minute point, which had then put the visitors two points ahead.
Kerry aren’t the first team not to score in a second half of a league game in Castlebar. Such was the verbal abuse he received, Tomás Quinn was forced to change his phone number after a day to forget nine years ago this month when Dublin went the 35-plus minutes scoreless.
But this being Kerry, the general view of Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s early reign will be scrutinised more keenly after this setback.
And that’s exactly what it was. At the same time, maybe there will be a tad more sympathy for him and his management too. Kerry, at full strength, are a force but beyond their strongest 15 lies the problem, as was so acutely emphasised yesterday.
Fitzmaurice wasn’t going to question the faith he has in his young players, certainly not after one defeat, no matter how galling it was, but in hindsight it was a second rate Tipperary team Kerry had beaten in the previous weekend’s McGrath Cup final.
Having two clubs involved in All-Ireland series mightn’t affect a bottomless pool like Dublin’s but on top of injuries Kerry suffer without the likes of Messrs Cooper, Donaghy and Galvin.
What about Mayo? In recent weeks, James Horan has complained about the lack of credit dished out to his team.
If most of the attention is focused on Kerry this morning, he can have no qualms. Mayo weren’t super yesterday, just adequate, in inflicting a third consecutive defeat over their All-Ireland jinxes in front of the 7,124 crowd.
Up until the 63rd minute, Kerry were still in the game at least on the scoreboard, trailing 1-6 to 0-12, before Kevin McLoughlin and a brace from Enda Varley extended Mayo’s lead to six.
No, this was a defeat all of Kerry’s own making. All they could muster in the second half was two shots past David Clarke’s dead-ball line, the latter an awful effort from a Bryan Sheehan free.
Let’s not forget either that they had only two points to Mayo’s four by the 17th minute, despite a more than generous breeze at their backs. Having returned to collective training over four weeks ahead of Mayo, Fitzmaurice was only right not to blame fitness as an issue following the game.
Mayo’s full-forward line were spoilt by the amount of ball that came their way against the wind and the home side should have gone in at the break better than on level terms, 0-9 to 1-6.
As a spectacle, there wasn’t much to write about this affair either. If Kerry’s scoreless gap was yawning, Mayo contributed to the drabness by going 16 minutes without a point in the second half despite the favour of the wind.
There was also enough cynicism to go around but referee Padraig Hughes’ constant whistling did stagnate the flow of the game. Anthony Maher was shown to the line for a second yellow card offence in the 50th minute after becoming entangled with Aidan O’Shea, who was the stand-out midfielder on the afternoon.
Although four of his six backs picked up yellow cards, Horan could be pleased with his team’s discipline, the defence conceding just two frees in scoring areas which were both missed.
He was also satisfied with how his team began the game against the wind, James O’Donoghue’s slip through Shane McHale and Tom Cunniffe for Kerry’s goal the only real blot on their copybook.
“We started the game well and showed good intent and got some good scores early on,” said Horan. “We conceded a few soft goal chances and Kerry took one quite well but we responded and kept plugging away so I’m happy with a lot.”
Despite an experimental FBD Connacht League campaign and only a month’s worth of work done, Horan was confident his team would put together a display.
“I had a strong feeling we’d do well today but you never know until you play. We had a good meeting yesterday and went through a few things. That was talking about it — you have to go and do it but we did today so I’d be happy.”
Scorers for Mayo: J Doherty 0-6 (5fs), M Conroy, K McLoughlin (2fs) 0-3 each, E Varley 0-2, R Feeney 0-1.
Subs for Mayo: A Freeman for Freeman (ht), B Moran for S O’Shea (61), J Gibbons for A O’Shea (blood 63-65), E Varley for Feeney (blood, 66).
Scorers for Kerry: J O’Donoghue 1-0, M O’Donoghue 0-2, J Buckley (45), Darran O’Sullivan, A Maher, C Cox 0-1 each.
Subs for Kerry: B Sheehan for M Geaney, BJ Keane for Cox (both 43), A Garnett for Curtin (61), S O’Carroll for M O’Donoghue (65), S Enright (inj 71). Red card: A Maher (50, second yellow).
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh).