Kildare’s ambitions of forcing their way into the semi-final places are now firmly back on track, a week after they were blitzed by Dublin.
Ironically, in the early stages here it looked like they were going to pick up where they left off at Croke Park; Mayo ran rings around the visitors in the first quarter and were six points up at their leisure.
However, Kildare eventually got up and running with a powerful performance from Daniel Flynn, some fine scores from Seanie Johnston, and Eoin Doyle’s crucial goal proving decisive when all was said and done.
“I didn’t think there would be much of a residual effect from last week but there clearly was,” said Kieran McGeeney afterwards.
“It was frustrating to see fellas go into their shell a wee bit but as the game wore on they started to believe in themselves a wee bit more. We gave away a big lead, but played ourselves back into the game.”
It was yet another frustrating night for Mayo, who face the prospect of relegation ahead of must win matches with Donegal and Cork in the weeks ahead. This latest defeat means they have now lost four successive league games for the first time since 1994.
Despite getting off to a flying start, opening their opponents up at will and kicking eye-catching scores, Mayo lost their way spectacularly for the rest of the evening. James Horan watched his team shoot 14 wides and fail to score a goal for the sixth time in their last seven league and championship games.
Understandably the mood was downbeat afterwards among the home fans in the crowd of 6,572, and it was the same in the Mayo dressing-room.
“It was massively frustrating and hugely disappointing,” admitted selector, Tom Prendergast.
“The first 20-25 minutes we played really good football, what we’ve been working towards. We got ourselves into a really good position. There was a bad refereeing decision. We took the next play off, and Kildare got a goal.
“We missed a lot of opportunities, but it’s the fourth narrow defeat in a row, from the fourth game we could have won.”
There was no doubt that this yet another example of Mayo’s recent and worrying inability to win close encounters. They put on an exhibition of attacking football in the early stages, moving the ball quickly and clocking up scores from Evan Regan, Jason Doherty, Cathal Carolan (two) and Colm Boyle (two).
At that stage Kildare looked to be in dire straits but the impressive Niall Kelly finally opened their account, and they came roaring back into contention.
The refereeing decision referred to by Mayo selector Tom Prendergast came in the 30th minute when Martin Higgins awarded a free against Jason Doherty inside the Kildare half, even though the Mayo attacker seemed to have been fouled, and the ball was swept downfield.
Mayo seemed to switch off for a moment and Johnny Doyle pounced to set up wing-back Eoin Doyle who palmed the ball past the despairing dive of David Clarke. It turned out to be the game’s defining score, and Kieran McGeeney agreed it was the moment the tide turned.
“I know people were giving out about the free kick but I don’t know how Peter [Kelly] was running for the ball with both arms in the air and his jersey was on the ground being pulled,” he said.
Leading 1-5 to 0-7 at the break, Kildare kicked on during the third quarter and tagged on four points with Daniel Flynn playing an instrumental role at midfield.
At the other end Mayo continued to rack up wides from scoreable positions on a night to forget for their free-takers, Jason Doherty and Kevin McLoughlin.
Cillian O’Connor came off the bench to land two place-kicks in the closing stages and Tom Cunniffe fired over a score from play, but they paid a heavy price for their inefficiency.
Scorers for Kildare: S Johnston 0-4 (1f), E Doyle 1-0, N Kelly 0-2, J Doyle (1f), D Flynn, P Brophy, F Dowling, E O’Flaherty 0-1 each.
Scorers for Mayo: E Regan 0-3 (1f), J Doherty 0-2 (1f), C Carolan, C Boyle, C O’Connor (2fs) 0-2 each, T Cunniffe, K McLoughlin (f) 0-1 each.
Subs for Kildare: F Dowling for Doyle, D Hyland for Bolton, T O’Connor for Johnston, E O’Flaherty for M O’Flaherty.
Subs for Mayo: J Gibbons for A O’Shea, E Varley for Conroy, C O’Connor for Regan, R Feeney for Carolan.
Referee: M Higgins (Fermanagh).