For the few enthralling games at this stage of the year, fewer are sealed by such epic finishes as the corner-forward’s sixth point of the game.
Just as Mayo had levelled up the game via a Kevin O’Loughlin free in the final minute, Kildare reacted the sharper to the restart, but it still needed that moment of inspiration from Brophy.
On Superbowl Sunday, James Horan appropriately described it as a “Hail Mary” shot, but such was the Celbridge man’s proficiency in scoring from difficult angles earlier in the game that the Mayo manager would have hardly backed against him converting his long range opportunity from the right wing.
It sent the sizeable Mayo travelling party in the 6,015 crowd home disappointed but Horan took plenty from the game, which he knew Kildare were better prepared for given their O’Byrne Cup run and early December return to training.
“It was disappointing to lose by a point but Mr Brophy was having one of those days, and it was a fantastic score at the end and we couldn’t handle him today. We tried a number of different guys and different things on him today but I’m happy with a lot of what we did.
“We’ve three training sessions down this year so to come out and play at that tempo… yeah we were full of mistakes but, to be honest, I expected a lot of those. We kept going, showed a lot of heart and grit and determination, it was just gut-wrenching to not get a point.”
Mayo, despite going six points behind three minutes into the second half, completed a seven-point turnaround in as many minutes. Two goals in the space of four minutes had restored parity, a perfectly weighted handpass by Adam Gallagher sending Jason Gibbons through to smash the ball to the net.
Andy Moran’s industry was integral to the second goal when he persevered in possession and found Darren Coen who avoided Michael Foley to beat Shane Connolly. And when Shane McHale lifted a ball over for a point in the 45th minute it appeared Mayo had overcome the setback of losing Aidan O’Shea to a first half black card.
Kildare, though, responded well and regained the lead seconds later when Eoghan O’Flaherty goaled. It was a score that typified the significance of the black card as none of the Mayo defenders in his vicinity dared put a hand on him as he honed in on Robert Hennelly’s goal.
Tit-for-tat scores followed before Mayo equalised in the 59th minute and, shortly after, going ahead via Kevin McLoughlin’s second point from play.
Kildare came back with two fisted points from Tomás O’Connor and Hugh McGrillen to take back the advantage until McLoughlin’s equaliser, which was trumped by Brophy’s wonder kick.
A happy Jason Ryan, who confirmed afterwards that Johnny Doyle will be available yet again to Kildare this year, realised the importance of the two points for the recent O’Byrne Cup winners.
“Kerry lost their first four games last year and they needed to win their last three to stay up, and when that happens to a powerhouse like Kerry... unfortunately we don’t have the same tradition as they have and yet that is how hard is was for them.
“We needed this win, we are going into the next game buoyant with six wins on the trot. Players are like everyone else, they thrive on positivity and when things are going your way, it is easier to train, to try new things and easier to ask them do a bit more and easier to take constructive criticism. Sometimes when you lose a game and you take constructive criticism, it is like you are being blamed for the loss.”
Kildare were four up at the break, 1-11 to 0-10, largely due to Brophy chipping in with four points and a 30th minute goal by O’Connor. A Darroch Mulhall ball towards the goal was seized by the full-forward and neither his marker Kevin Keane or Hennelly could do anything about his cool if slightly mis-hit shot.
Kildare had lost Paul Cribbin to a black card in the 16th minute, a potential kick in the teeth considering his great O’Byrne Cup form.
However, the loss of O’Shea appeared greater for Mayo as he dominated the centre in the first half, earlier setting up Mayo’s first two scores then knocking over the third.
Rob Hennelly was flawless in kicking three 45s, but the greater potency was shown by the Kildare attack, the half dozen of them all registering scores by the 32nd minute.
For a county criticised as much as their opponents of lacking forward firepower, it was a good day.
Scorers for Kildare: P Brophy (0-6), T O’Connor, E O’Flaherty (1-2), C McNally, D Mulhall (2 frees) (0-3), P Cribbin, S Hurley, H McGrillen (0-1).
Scorers for Mayo: K McLoughlin (0-8, 6 frees); A Gallagher (0-3, 1 free); R Hennelly (0-3 45s); J Gibbons, D Coen (1-0); A O’Shea, L Keegan, S McHale, D O’Connor (0-1).
KILDARE: S Connolly; M Foley, O Lyons, M O’Grady; P Cribbin, E Bolton, K Murnaghan; T Moolick, G White; C McNally, E O’Flaherty, S Hurley; D Mulhall, P Brophy, T O’Connor.
Subs for Kildare: D Hyland for P Cribbin (bc, 16), F Conway for O Lyons (inj 26), H McGrillen for E Bolton (55), D Flynn for T Moolick (62), S Hanafin for C McNally (63), M Conway for G White (70+1).
MAYO: R Hennelly; K Keane, G Cafferkey, C Boyle; L Keegan, S McHale, B Harrison; T Parsons, A O’Shea; C Carolan, K Higgins, A Gallagher; K McLoughlin, A Moran, D Coen.
Subs for Mayo: J Gibbons for T Parsons (blood sub, inj 8), B Gallagher for A O’Shea (black 35+1), D Drake for B Harrison (45), D O’Connor for D Coen (50), A Freeman for K Higgins (58), E Varley for A Gallagher (65), M Conroy for C Carolan (70+2).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).
The sides were level for a seventh time before Paddy Brophy shot his winning beauty in injury time, his sixth point of the game and all from play.
The 41 scores. Even if the calm weather helped, it was an unseasonally high total on February 2.
It mightn’t have mattered in the end but Mayo yet again took advantage of the blood sub loophole, using six substitutes on top of Tom Parsons’ replacement Jason Gibbons.
Neither were actually on the sideline, both preferring the stand, but James Horan surprisingly took off a couple of his better performers.
Two issued and both justified in our book. There were other borderline calls on trips that gave the benefit of the doubt to the offenders.
No question about it, Brophy was excellent. Some of his point-taking was extraordinary. A promising outing for Mayo’s Adam Gallagher too even if he was substituted.
A steady afternoon shift by Rory Hickey.
Mayo are on their travels again on Sunday, this time to Omagh. Kildare visit Cork the same afternoon.