Spillane points Kerry towards title

Kerry 1-14 Mayo 2-07

Spillane points Kerry towards title

That was back in 1994 and Russell only came on as a sub in Kerry’s final win over Galway before going on to enjoy a successful senior career.

Exactly two decades on, Kerry are back in just their fourth final since and still searching for that elusive 12th title.

Killian Spillane, the son of another former Kerry player, Tom, and a nephew of Pat, did most to advance their cause this time.

The full-forward shot six points while Jordan Kiely scored the all-important goal to secure a final clash with Donegal or Dublin back at Croke Park next month.

Kerry last competed in a final in 2006 when current manager Jack O’Connor was guiding the seniors to All-Ireland glory.

They lost to Roscommon in a replay that year and will need to improve considerably on yesterday’s display if they’re to gain the crown they crave.

They led by seven with time almost up yesterday so the four-point winning margin was a little deceptive as TJ Byrne scored his and Mayo’s second goal in the 62nd minute.

But Kerry still kicked away a lot of scores earlier in the game. O’Connor agreed afterwards that they missed a potential 1-6 before scoring their first point after 19 minutes.

The opening half was painfully tight and error-ridden, with holders Mayo and Munster champions Kerry hitting just seven points between them, and only three from play.

Enda Gilvarry’s Mayo took a slender 0-4 to 0-3 lead into the interval though their play wasn’t exactly sparkling.

All but one of their points came from placed balls, with the excellent Gary Boylan, probably Mayo’s best player, notching two of them.

Mayo were superbly led by captain Cian Hanley, but the full-forward was taken off with a knee injury just 25 minutes into this contest.

He crumpled in pain on three different occasions after jarring his left knee during an awkward fall.

It was a bad blow for Mayo though Hanley’s replacement, Liam Byrne, did have an immediate impact, winning the free that Boylan converted to leave them one ahead at the break.

Referee Sean Hurson drew derisive cheers from both sets of fans as he handed out a total of 28 first-half frees, 16 to Kerry.

The Kingdom levelled it up for the third time after the restart at 0-4 apiece with a Miceal Burns point.

He split the posts from an acute angle on the right before Spillane nudged them ahead for the first time.

Kerry doubled their advantage soon after with their third point on the trot, this time from industrious substitute Liam Carey who fisted them 0-6 to 0-4 ahead.

Kiely should have put clear daylight between the teams in the 40th minute but curled a goal attempt just wide.

He made amends two minutes later when he fisted in from close range after a ball in from Burns. It stemmed from a great rob on Mayo forward Boylan by Cormac Coffey at the other end.

But Kerry’s 1-7 to 0-5 lead was almost wiped out as Mayo responded with 1-1 inside 90 seconds, Byrne netting his first goal after a great one-two with Matthew Ruane.

The game was a thrilling, open encounter now, in total contrast to the first-half.

Kerry were settled by back to back points from Matthew Flaherty and Spillane and led 1-9 to 1-6.

But Kiely wasted a 49th minute penalty chance and Boylan pointed for Mayo from the resulting kick out to leave two in it again.

But Kerry killed off Mayo in the closing minutes, shooting five points in a row, with two more from Carey who made a strong case for inclusion from the start on final day.

Kerry were entirely dominant in this period though Mayo did sneak a second goal right at the death.

Sharoize Akram floated in a ball from a free and Byrne got up just ahead of colleague Brian Reape to flick the ball to the Kerry net.

But Kerry had already done enough to end their eight-year wait for a final place and, if they can improve for the final, they can also end that 20-year gap for outright success.

Scorers for Kerry: K Spillane (0-6, three frees), J Kiely (1-0), L Carey (0-3), M O’Connor, B Burns, M Flaherty, T Ó Sé and S Ryan (0-1 each).

Scorers for Mayo: TJ Byrne (2-0), G Boylan (0-4, three frees), C Hanley (one free), F Duffy and B Reape (0-1 each).

KERRY: Shane Ryan (Rathmore); D O’Donoghue (Spa), B O Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht), T O’Sullivan (Dingle); C Coffey (Kerins O’Rahillys), A Barry (Na Gaeil), B Sugrue (Renard); B O’Sullivan (Dingle), M O’Connor (Dingle); M Flaherty (Dingle), B Rayle (Lispole), M Burns (Dr Crokes); J Kiely (Dr Crokes), K Spillane (Templenoe), T Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht).

Subs: L Carey for Rayle (h/t), L Kearney for Flaherty (46), R Wharton for Sugrue (53), S O’Sullivan for Kiely (56), I Parker for Spillane (62), Sean Ryan for Burns (62).

MAYO: M Flanagan (Balla); E O’Donoghue (Belmullet), S Cunniffe (Ballaghaderreen), C Kilkenny (Aghamore); J Forkan (Kiltimagh), B Duffy (Balla), S Conlon (Castlebar Mitchels); G Walsh (Breaffy), M Ruane (Breaffy); G Boylan (Belmullet), TJ Byrne (Kiltimagh), S Akram (Ballaghaderreen); F Duffy (Crossmolina), C Hanley (Ballaghaderreen), B Reape (Bohola Moy Davitts).

Subs: L Byrne for Hanley (25), S Brennan for Kilkenny (41, black card), D Clarke for Forkan (47), K Hopkins for Ruane (50), J Reilly for Duffy (59), D Cannon for Conlon (62).

Referee: S Hurson (Tyrone).

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