Referee Maurice Deegan deemed that Rob Hennelly had felled Darran O’Sullivan in the large parallelogram. The goalkeeper felt that he had been charged by the Kerry forward. Kerry manager Jack O’Connor thought otherwise and replays indicated that both he and Deegan were right.
Five league games have passed since that late penalty goal, by Bryan Sheehan, in Castlebar, swung the game the visitors’ way. Kerry’s dominance in summer bouts with Mayo is unquestioned, but, since February, 2011, it’s been a tale of disappointment and missed opportunity for Kerry in the counties’ spring tussles.
In Austin Stack Park, the following season, Sheehan again came to Kerry’s rescue, to salvage a point against 14-man Mayo, after Lee Keegan was shown two yellow cards. A week later, the pair again couldn’t be separated after 70 minutes, in the Division 1 semi-final in Croke Park. Kerry were in full control, before a misdirected crossfield kick, by Kieran Donaghy, in front of the Kerry goal, was picked up by Alan Dillon and he was brought down by Paul Galvin, for a penalty from which substitute, Pat Harte, converted a goal.
A Cillian O’Connor pointed free, in additional time, then forced extra-time. After Colm Boyle’s goal handed Mayo the initiative, Sheehan once more had a chance to save Kerry and force a replay with extra-time, but struck it wide.
The pair’s next Division 1 meeting, in Castlebar, in 2013, was Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s first in charge and it proved to be a forgettable one. Kerry failed to score for the entirety of the second-half, going down by six points. The visitors went 43 minutes without scoring.
Returning to Elverys MacHale Park the following season, Kerry made a slightly better fist of it, but still lost, as they again slumped dramatically in the second-half, scoring a measly 1-2. They were able to absorb two first-half Mayo goals, but failed to raise a flag from the 50th minute onwards.
Kerry have become synonymous with slow league starts under Fitzmaurice — they have lost all four round-one matches during his tenure. The third of them came in Fitzgerald Stadium 13 months ago, where their challenge was punctured by Alan Freeman and Kevin McLoughlin goals. Trailing by six points at half-time, Kerry again lost the second-half, if only by the minimum.
Their league record against Mayo, particularly having lost their last two clashes in Castlebar, is the type of itch that needs scratching, as Marc Ó Sé indicated earlier this week: “Hopefully, we get a result up there next weekend. It would be lovely. We haven’t got a result up there in a while.”
Ó Sé acknowledged that trumping a previously unbeaten Donegal, last Sunday, mattered more than two points: “There are definitely games you look back on and you say ‘do you know what? That’s a game that stood to Kerry’. We’re going to take stuff from that game, going forward. It will give fellas who are just in the panel that bit more confidence, hopefully.”
You can imagine coming away from Castlebar with a result on Sunday would mean even more for Kerry.