There was that resilient second-half display against Fermanagh where they hit 1-10 while, in the process, restricting Pete McGrath’s side to a meagre two points.
Neither, though, came anywhere close to the 10 minutes of near-perfect football produced by this Mayo bunch directly before half-time on Saturday evening.
Kildare, having shown little by the way of confidence or purpose in the opening exchanges, had grown tentatively into this third round qualifier and two apiece from Morgan O’Flaherty and Neil Flynn, coupled with Kevin Feely’s dominance at midfield, cut the deficit to the minimum by the 21st minute – 0-6 to 0-5. A quarter of an hour would pass, however, before they’d add to their tally and by the time Neil Flynn landed an early second-half ‘45, their summer was already over.
An Evan Regan free was the first score in Mayo’s breakaway spell and the alarm in the Kildare defence was triggered for a second time — a Donal Vaughan goal chance on 19 minutes had somehow been kept out— when Andy Moran’s crossfield pass put Diarmuid O’Connor in the clear. That they were again overlooked for a penalty had the Mayo players incensed. Wheel, full circle and all of that.
Mind you, Aidan O’Shea pleaded not guilty when breaking his silence on that controversial penalty decision against Fermanagh.
“The national broadcasters only brought one camera down, it was disappointing there was only one angle to show,” O’Shea said. “Everyone gets to see something in the flash second but my conscience is clear, I didn’t flop. It was probably more difficult for my family over the last couple of days.”
Mayo’s intensity and ferocity of tackling at the back were quite noticeable from the off and when this level of power-play was replicated by their forward division, Kildare didn’t stand a chance. Andy Moran’s goal-bound shot was well smothered by Ciarán Fitzpatrick on 29 minutes, but the Mayo full-forward did manage to get a toe to the ball at the second attempt and this was sufficient to take it into the path of Evan Regan who bundled it into the net.
Regan brought his tally to 1-2 thereafter and Mayo celebrated a second goal on 33 minutes, Diarmuid O’Connor negotiating a path past six white shirts when carrying the ball from the 45-metre line to the edge of the Kildare square. His drop-kick finish was a pretty tasty cherry on top. Regan almost bagged a third in first-half stoppages, but Kildare ‘keeper Mark Donnellan spread himself well to deflect the corner forward’s shot over the crossbar.
The interval scoreline read Mayo 2-9, Kildare 0-5; the strong home contingent in the crowd of 14,557 fairly content.
Asked if this 2-3 burst was their most polished passage of play during Championship 2016, Stephen Rochford nodded in agreement.
“Donal Vaughan had an opportunity leading up to that, Diarmuid had come in on another one too. We were starting to create that overlap and starting to get inside Kildare. In some ways, you feel it is coming, but until you see the green flag go up you have that concern,” said the Mayo manager.
“I thought we were a lot stronger in the tackle, we brought a good intensity to the game, but it wasn’t necessarily reflected in the scoreboard (early on).
“To get those two big scores was certainly critical and gave us that platform to control the game better in the second-half.”
The second period, as expected, was a non-event. Mayo went back down through the gears and while Kildare, led by sub Fionn Dowling who kicked three second-half points, reeled off four points without reply to reduce the gap to seven – 2-14 to 0-13 – on 57 minutes, the Lilywhites never looked like producing goals.
“Even though Kildare won the second-half 0-9 to 0-8, I thought we controlled it fairly well,” continued Rochford. “We were maybe a little reckless in front of goal. We could have tagged on another score or two in the second-half. The challenge for us in two weeks when we come up against a provincial loser and the quality that will be there is to turn our performance into a 70-minute consistent performance. We are probably at 40, 45 minutes and I don’t think, against the level of opposition that we could potentially be playing, that that will be good enough. We are still a notch or two down from what our potential is as a team. We are moving in the right direction.”
D O’Connor (1-5); E Regan (1-4, 0-1 free); C O’Connor (0-2 frees), J Doherty (0-2 each); K Higgins, P Durcan, C O’Shea, A Freeman (0-1 each).
N Flynn (0-5, 0-2 frees, 0-1 ‘45); F Dowling (0-3); M O’Flaherty (0-2); K Cribbin, A Smith (0-1 free), C McNally, J Byrne (0-1 each).
D Clarke; B Harrison, K Keane, K Higgins; C Boyle, L Keegan, P Durcan; S O’Shea, D Vaughan; D O’Connor, A O’Shea, K McLoughlin; E Regan, A Moran, C O’Connor.
S Coen for Keane (41 mins, inj); A Dillon for Moran (48); B Moran for Boyle (52, bc); J Doherty for Harrison (63); A Freeman for Regan (65); C O’Shea for D O’Connor (68).
M Donnellan; O Lyons, D Hyland, C Fitzpatrick; J Byrne, E Doyle, E Bolton; T Moolick, F Conway; C McNally, K Feely, E O’Flaherty; M O’Flaherty, N Flynn, N Kelly.
K Cribbin for M O’Flaherty (HT); F Dowling for Bolton (HT); A Smith for E O’Flaherty (44 mins); E Callaghan for McNally (49); P Kelly for Fitzpatrick (52); C Healy for Flynn (65).
D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).