A foul night but an immensely gratifying one for Mayo, who not only ended Kerry’s 100% Division One record in the Kingdom’s back yard, but got an unexpected favour from Tyrone to tee them up for a possible final repeat with Peter Keane’s side.
James Horan’s side showed the necessary nous at the appropriate moments in both halves to claim their fourth win of the campaign – and their most impressive. Tyrone’s victory at Croke Park means that a Mayo success next weekend at home to Monaghan guarantees them a place in the League decider.
Matthew Ruane’s 67th minute breakaway goal was the game’s decisive intervention, but the basis for the victory was set in the first period when they only trailed by three points at the break against the elements.
There were 10,218 in the ground and no one left as referee Niall Cullen signalled six additional minutes but Mayo would not be denied the previous two points, despite late scores from Kerry’s Sean O’Shea and the returning James O’Donoghue.
Though they leaked two points just before the interval, James Horan can’t have been displeased the efforts of his side in the first period, when they had four seasons in their face.
Indeed Mayo’s opening three points inside the first seven minutes felt more like a base camp for the second half as an early lead.
It isn’t the first occasion this season that Kerry looked a little shapeless and short of inventiveness up top, but they have invariably found a way. Peter Keane has created a lot of moving parts in the set-up, and though they might not all operate seamlessly, the Kerry manager has stressed ad nauseum that the League is a journey of discovery for the new management.
Some things don’t seem to change however – one being the form of Sean O’Shea, whose workload Kerry are surely monitoring more closely by the week. He claimed four of Kerry’s seven first half points, the last of them levelling matters on 22 minutes at 0-4 apiece. He would finish the game with six points.
Mayo, though, were tidy and pragmatic, and but for some loose passing in the final third could have established a more advantageous position for the second half, when they’d enjoy the benefit of the ferocious elements. Aidan O’Shea dropped in to sweep in the opening 35 minutes, and when he did advance, he combined well with Kevin McLoughlin, who grabbed two first half points. Indeed the Breaffy man showed a healthy appetite for graft in both halves, and was a significant driving force for Mayo, along with his club mate Fionn McDonagh.
Kerry were guilty of six wides in the first half, and weren’t getting best use of Gavin O’Brien in a target-man role in the opening quarter. The rookie Dara Moynihan didn’t have quite the frustrating half he seemed to imagine, but when virtually everything has been going to plan in your opening five games in green and gold, miscues can seem almost alien.
Kevin McCarthy has joined the Kerry set up late, but he clipped over two nice first half points.
However the most impressive home attacker beyond O’Shea was surely Walsh, whose mobility is a sight to behold for anyone aware of the struggles he has had with suspect hamstrings. He won an excellent mark and converted on 29 minutes as Kerry claimed the lead for the first time. By the interval there had advanced their position to 0-7 to 0-4, but the elements suggested they’d have a second half grind to protect their 100% league record.
So it proved. Jason Doherty edged Mayo 0-9 to 0-8 in front in the 55th minute and though O’Shea levelled, Ruane’s well finished goal proved decisive.
Scorers for Kerry: S O’Shea (0-6, 3 frees, 1 45), K McCarthy (0-2), T Walsh (0-1, mark), D O’Connor, J O’Donoghue (0-1 each)
Scorers for Mayo: J Doherty (0-5, 4 frees), M Ruane (1-1), K McLoughlin (0-2), F Boland, F McDonagh (0-1 each)
KERRY: 1 B Kelly; 2 P Crowley, 3 T Morley, 4 B O Beaglaoich; 5 G Crowley, 6 P Murphy, 7 T O’Sullivan; 8 J Barry, 9 M Griffin; 10 D Moynihan, 11 S O’Shea, 12 G O’Brien; 13 K McCarhy, 14 T Walsh, 15. S O’Brien.
Subs for Kerry: D O’Connor for McCarthy (46); T. O Se for Moynihan (48); J O’Donoghue for Walsh (58); A Spillane for Griffin (66); C Geaney for O’Brien (69)
MAYO: 1 D Clarke; 2 C Barrett, B Harrison, K Higgins; 5 S Coen, 6 M Plunkett, 7. D Vaughan; 8 M Ruane, 9 A O’Shea; 10 F McDonagh, 11 C Loftus, 12 D O’Connor; 13 K McLaughlin, 14 J Doherty, 15 J Durcan.
Subs for Mayo: F Boland for Loftus (50); A Moran for Durcan (56); L Keegan for Vaughan (63); C Boyle for Plunkett (69); R Hennelly for Clarke (70).
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh)