Unlike 12 months ago, Kerry got their Super 8 campaign off to a roaring start with this annihilation of Mayo.
All the damage was done in the first-half as a ravenous home side led 0-15 to 0-6 returning back down the tunnel for the interval break. Consequently, the second-half was a bit of a non-event as the gap never came below eight points.
The win, while also preserving the county’s 24-year unbeaten championship record at Fitzgerald Stadium, puts Peter Keane’s side in a very strong position to reach the last four.
For Mayo, this was the first time they have lost in the Kingdom under the stewardship of James Horan. The westerners simply must beat Meath next weekend if they are to remain alive in the hunt for a semi-final effort.
Kerry’s first-half effort was nothing short of sublime. Their high press on the Mayo restart had David Clarke in all sorts of bother, the visitors coming off second best on almost every occasion the Ballina goalkeeper was forced to go long.
There was even one or two where he went short where they failed to retain possession, while another went straight over the sideline on the stand side.
Clarke, of course, wasn’t the sole man in green and red under pressure, the Mayo full-back having literally no answer to pace and movement of Paul Geaney, James O’Donoghue, and, in particular, David Clifford.
Brendan Harrison was detailed to start on the All-Star corner-forward but hardly lasted a quarter of an hour before being switched off Clifford, such was the destruction the latter was leaving in his wake.
Clifford was responsible for two of Kerry’s opening four points and although Cillian O’Connor and Fionn McDonagh sniped back-to-back white flags to reduce the margin to the deficit, the hosts would outscore their opponents by 0-10 to 0-1 over the next 22 minutes.
Following a Seán O’Shea free, stemming from a foul on Paul Geaney, Kerry won the resultant restart after Clarke went long. Geaney played a quick ball into Clifford, he was fouled, with O’Shea again obliging from the placed ball.
A third O’Shea free in-a-row left the scoreboard reading 0-7 to 0-4 and here followed Kerry’s most wasteful period of the half as a potential 1-3 was squandered.
A second goal chance, which fell to James O’Donoghue, was deflected over by Clarke to shove Peter Keane’s charges into a double-scores 0-8 to 0-4 advantage but a series of further restart malfunctions saw the gap extend out to 10 in jig time.
The pick of the Kerry scores during this run of total dominance was David Moran stepping back inside Donie Vaughan on the terrace side and planting the ball over the bar with his right foot. Moran was majestic in the first period, encapsulating a middle third effort where Kerry bullied their opponents with unrelenting ferocity.
Darren Coen’s 32nd-minute point was their first point in 16 minutes and in many instances, Horan’s charges had no one to blame but themselves as the final ball into their inside forwards was time and again atrocious.
Yes, the Kerry full-back line, who were rightly criticised following the Munster final, nullified the threat of Coen and Carr, but they were helped no end by the poor quality nature of the ball being sent into the Mayo forwards.
They enjoyed far greater success in this department upon the change of ends, but the goals they so desperately required were not forthcoming. Cillian O’Connor may have eclipsed Colm Cooper as the championship’s all-time leading scorer, but he was unable to best Shane Ryan from the penalty spot as the Kerry 'keeper tipped his drive over the bar.
The Kerry goal arrived on 57 minutes, yet another scorching Stephen O’Brien run ending with Paul Geaney palming to the net.
Now we wait to see can Kerry replicate this effort at GAA HQ in the coming weeks.
S O’Shea (0-7, 0-6 frees), D Clifford (0-7, 0-2 frees); P Geaney (1-2); S O’Brien (0-3); J O’Donoghue, G O’Sullivan, D Moran (0-1 each).
: C O’Connor (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 pen); D Coen (0-3); A Moran (0-2); C Treacy, F Boland, L keegan, F McDonagh (0-1 each).
S Ryan; T Morley, J Foley, T O’Sullivan; P Murphy, S Enright, G Crowley; D Moran, A Spillane; G White, S O’Shea, S O’Brien; J O’Donoghue, P Geaney, D Clifford.
Subs: D Moynihan for O’Donoghue (HT); G O’Sullivan for Enright (50); D O’Connor for Spillane (58); B Ó Beaglaoich for Foley (63); M Burns for Geaney (68); M Griffin for Crowley (71)
D Clarke; B Harrison, C Barrett, K Higgins; S Coen, L Keegan, C Boye; D Vaughan, A O’Shea; F McDonagh, K McLoughlin, J Doherty; J Carr, D Coen, C O’Connor.
Subs: S O’Shea for McDonagh (HT); A Moran for Carr (47); C Treacy for McLoughlin (48); F Boland for Coen (52); J McCormack for Keegan (60); E O’Donoghue for Barrett (6
S Hurson (Tyrone).