Amid all the talk of tactics, of Aidan O’Shea shadowing Kieran Donaghy and the in-game managerial machinations and substitutions, there was the inescapable sense of a game that refused to bend to the will of any one man or either county.
Like their semi-final draw in 2014, and the replay in Limerick, this was a mad, joyous dash to the finish and there can’t have been a soul left shocked by the fact that the pair were inseparable come the end.
It was simply too much fun not to go again and Eamonn Fitzmaurice didn’t disagree with the notion that these games - as with so many involving Mayo - like to march to the beat of their own drum.
“Definitely so, similar to three years ago, for sure, yes. They take on a life of their own. This was frantic, just a battle. That happens at this stage of the championship because the prize is huge and even looking at the hurling semi-finals, particularly Galway and Tipperary, it was similar to today’s game.
“Fellas were putting everything on the line because getting to play in an All-Ireland final is such a huge prize. There was the odd tactic here and there but I am not sure how effective they were today. It is a huge positive to get a test like that, to come through it, and to still be in the championship and hopefully it can help us again next weekend.”
Fitzmaurice did his best to put reins on it all. He had three substitutions made by the time the teams emerged from the second-half but the popular opinion was that Mayo’s use of Aidan O’Shea on Kieran Donaghy had framed the day.
Fitzmaurice wasn’t so sure, arguing that Kerry hadn’t changed the tone or direction of their attack to accommodate the sight of Mayo’s talismanic Breaffy man at the back, but he echoed many thoughts when hinting at O’Shea’s absence further up the field.
“With a player like that, if you give them a big job like that to do, it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. He obviously can’t be in two places at once. From the Mayo point of view, they’d be happy once he does the role that is assigned to him for the day.”
Happy is a relative term on the back of a draw. The Kerry manager hummed and hawed a bit when asked if his side had escaped from jail, pointing out that they led in injury-time, before ultimately accepting that there was something in that line of thinking.
They’ll surely return to Dublin 3 next weekend in better fettle. More steeled to the task. After all, comprehensive wins against Clare, Cork and Galway were no preparation for the madness that is a meeting with Mayo come August. “I couldn’t put a percentage on it but a game like that is invaluable because, regardless of what you try to do in training, which we do as intense as we possibly can, you can’t replicate that kind of championship do-or-die stuff. So it will benefit both teams for next weekend.”
Buckle up everybody.
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