John O’Mahony: Lesser teams ‘don’t get rub of the relic’

A Dublin or Kerry player wouldn’t have been black-carded for the offence that saw Tipperary’s Robbie Kiely black-carded in last Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final, claims former Mayo manager John O’Mahony.

And the double All-Ireland winning manager suspects a comfortable Dublin win in Sunday’s second semi would mark the end of a Kerry era — though he is slow to rule out a Kingdom surprise.

“I was relieved with the victory, as a Mayo supporter. But my heart went out to Tipperary,” O’Mahony told the Irish Examiner GAA podcast.

“Robbie Kiely’s sending-off, while maybe technically by the letter of the law was right, was very, very harsh. I know from managing lesser teams at times — Leitrim and other teams I was involved with — that you don’t get the rub of the relic when you’re not one of the big teams.

“I couldn’t see, for instance, James McCarthy or Cian O’Sullivan [being] sent off in a similar situation to Robbie Kiely. That’s my impression.”

Of Sunday’s clash of the old rivals, O’Mahony said: “Some of us are around long enough to realise that you never write a Kerry team off.

“(But) if Dublin win this game easily or anything like the league final, I think it’s the end of this Kerry team. And a lot of names will go. But I believe there will be a dying kick in them.

“On evidence, you’d call Dublin, but the respect everyone around the country has for Kerry feels that there’s some rabbit in some hat that they can produce.”

The Mayo man, who also managed Galway to two All-Ireland titles, admits his home county’s performance in the semi-final win wasn’t impressive, though he hopes a stuttering campaign will go some way to dampening hype in the county ahead of a final with Kerry or Dublin.

“In the past, we have won All-Ireland semi-finals in emphatic style. In some respects, we fell over the line, but it was all about getting there and we are there now.

“In 1989, when we got there when I was manager, it was impossible to control the hype. I think it is more possible now. Going out to Galway, stuttering through. The reality is, if the Fermanagh game was at Brewster Park, I don’t think Mayo would be in the final now. They’d have been out.

“In my own days with Galway, we struggled past Derry in an All-Ireland semi-final in 2001, and Meath beat Kerry by 15 points in the other semi-final. And Galway won the final by nine points. The great thing about sport is it’s not an exact science.

“Mayo have found it difficult to carry the favourites’ tag. They’re more comfortable in an underdogs’ role. You might say that’s simplistic but from experience, I know that’s what they enjoy. And they have set up that situation perfectly, I’m not saying it was deliberate but whether it’s Kerry or Dublin they will be underdogs.”

O’Mahony does feel there were factors that mitigated Mayo’s stop-start showing against Tipp.

“To a certain extent, they were taking risks against Tipp. Kevin McLoughlin was playing up front and I have no inside information, but I’d put my shirt on it that he will be back in his normal covering role in the final.

“There was a rumour also that Colm Boyle wouldn’t play. If he got another black card, he’d be out for the final. There were a lot of things at play.

“In the Tyrone game, you had Cillian O’Connor back to his clinical self whereas against Tipperary he was quite well held for lots of the game. Lee Keegan has been put into this role of marking the dangermen on the opposition. And he’s playing a more negative game than he usually does.

“I’m not saying Mayo will win a final but I think we’ll see a different Mayo when they’re under the cosh in a final and going in as underdogs.

“They have to play one game where Aidan O’Shea gets his role correct, where Cillian O’Connor is clinical, where all of those things come together.”

O’Mahony feels the pressure on Stephen Rochford lifted after the win over Tyrone, and noted a key change the first-year manager has made to tighten up the Mayo rearguard.

“I think David Clarke coming into goal was the most significant change Stephen Rochford made this year,” he said.

“Even on Sunday, Josh Keane almost got past him, but Clark is so big in that area, so commanding. He has been superb and one of the main significant things that has made the difference for the Mayo defence.”


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