ANOTHER day, another round of war stories, another list of reasons why there has never been a Mayo team like this one.
And the story of their 2017 summer still remains unfinished after a breathless and frantic All-Ireland semi-final ended deadlocked last Sunday at a rain-soaked Croke Park.
Paddy Durcan’s injury-time point levelled an enthralling contest for the ninth and final time, and means Mayo and Kerry will need a replay next weekend to try and separate them. Just like 2014 all over again, expect this time there is no ridiculous trip to Limerick to be factored in.
To tell the full story of this game would require a thesis as much as a match report, but there are a few storylines and cameos that will be talked about for years to come.
The build-up to next Saturday’s replay will be dominated by debate about Stephen Rochford’s decision to send Aidan O’Shea to full-back to mark Kieran Donaghy in this drawn game.
It was a bold move, and one that has divided opinion.
But after watching Kerry’s totemic full-forward score goals, wreak havoc in the air, and take a wrecking ball to Mayo’s All-Ireland hopes in the past, Rochford obviously felt O’Shea was best-equipped to curb Donaghy’s influence in those respects.
The Kerry forward hit one point from play and had a hand in 2-4, but would anybody else in Mayo’s squad have coped any better with a 16 stone, 6’5” former Footballer of the Year?
We’re not so sure, and while Donaghy sprayed the ball around at one end, Mayo’s attack also moved sweetly at the other as man of the match Andy Moran, Cillian O’Connor, Jason Doherty went to town on Kerry’s full-back line.
The trio finished with 1-9 from play between them, Moran rolling back the years yet again to shoot 1-5 and produce one of his finest ever displays in the Mayo jersey.
His good day out began in the fourth minute when he buried the 17th goal of his county career in emphatic fashion after a clever ball from Diarmuid O’Connor broke Moran’s way.
Mayo had come storming out of the blocks, and a well-taken score from the outstanding Jason Doherty eased them into a four points lead.
In true Kerry fashion though, the Munster champions came roaring back and were level by the tenth minute after the pacy Stephen O’Brien took a pass from Kieran Donaghy and smacked the ball under David Clarke.
In the wet conditions, and with both teams committed to attack-minded football, the scores continued to mount up and Kerry’s purple patch continued with two quickfire points to leave them 1-3 to 1-1 ahead.
That blistering start set the tone for a rip-roaring contest and by the short whistle the sides were deadlocked at 2-5 to 1-8.
Mayo’s second goal was buried brilliantly by Colm Boyle in the 20th minute, sandwiched in between a couple of inspirational scores from Moran and Cillian O’Connor.
Soon after Mayo almost got in for a third goal but both O’Connor and Moran were denied by some last-ditch Kerry defending, before the latter saw his goalbound shot deflected over the bar.
Referee Maurice Deegan also missed the ball being touched on the ground by Kerry’s Mark Griffin during that goalmouth scramble, and so a Mayo penalty claim went abegging.
Remarkably though, Stephen Rochford’s team failed to score for the last fifteen minutes of the half and Kerry wiped out the four point deficit for a second time through frees from Paul Geaney (2), an outrageous score from Kieran Donaghy, and a smashing effort from James O’Donoghue.
The third quarter went by in a blur too with Mayo getting back on track to streak ahead by 2-9 to 1-9 after 42 minutes.
Just as they looked to be finding their feet though, they were hit by another hammerblow when Johnny Buckley beat David Clarke from close range after a long delivery from a line ball had seen David Moran’s fierce shot parried by the Mayo ‘keeper.
From there to the finish, there was never more than a point between the teams with Chris Barrett and Paddy Durcan missing the target with Paul Murphy putting Kerry ahead in the 69th minute.
That left Mayo on the hunt for an equaliser, and up stepped Paddy Durcan to guide over the levelling score on 74 minutes to bring us all back for another replay next weekend.
D Clarke; B Harrison, D Vaughan (0-1), K Higgins; L Keegan, C Barrett, C Boyle (1-0); S O'Shea, T Parsons (0-2); K McLoughlin, A O'Shea, D O'Connor; J Doherty (0-1), C O'Connor (0-4, 0-1f), A Moran (1-5).
Subs used: P Durcan (0-1) for Boyle 43m; S Coen for S O'Shea 58m; D Drake for D O'Connor 67m; C Loftus for Doherty 74m.
B Kelly; S Enright, M Griffin, K Young (0-1); P Crowley, T Morley, P Murphy (0-1); D Moran, A Maher; M Geaney, J Buckley (1-0), S O'Brien (1-0); P Geaney (0-7, 4f), K Donaghy (0-1), J O'Donoghue (0-3, 2f).
Subs used: J Savage for M Geaney 21m, J Barry for Maher and J Lyne for Griffin (h/t), D O'Sullivan for Buckley 54m, BJ Keane (0-1) for O'Donohgue 62m, B Sheehan for Donaghy 73m.
Referee: M Deegan (Laois)