IN FULL FLIGHT Mayo’s Jason Doherty goes past Kildare’s Fergal Conway during Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifier in Newbridge. Pic: Sportsfile
IN the end when Mayo went for the gas, they found they were out of juice.
The late surge we have come to expect from this team when their backs are to the wall just wasn’t in them on Saturday night in Newbridge.
Instead it was Kildare who were winning kick-outs, Kildare who were forcing big turnovers, and Kildare who were hitting the key scores in the closing minutes.
When Eoin O’Donoghue hit a phenomenal equaliser after 60 minutes the teams were locked at 0-17 each. Mayo would have been the favourites to find their way home, but there was a lot of tired bodies, and tired minds, on the pitch.
Unfortunately, most of them were in Green and Red. Kildare hit the next two points and while the inspirational Paddy Durcan pared the gap back, the homeside went up and kicked two more points.
Mayo were down by three points and had to go looking for an unlikely goal seven minutes into injury time. A 13-metre free from Andy Moran was Mayo’s slim shot at extra-time. He scored from such a position in the 2006 Mayo SFC final, but history did not repeat itself and the ball just cleared the crossbar.
With it went Mayo’s season, but a goal there would have been an unlikely escape. It certainly wasn’t for the want of effort, but Mayo looked physically spent on a hot evening in St Conleth’s Park.
Players who typically come up with big plays like Aidan O’Shea, Lee Keegan, Cillian O’Connor and Jason Doherty all turned over possession at key stages.
Two of the turnovers led to Kildare points and it was the home side who were full of running down the home strait.
They got more impact from their bench too. Niall Kelly and Eamonn Callaghan struck for points while Chris Healy was a human dynamo when introduced.
By contrast, Mayo were slow to use their bench. Three Kildare subs were on before Stephen Rochford made a switch on an energy-sapping night.
Players who had put in big shifts like Aidan O’Shea and the heroic Diarmuid O’Connor were out on their feet. They weren’t alone.
Kildare had the belief and the character to take advantage – two qualities they have not always possessed in the past.
With all the controversy about the venue, Kildare had the wind in their sails early on and opened a 0-7 to 0-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
But Mayo’s response was a statement of intent too. They kicked six unanswered points in 11 minutes to go in front. They were struggling somewhat inside, even if part of that was down to some inconsistent decision-making all evening from referee David Gough, but their link play generally was excellent.
The sides went in level at the break and we wondered had Mayo managed to ride out the Kildare storm. That certainly was the sense of it when points from Paddy Durcan (one of four great scores from play), Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty had Mayo two in front after 45 minutes.
But Kildare demonstrated they were going nowhere with four of the next five points and we braced ourselves for a tight finish.
Most still anticipated Mayo finding a way because they always have in such Qualifier situations.
But not on Saturday.
M Donnellan; M O’Grady, D Hyland, P Kelly (0-1); J Byrne (0-1), E Doyle, K Flynn; K Feely (0-2), T Moolick; K Cribbin, P Cribbin (0-4), F Conway (0-1); N Flynn (0-8, 6fs, 1 ‘45), D Flynn (0-2), P Brophy. Subs: D Slattery for K Cribbin (48 mins); C Healy for Brophy (52 mins); N Kelly (0-1) for Moolick (55 mins); J Murray for Byrne (68 mins); E Callaghan (0-1) for Doyle (72 mins).
D Clarke; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Boyle, P Durcan (0-4); A O’Shea, S Coen (0-1); K McLoughlin (0-1), J Doherty (0-2), D O’Connor (0-1); J Durcan, C O’Connor (0-6, 5fs, 1 ‘45), A Moran (0-3, 1f).
Subs: Eoin O’Donoghue (0-1) for Boyle (56 mins); Donie Vaughan for J Durcan (58 mins); C Loftus for Doherty (68 mins); Cian Hanley for McLoughlin (black card 72 mins)
Referee: D Gough (Meath)