IRELAND was a different country when Willie McGee from Burrishoole planted four goals past Kerry in the 1967 All-Ireland U-21 final replay in Ballinasloe.
Last Sunday at Flanagan Park, Danny Kirby (19) did his best to bridge that generation gap when he raised a quartet of green flags to write his name into the Mayo GAA record books.
That he achieved the unique distinction between the 23rd and 27th minutes of the first half makes it even more remarkable.
Throw in the fact that this was just his second start for the Mayo senior footballers and his historic exploits become the stuff of legend.
“I’m happy enough,” said the Castlebar teenager afterwards with typical self-deprecation. “The goals just seemed to keep coming. I actually didn’t do a lot of work for them; Conor [Mortimer] and Evan [Regan] did the hard work. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
The same could be said of Mayo who, thanks to this comfortable win and results elsewhere, find themselves back in the FBD League Final with a game to spare.
Next Sunday’s work-out against Roscommon will now give James Horan the opportunity to experiment a little more, with the likes of Chris Barrett, Cillian O’Connor, Andy Moran, Alan Dillon, Michael Forde and Keith Rogers yet to see game-time in 2012. All six were togged last weekend but held in reserve.
Truth be told, the established players, in particular, weren’t needed once Danny Kirby had finished his ‘shock and awe’ display that put the game to bed.
An understrength GMIT were trailing by 0-6 to 0-3 after Peadar Gardiner lobbed over a well-worked score on 19 minutes.
By that stage the students had managed to reel Mayo back in a little after being blitzed by points from Conor Mortimer (3, two frees), and debutants Evan Regan and Conor O’Shea in the opening nine minutes.
However, some excellent and incisive play from Mayo when they moved the ball quickly and accurately into the scoring zone, allowed Danny Kirby to get in some striking practice at the expense of GMIT’s Brendan Walsh.
The Ballintubber goalkeeper was beaten initially when Kirby ghosted in to flick Lee Keegan’s shot-cum-centre to the net, and two minutes later it was Evan Regan’s quickly-taken free that set up goal number two.
A minute later, and Regan again linked up with the unmarked Kirby who smashed a low right-footed shot past the beleaguered Walsh.
The sublime then become downright ridiculous less than sixty seconds later when the GMIT defence was again marked absent, and Conor Mortimer allowed Kirby to try a left-footed daisy-cutter that flew in too.
The crowd roared their approval, the scoreboard operator struggled to keep up, GMIT heads were down, and Danny Kirby had guaranteed himself the headlines.
Ahead by 4-6 to 0-3, Mayo’s work was done.
They knew it too, and their inertia was understandable at times as their opponents battled away manfully without ever looking like overhauling the winners.
Interestingly, a Johnny Ryan free three minutes into first half injury time started a sequence that saw GMIT land six of the next seven scores.
They trailed by fourteen points at the change of ends but kept plugging away in the third quarter as Mayo slipped back into second gear.
Niall Prenty, Diarmuid Cronin, Johnny Ryan (two frees) and Aidan Walsh all posted scores for the students with a fisted effort from Danny Kirby all that Mayo managed at the other end during a pretty barren spell.
An excellent individual score from Darren Coen on 48 minutes was a rare moment of clarity from the Mayo attack in the second half, leaving them eleven points ahead in the process.
The enigmatic Conor Mortimer popped up again in the closing stages to clip a hat-trick of points (two from frees) to sign off on a day that will be remembered only for Danny Kirby’s inspirational interventions.
D Clarke; E O’Reilly, G Cafferkey, M Walsh; P Gardiner (0-1), K Higgins, L Keegan; B Moran, P Harte; C O’Shea (0-1), D Coen (0-1), K McLoughlin; E Regan (0-1), D Kirby (4-1), C Mortimer (0-6, 4fs).
Subs used: J Gibbons for Harte; A Feeney for O’Reilly; E Varley for Regan; S O’Shea for C O’Shea.
B Walsh; M Kelly, A Tierney, D Lee; C Sweeney, J Duane, J McLaughlin; A Walsh (0-2, 1f), S Boyle; D Durkan, J Ryan (0-5, 4fs), N Prenty (0-1); D Cronin (0-1), P Sweeney (0-1), N Farragher.
Subs used: E Ward (0-1) for Cronin; B Sheridan for Kelly; D McIntyre for Farragher; D Clabby for Boyle; D Quinn for P Sweeney.
Referee: TJ Keaveney (Sligo)