NOWHERE TO RUN Kerry’s Patrick Curtin comes under pressure from Mayo’s Tom Cunniffe, left, Aidan O’Shea and Shane McHale, right during Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division 1 clash at McHale Park, Castlebar.?Pic: Sportsfile
Mayo make positive start
TIME will tell just how relevant and informative this opening day victory over Kerry’s second-string outfit will turn out to be, but there were certainly enough green shoots to suggest that Mayo’s recovery from last September’s setback is well under way.
Four points in the last ten minutes on a wet and windy day at McHale Park propelled James Horan’s side over the line with something to spare against a Kerry selection that failed to live up to the high standards that have been set by many of their absent friends.
Truth be told, without marquee names like Tomás Ó Sé, Eoin Brosnan, Declan O’Sullivan, Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy, the Kingdom were just a shadow of their usual selves.
In his first league game in charge, Eamon Fitzmaurice watched his rookie side labour for the final 42 minutes of the match without scoring. It is a statistic that almost beggars belief.
They were also forced to play the final twenty minutes with only fourteen men after Anthony Maher received a second yellow card for getting too up close and personal with Aidan O’Shea.
In hindsight, Kerry’s chance of taking anything from this typically frantic, stop-start early season contest disappeared when their midfielder went for an early shower.
Unfortunately, Mayo’s fallow period in the match coincided with the start of Kerry’s malaise and so just two points separated the sides for 15 scoreless minutes between the 45th and 60th minutes.
Thankfully, the in-form Michael Conroy swooped in to kick an inspirational point to get the scoreboard moving, and Enda Varley came off the bench to nail a couple of superb scores in the dying minutes to put the issue beyond doubt.
A comfortable margin of victory was no more than Mayo deserved on a day when, as James Horan rightly noted afterwards, ‘the right attitude and ambition’ of his players illuminated an otherwise dark and dreary day.
Captain-for-the-day David Clarke set the tone with a smart save in the first half while Ger Cafferkey looked every inch an All Star full-back.
Further afield the powerful O’Shea brothers worked hard and were on the same wavelength throughout at midfield, while Richie Feeney was a revelation at centre-forward.
Inside, Jason Doherty’s six points (five from frees) underlined his sharpness and accuracy and Michael Conroy helped himself to three trademark, classy scores.
Everyone else put in solid shifts and, with the exception of their third quarter ‘slump’, there was no question about which team wanted these league points more.
At half-time though it seemed safe to assume that Kerry were also in the mood to make a game of it.
The sides had been level on four occasions in the opening period and were locked together at the interval, 1-6 to 0-9.
Mayo had sprinted out of the blocks in front of a large partisan home crowd and led by 0-4 to 0-1 after 12 minutes with razor-sharp full-forward Jason Doherty clipping three frees and a point from play.
The shadow Kerry line-up finally settled into a rhythm though and a well-taken goal from corner-forward James O’ Donoghue on 17 minutes edged the visitors ahead against the run of play.
The teams then traded scores four times during the second quarter as push came to shove, and we settled in for a duel to the death.
Instead, incredibly, Conor Cox’s point on 31 minutes was to be Kerry’s final contribution to the scoreboard.
Without their experienced talismen, they ran out of ideas completely in the second half.
Mayo, on the other hand, stuck doggedly to their task and made the most of the opportunity to put Kerry to the sword for the second successive occasion.
We will know a little more about James Horan’s work in progress when Tyrone come calling next Sunday.
D Clarke; S McHale, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; C Boyle, T Cunniffe, C Barrett; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; L Keegan, R Feeney (0-1), C Freeman; K McLoughlin (0-3, 2fs), J Doherty (0-6, 5fs), M Conroy (0-3).
Subs used: A Freeman for C Freeman; B Moran for S O’Shea; E Varley (0-2) for Feeney (inj).
B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O’Mahony, S Enright; J Lyne, K Young, P Crowley; A Maher (0-1), J Buckley (0-1, ’45); M Geaney, Darran O’Sullivan (0-1), M O’Donoghue (0-2); J Donoghue (1-0), P Curtin, C Cox (0-1).
Subs used: B Sheehan for Geaney; BJ Keane for Cox; A Garnett for Curtin.
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)