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Mayo spring to life in Killarney


Kerry’s Mikey Geaney and Mayo’s Chris Barrett get stuck into each other during Sunday’s match in Killarney.
?Kerry’s Mikey Geaney and Mayo’s Chris Barrett get stuck into each other during Sunday’s match in Killarney.?Pic: Sportsfile

Mayo spring to life

Division 1
Mayo 2-11
Kerry 0-10

Mike Finnerty

AS opening performances go, we really couldn’t have asked for much more from a Mayo squad that showed they have lost little of their appetite or competitive edge during the off-season.
Sure, Kerry only fielded six of their All-Ireland winning team, but this was a statement of intent from the winners.
Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes admitted afterwards that they had demanded ‘a performance’ from the players; they must have been delighted with the response.
In summary, goals from the enigmatic Alan Freeman and the mercurial Kevin McLoughlin on 21 and 51 minutes respectively were the decisive scores as a revamped Mayo XV did more than enough to see off Kerry’s makeshift selection of All-Ireland medallists.
Newcomers Stephen Coen and Patrick Durcan acquitted themselves well in defence while Kevin Keane gave an exhibition of full-back play in that ‘no-nonsense’ style that has become his trademark.
Beside him, team captain Keith Higgins made it look easy as he glided around the field and picked up where he left off last summer.
Elsewhere, Donie Vaughan’s move to midfield merits a second viewing while Jason Doherty, Mark Ronaldson and Mickey Conroy were the pick of an industrious attack.
The only sour note for the Mayo camp was an unfortunate shoulder injury to corner-forward Evan Regan after five minutes.
The Ballina Stephenites’ attacker had shot a neat point after only 90 seconds, but he fell heavily after a collision with Kerry’s Johnny Buckley and sustained a broken collar-bone.
It was desperate bad luck for a young man who had waited patiently to get back inside the Mayo fold.
Ironically, his replacement, Mickey Conroy, played a major role in Mayo’s victory, taking on Kerry’s backs from all angles, and gunning four points from play.
Kerry had made the early running and were 0-3 to 0-1 up after 18 minutes as Mayo attempted to get their bearings.
Soon after Alan Freeman showed what he’s capable of, conjuring up a superb goal that changed the whole trend of the match.
The Aghamore full-forward had a lot of work to do when he won possession out in the right corner, but he broke through brilliantly before cracking the ball, left-footed, to the Kerry net.
The score revitalised Mayo, and they laid siege to the Kerry goal. A series of sweeping moves ended in a string of scores as Mickey Conroy sparked into life with three points in quick succession.
Donie Vaughan also posted a big score from out the country, and Jason Doherty landed a free from the left wing to send Mayo in leading by 1-7 to 0-4 at half-time.
When Seamie O’Shea galloped through to push the visitors seven points clear after the restart, Kerry seemed to be fading fast.
However, the arrival of former AFL recruit Tommy Walsh into midfield at the interval brought the best out of David Moran too. The duo duly began to clean up around the middle.
Three quickfire points duly arrived from Paul Geaney, Moran and Barry John Keane to rally the local troops, and it was ‘game on’ again.
Luckily, at a time when Mayo needed somebody to take the initiative, Kevin McLoughlin duly obliged — taking a pop pass from Mark Ronaldson and gliding past his man before planting the ball beautifully in the top corner of the net.
It was 2-8 to 0-8, and Mayo were back in control.
With Aidan O’Shea in off the bench to shake things up around the middle, and Kevin Keane and Keith Higgins running a tight ship at the back, Kerry were now under the cosh again.
All they could manage in the last 20 minutes were a couple of frees from Paul Geaney and David Moran, while Mayo landed three points from play at the other end to stay out of reach.
Mickey Conroy tagged on a fourth classy effort while Jason Doherty and Diarmuid O’Connor also hit the target in style from long range.
All in all, not a bad day’s work. Tyrone are up next.

R Hennelly; S Coen, K Keane, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Barrett, P Durcan; S O’Shea (0-1), D Vaughan (0-1); K McLoughlin (1-0), A Gallagher, J Doherty (0-3, 0-2 frees); E Regan (0-1), A Freeman (1-0), M Ronaldson.
Subs used: M Conroy (0-4) for Regan (11 mins, blood replacement), D O’Connor (0-1) for Gallagher (44 mins), A O’Shea for Freeman (49 mins), M Sweeney for Conroy (58 mins), C Boyle for Barrett (58 mins), E Varley for Ronaldson (61 mins), B Moran for S O’Shea (70 mins).

B Kealy; P Kilkenny, M Griffin, F Fitzgerald; J Lyne, J Sherwood, P Murphy; D Moran (0-2, free, 45), B Sheehan; M Geaney (0-1), K O’Leary (0-1), J Buckley; S O’Brien, P Geaney (0-2, 0-1 free), BJ Keane (0-4, 0-1 free).
Subs: T Walsh for Sheehan (half-time), P O’Connor for O’Leary (49 mins), C Keane for Keane (57 mins), J McGuire for Geaney (61 mins), D Casey for O’Brien (65 mins), A Fitzgerald for Walsh (70 mins).

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)