FOR the second time in a month, the green and gold of Kerry became a cropper in Castlebar. This time, it was the turn of the Mayo hurlers to show their mettle and this they did in no uncertain manner as they surged to a fine win over the men from the south.
The opening half saw Kerry enjoy the comfort of the gale-force wind that bellowed across Mayo and straight down McHale Park. A driving shower early in the match added to the difficulty of the conditions, but the saving grace was the remarkable condition of the pitch, which held very firm.
Ten minutes in, Kerry had settled well with points from Mikey Boyle and Tom Murnane and a goal from Mike Conway whose ground shot found the Mayo net.
But Mayo refused to buckle under the early Kerry onslaught and when Rory Campion raced through to fire home a smashing goal midway through the half, the home side were back in business. And while Kerry led by 1-6 to 1-2 at the interval, Mayo appeared to be in a strong position to launch a comeback.
This assumption proved correct and a string of points from frees by Keith Higgins and a marvellous strike from the wing by Kevin Healy saw them draw level 14 minutes into the second half. Mayo seized the initiative and two long distance strikes from Keith Higgins and Ger Whyte maintained the momentum and saw Mayo go ahead for the first time.
Higgins was now moving with greater fluency while Ger Whyte was turning in a spectacular performance in the excellent half back line where he was ably supported by Stephen Coyne and Paddy Barrett. Niall Murphy, the former Dublin minor and U-21 player, who recently transferred to Mayo, showed the finest of hurling artistry when extending Mayo’s lead to three points 20 minutes into the second half.
Higgins put extra daylight between the sides with another superb point after some fine defensive play by Stephen Coyne but Kerry showed commendable courage and grit and a point from a free by Bobby O’Sullivan left just three between them with five minutes to play.
However, Mayo finished in style with two super strikes from Ger Whyte and Keith Higgins and an injury time goal from Paul Broderick after fielding a side-line cut from Derek McConn. A minute earlier, following a nice delivery from Stephen Leneghan on the McHale Road side of the pitch, Broderick had a goal-bound shot saved by the alert Tadhg Flynn between the Kerry posts.
Mayo goalie Thomas Duffy is proving one of the best net-minders on the scene today. His composure under pressure is most reassuring and some of his saves are reminiscent of former Mayo goalie of the 1980s, the great Dave Sinnott.
The half back line of Coyne, Barrett and Whyte excelled on the day with the full back line of Derek Walsh, Paul Hunt and Shane Morley coping admirably with all that came their way. The nature of the elements and the high winds meant that the midfield action was more limited than usual as much of the play centred around the half-back/half-forward lines. However, Stephen Broderick and Derek McConn were not found wanting and also knocked over Mayo’s two first half points. Higgins and Murphy opened up the most telling moves in the attack while Campion’s pace, and the steady resilience of Healy, Broderick and Hunt completed a Mayo display that delighted their small but loyal band of supporters. No wonder ‘St Patrick’ (John Durkan) was imparting his blessings with such a wide smile!
Kerry had good displays from goalie Tadhg Flynn as well as Aidan Healy, Liam Boyle, Tom Murnane, Mike Conway, Bobby Sullivan and Michael Slattery.
For the Mayo team managed by Martin Brennan with selector Jimmy Martin and trainer Ray McNamara, this was exactly the kind of result they wanted after the heartbreak of their injury time defeat to Kildare in the first round. With games at home to London and away Westmeath, it’s all to play for in the next few weeks.
T Duffy; D Walsh, P Hunt, S Morley; S Coyne, P Barrett, G Whyte (0-2); S Broderick (0-1), D McConn (0-1); N Murphy (0-1), K Higgins (0-7, 4fs), S Hunt; K Healy (0-1), P Broderick (1-0), R Campion (1-0). Subs used: A Healy for R Campion, S Leneghan for S Hunt, J Duffy for K Healy.
T Flynn; A O’Connor, A Healy, M Quilter; C Harris, L Boyle, T Murnane (0-1); J Bergin, J Griffin; M Conway (1-2), I McCarthy (0-1), B O’Sullivan (0-3); M Boyle (0-1), J M Dooley, M Slattery. Subs used: T Casey for J Bergin, G O’Brien for M Boyle; K Hanafin for I McCarthy, B O’Donovan for J Griffin.
Referee: G Hoey (Clare)