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Reality check for Mayo

Sport

PULLING THE STRINGS Kerry’s Colm Cooper pops the ball over the head of Mayo’s Ger Cafferkey during Sunday’s National League clash in Castlebar.Pic: Sportsfile

Division 1

Kerry 2-13
Mayo 0-14

Mike Finnerty
Castlebar

THE Kingdom came, saw and conquered as goals from Johnny Buckley and Donnchadh Walsh propelled Kerry to their first league victory over Mayo for five years on Sunday.
A crowd of almost 13,000 people turned up on a beautiful day in Castlebar to see the visitors produce an impressive second half display that keeps Mayo rooted in the relegation zone.
Mayo badly missed the All Star qualities of injured duo Keith Higgins and Cillian O’Connor, and were left to lament thirteen wides that cost them dearly in the end.
Despite playing for the final twenty minutes with only fourteen men after Kieran Donaghy was dismissed, Kerry clocked up their third straight win of the campaign.
Mayo also finished the game a man down after Diarmuid O’Connor was also sent off after being booked twice in the dying minutes.
O’Connor’s departure rounded off a miserable end to a day that had started very promisingly for a Mayo side that are now perilously close to the relegation trapdoor after this fourth defeat in five games.
Stephen Rochford sprung his customary two late changes from the team announced on Friday night with Donal Vaughan and Cathal Carolan both starting in place of Chris Barrett and Evan Regan.
Those switches seemed to work well too as Mayo got off to a flying start, and they were leading by four points as half-time approached.
The locals had outscored their guests by 0-7 to 0-1 during a blistering twenty-five minute spell with Kevin McLoughlin (2), Diarmuid O’Connor, Shane Nally, Aidan O’Shea and place-kicker Rob Hennelly (with a couple of sweetly-struck frees) all hitting the target.
O’Shea’s point came after he had been blatantly tugged back by Kieran Donaghy in the square, an incident that was somehow missed by referee Rory Hickey.
Mayo’s well-organised and tight-marking defence was also keeping Kerry’s big guns quiet, with Cafferkey tagging Cooper, Vaughan picking up Walsh, and Keegan detailed to police O’Sullivan.
However, everything changed just before the break when Mayo failed to deal with an innocuous-looking Kerry raid, which was transformed when O’Sullivan managed to break a tackle.
The move ended with Johnny Buckley rifling the ball to the Mayo net for a crucial goal that came totally against the run of play.
Kerry’s battle-hardened and streetwise team of All-Ireland winners were right back in contention again, trailing by only 1-3 to 0-7 when the short whistle sounded.
With their heads up and chests out, Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s charges flew out of the blocks after the restart and four quickfire points inside the first ten minutes eased them into the lead.
The elusive Darran O’Sullivan and Johnny Buckley both picked off points before Bryan Sheehan and Colm Cooper converted frees to leave Mayo playing catch-up.
Kerry were now moving through the gears, denying their opponents time and space, and attacking in waves at pace.
The game-breaking score duly arrived on 48 minutes when a long-range free from Cooper wasn’t dealt with by Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly, and Donnchadh Walsh palmed in a second goal.
Walsh’s finish was a hammer-blow to Mayo as it left the homeside trailing by 2-7 to 0-9 and, despite the loss of Kieran Donaghy after a second booking, Kerry never looked back.
Mayo committed players forward during the final quarter in an effort to turn the tide, but they never looked like scoring the goal they needed.
They did hit five points from Kevin McLoughlin, Jason Doherty, Seamus O’Shea and substitute Andy Moran (two frees), but each and every time Kerry replied at the other end.
The pick of the winner’s scores down the home stretch came from Peter Crowley, Marc Ó Sé and impact sub’ Brendan O’Sullivan as Kerry closed the game out impressively.
Mayo must now take points from their remaining games against Roscommon and Down to ensure their run of seventeen consecutive seasons in the top-flight continues.

Kerry
B Kealy; M Ó Sé (0-1), M Griffin, S Enright; P Crowley (0-2), A O’Mahony, F Fitzgerald; K Donaghy, B Sheehan (0-2, 2fs); J Buckley (1-1), P Murphy, D Walsh (1-0); D O’Sullivan (0-2), C Cooper (0-2, 2fs), S O’Brien.
Subs used: BJ Keane (0-1) for O’Brien (52); B O’Sullivan (0-2) for Buckley (55); P O’Connor for Crowley (black card, 62); J Lyne for Walsh; D Daly for O’Sullivan (72).

Mayo
R Hennelly (0-2, 1f, ’45); B Harrison, G Cafferkey, D Vaughan; L Keegan, C Boyle, S Nally (0-1); T Parsons (0-1), S O’Shea (0-1); D O’Connor (0-1), A O’Shea (0-2), K McLoughlin (0-3, 1f); C Carolan, J Doherty (0-1), C O’Shea.
Subs used: S Coen for Nally (45); A Moran (0-2, 2fs) for Carolan (50); M Sweeney for C O’Shea (59); C Barrett for Cafferkey (64); J Gibbons for Doherty (66).

Referee: R Hickey (Clare)

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