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Mayo escape with victory

Mayo escape with important victory

FOOTBALL Allianz National League
Mayo   1-11
Kerry   0-11

Mike Finnerty


ONLY the course of time will tell us if this three point victory last Sunday at McHale Park will be of any real significance come the business end of the season.
In real terms it gives Mayo the perfect start to a campaign where they have just two more games on home soil during the next eight weeks. It also provides them with a real fillip ahead of a difficult trip to Donegal next Sunday. Less certain is how much it proves about Mayo’s recovery from last year’s crushing All-Ireland Final defeat to the same opposition.
Under new management, Kerry were without a handful of household names and despite only playing in fits and starts weren’t all that far away at the finish. Three late points without reply saw them halve the margin of defeat and only the intervention of some of Mayo’s tried and trusted foot-soldiers saved the day.
However, there can be no disputing the merit of the win for John O’Mahony’s well-organised team. They stuck to a very definite game-plan, their match-ups worked out excellently, and in Peadar Gardiner, Liam O’Malley and Alan Dillon they had the best footballers on the field.
James Kilcullen also continued his full-back apprenticeship impressively, frustrating the towering Michéal Quirke repeatedly until his withdrawal in the second half.
Unfortunately, referee Maurice Deegan will feature prominently in the post-match analysis. His fussiness and pre-occupation with talking to players led to a disjointed game, and both Kieran Donaghy and Trevor Mortimer were sent off for two innocuous bookings in the second half.
Despite the early stage of the season Mayo looked well-drilled and business-like. They also led from pillar to post with Peadar Gardiner kicking the opening score on seventy seconds to set the tone.
The industrious Austin O’Malley (who was curiously replaced early in the third quarter) and Trevor Mortimer then tagged on points to leave Mayo ahead by 0-3 to 0-1 on 13 minutes.
But Kerry never lost touch and five minutes and two scores later had them level. Colm Cooper and Bryan Sheehan (free) split the posts before Kevin O’Neill and Alan Dillon traded points with Kieran Donaghy and Colm Cooper (free) to leave the teams locked together at 0-5 each.
Mayo were playing the majority of the good football but over-elaboration in front of goal was costing them dearly. In fact it took a free from the subdued Conor Mortimer in injury-time to give them the lead at the interval, 0-6 to 0-5.
The first eight minutes of the second half proved to be decisive. With Billy Padden, Peadar Gardiner, Pat Harte and Kevin O’Neill becoming increasingly influential, Mayo created and took four crucial points without response.
The outstanding Alan Dillon finished three of them (one free) with Gardiner flying in to fist the other and a five point lead was the end result.
Kerry ultimately never recovered from this purple patch but they did respond with Bryan Sheehan stroking over a free and Declan Quill nailing a fine score from play to leave just three between the teams on 50 minutes.
The tireless Peadar Gardiner and the unerring Sheehan (free) swopped scores to preserve the status quo before the game-breaking goal arrived ten minutes from the end.
Predictably, Peadar Gardiner and the wily Kevin O’Neill were involved in its creation with bustling midfielder, Pat Harte, lashing the ball to the net.
Although Mayo were not to score again they had done enough. Ahead by 1-11 to 0-8, they sleep-walked through the final minutes as Kerry snatched late points from Sheehan (free), Cooper and Quill to give the locals a few anxious moments.
Liam O’Malley, Keith Higgins, David Heaney and Billy Padden did most of the late fire-fighting with Conor Mortimer even popping up beside David Clarke to make a late interception.
It may well be a sign of things to come but only time will tell.

Mayo full-back James Kilcullen dives full length to block Kerry’s Declan Quill.CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK Mayo full-back James Kilcullen dives full length to block Kerry’s Declan Quill during Sunday’s Allianz NFL Division 1A clash in Castlebar. Pic: Sportsfile

D Clarke; L O’Malley, J Kilcullen, K Higgins; D Heaney, B Padden, P Gardiner (0-3); D Brady, P Harte (1-0); A Moran, T Mortimer (0-1), A Dillon (0-4, 1f); C Mortimer (0-1, 1f), A O’Malley (0-1), K O’Neill (0-1).
Subs used: M Conroy for A O’Malley; A Kilcoyne for Dillon; G Brady for Conroy; J Nallen for Heaney.
D Murphy; M O Sé, T O’Sullivan, K Young; T O Sé, A O’Mahony, B Guiney; D O Sé, K Donaghy (0-1); S O’Sullivan, E Brosnan, P Kelly; C Cooper (0-3, 1f), M Quirke, B Sheehan (0-5, 5fs).
Subs used: T Griffin for T O Sé; D Walsh for Kelly; Darren O’Sullivan for Quirke; D Quill (0-2) for D O’Sullivan (inj); S Scanlon for S O’Sullivan.

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

{mospagebreak title=Talking Points}
Talking Points

Peadar Gardiner’s display
MOST people’s selection for man of the match after seventy minutes of typically high-octane wing-back play.
The Crossmolina defender had his game-face on from the start; drilled an early point, was always there to help out in a crisis, and finished with a hat-trick of scores.

John O’Mahony’s selection
WITH Ronan McGarrity missing out due to injury, the manager tried a few things out. James Kilcullen nullified the hulk-like Quirke, Liam O’Malley was excellent in the corner, David Heaney looked at home at five with Andy Moran roaming the prairie to good effect. Pat Harte also slotted into midfield seamlessly.

Austin O’Malley’s substitution
WHEN O’Malley was called ashore just minutes into the second half he looked puzzled.
Won almost every ball that came his way in the first half, tormented Marc O Sé, kicked a point and was booked. The manager confirmed after the match that he was replaced in case he received a second yellow card.

Maurice Deegan’s refereeing
HANDED out 14 yellow cards and flashed red to both Kieran Donaghy and Trevor Mortimer just to put the tin hat on it.
Was fussy in the extreme, far too strict, and seemed to indulge in discussion with any player that made eye-contact. Not his finest hour.

{mospagebreak title=Media Watch}
A new lease of life for the auld league

Daniel Carey

FRIDAY’S Irish Times said that Prof Finbarr McAuley of UCD and Jean Monnet, Prof of European Criminal Justice Law, are to chair a committee which will oversee the preparation of a criminal law code. Monnet’s appointment came as something of a shock, not least because he died back in 1979.
It turns out that UCD have six professorships named after the Frenchman, one of which is held by McAuley. The Irish Times presumably amended Michael McDowell’s press release, thus suggesting the Tánaiste had given a job to a dead guy whose lifetime overlapped with that of Michael Cusack.
Mind you, it’s not just founding fathers of European integration who enjoyed a new lease of life last weekend. The Allianz National Football League has evidently been pumping iron all winter and has re-emerged almost unrecognisable from the flabby, undercooked competition of my youth. Eighty thousand people turned up to see Nickey Brennan flick a switch and Dublin and Tyrone produce a humdinger. And last Sunday, John O’Mahony’s post-match interview with TG4 went out against the backdrop of a pitch invasion. Who needs the All-Ireland when you’ve got the NFL?!
The Mayo manager described the game as ‘a tame affair’ in conversation with Gráinne McElwain. Try telling that those milling around him. There were more people on McHale Park after the final whistle than had walked the hallowed Croker turf for the previous evening’s Ceremony of Light.
Not for the first time, it was left to Billy Fitzpatrick to put context on the occasion. “It’s only February,” the Mid West Radio analyst reminded us.
TG4’s opening sequence last Sunday showed a fiery sliotar falling to earth. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel like a puckaround, seemed to be the message. Clips from the ‘other Armageddon’ (also known as the third Sunday of September last year) followed soon after. Still, Gráinne had the good manners before playing the highlights to warn Mayo people (tri Ghaeilge, of course) to look away now.
Dara Mac Donnacha in the commentary box summed up what followed the last time Kerry played Mayo as ‘slad na sladanna’. The slaughter of slaughters. Get off the fence, Dara. Tell us what you really think.
What with all the hype excitement, we needed an antidote. So thank God for Kerry supporters, still as disinterested as ever in going to games that aren’t All-Ireland finals. A Kieran Donaghy point was greeted with an eerie silence. “They just don’t travel,” Billy Fitz explained. “They’re watching it on TG4. Football in February doesn’t excite too many Kerry people.”
To his credit, the Mid West co-commentator didn’t let the jeering which greeted the Footballer of the Year’s dismissal go, either. “He’s a fine footballer … and that’s not right,” was his take on the local applause Donaghy had to endure after getting a second yellow card.
A later clash between Darragh Ó Sé and Alan Dillon was resolved peacefully after they agreed to shake hands and make up. Or, as love-struck TG4 analyst Seán Ó Domhnaill sweetly put it: “Tá siad ag tabhairt póga dá chéile”. Ger Loughnane, bless him, would hardly have phrased it thus. Moments later, Pat Harte stuck the ball in the Kerry net, and the Kingdom were effectively kissing goodbye to their chances.
Not that it was a done deal yet, as points from Bryan Sheehan and Colm Cooper reduced the gap. “They never go away,” said Billy Fitzpatrick, using a phrase Martin Ferris (footballer-turned-gunrunner-turned-politician) could probably have identified with more than most. In the end, however, Mayo did just enough and the kids all cheered as O’Mahony finished his few words. It might be time to re-write the famous banner. John Says Keep The Perspective.

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