Up until this afternoon, it was easy enough to presume that our form line in this year’s League was heading roughly in the right direction. After today’s dispiriting loss to Kerry at MacHale Park, however, this presumption has pretty much been blown out of the water. We’re now fighting for our Division One survival and we’ll need to show a damn sight more fight in our final two matches if we’re to get the points we now urgently need if we’re to have any hope of avoiding the drop.
An easy and relaxed drive west on empty roads saw me parked up in Castlebar well before the action was due to get underway. By the time I’d finally found somewhere for the spuds – the town isn’t exactly over-endowed with decent eateries is it? – and got to MacHale Park, the crowd, officially numbered at 12,595, was starting to build in earnest.
Throw-in was delayed for a few minutes as the punters continued to stream in but when the action got underway our starting team showed two changes to the one printed in the programme. Donal Vaughan started instead of Chris Barrett, with Lee Keegan dropped back to the corner while, somewhat surprisingly, Cathal Carolan lined out instead of Evan Regan.
Although Kerry got the opening two scores of the game, the first by Crowley and the second from O’Sullivan, both from play, we settled reasonably okay once Kevin McLoughlin got our opening score, also from play, on seven minutes.
Five minutes later we were level when Robbie Hennelly smacked a fifty-yard free over after a foul on Aidan O’Shea. Shortly after we hit the front via a superb point from out the wing by Diarmuid O’Connor. A cracking rob by Carolan was the instigation for our next score, another from play, this time from Shane Nally.
This was a good period for us but it should have been better. Lee made a scorching burst upfield but he ended up blazing wide. Then Kevin McLoughlin kicked a second horrendous wide from a free on the right.
Our failure to profit fully from this dominance wasn’t entirely our own fault. We had a huge penalty shout – when Aidan almost had his shirt pulled off his back by Donaghy inside the small square – but Rory Hickey allowed the advantage which saw Aidan boot the ball over the bar as he was being pulled to the floor. A goal from the spot then would really have put us in the driving seat.
Still, when Kevin Mc put us four up – finally landing a free at the third attempt – nearing half-time we looked well in control. That all changed in an instant when Buckley – their go-to man in the middle third, a player whose influence we never managed to curb – scythed right through the middle and shot low to the net.
A point up at half-time, the contest looked poised on a knife-edge. We needed to up the effort in the second half but, with all that was at stake for us, it was reasonable to assume that this was the least we’d do.
But we didn’t. Kerry took the game by the scruff of the neck and it slowly began to dawn on the large crowd that we didn’t have sufficient fight in us to counter this.
They levelled smartly on the restart, via a neat O’Sullivan point, but Aidan – for once using the ball quickly – fired over at the other end to put us back in front. Equally quickly, though, Buckley pointed at the other end and when Sheehan thumped over a long-range free Kerry had retaken the lead for the first time since the game’s opening moments. Although we didn’t know it then, it was a lead they wouldn’t lose from there.
A Cooper free, following a tame tumble by Buckley, put them two ahead. Tom Parsons cut superbly through the cover at the other end, though, and cracked over a morale-boosting rejoinder.
Our spirits soon took a heavy blow, though, when we conceded a stupid and completely avoidable second goal. There was some controversy about the free they were awarded out under the stand but the way we defended it was ridiculous. Gooch dropped it in perfectly, we flapped around helplessly and Walsh it was that bundled it into the net.
Our response to that was a horror wide from Aidan, from a move that had started with a super fetch from Tom at midfield. Then after Cooper pointed another free for them, Robbie hacked a fifty wide, having missed an earlier free from roughly the same distance shortly after the restart.
We were thrown a potential lifeline with twenty minute to go when Donaghy, already on yellow, was ordered off after one clumsy challenge too many. A searing run and point from Kevin Mc gave us at least some hope that we might yet pull this one from the fire.
But that hope quickly died. Kerry’s use of what ball they managed to get was a model of efficiency, Crowley’s clever point at the end of a well-worked move evidencing this. Our wastage continued, meanwhile, with Robbie’s miss count from placed balls rising to four on the trot.
Despite being a man down, Kerry continued to turn the screw and with time running out their lead stretched to six points. A few frees from sub Andy Moran cut the deficit somewhat but we never made any serious inroads into their lead. The ludicrous sending-off of Diarmuid O’Connor on a second yellow capped a truly miserable second half for us. We weren’t at all flattered by the five-point margin of defeat.
On what was a bad for us there weren’t too many bright performances in the black and lime jerseys. Pick of the bunch for us were Ger Cafferkey, Colm Boyle, Tom Parsons and (free-kicking aside) Kevin McLoughlin.
So with just two points on the board after five matches, relegation is now a strong possibility, perhaps even a probability. Monaghan’s slump could well save us but unless we win at least one and preferably both of our remaining games then the tide will at last have gone out for us in Division One. It certainly looked to be heading that way today.
Mayo: Robbie Hennelly (0-2, one free, one ‘45); Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Donal Vaughan; Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Shane Nally (0-1); Tom Parsons (0-1), Seamus O’Shea (0-1); Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1), Aidan O’Shea (0-2), Kevin McLoughlin (0-3, one free); Cathal Carolan, Jason Doherty (0-1), Conor O’Shea. Subs: Stephen Coen for Nally, Andy Moran (0-2, frees) for Carolan, Mikey Sweeney for Conor O’Shea, Chris Barrett for Cafferkey, Jason Gibbons for Doherty.
Post-match audio report:
Man of the Match poll:
Who was our MOTM against Kerry?
- Tom Parsons (48%, 162 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (9%, 31 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (9%, 31 Votes)
- Shane Nally (9%, 29 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (6%, 22 Votes)
- Robbie Hennelly (4%, 15 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (4%, 12 Votes)
- Jason Gibbons (2%, 8 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (2%, 8 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (2%, 8 Votes)
- Andy Moran (1%, 3 Votes)
- Cathal Carolan (1%, 2 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (1%, 2 Votes)
- Conor O'Shea (1%, 2 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (1%, 2 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (1%, 2 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (0%, 1 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (0%, 1 Votes)
- Mikey Sweeney (0%, 1 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 341