Well, we got our overdue win over Kerry and in far more decisive fashion than any of us could have reasonably predicted in advance. It’s not every day a match against them is won by half-time but this one sure was. With the cavalry on after the break, Kerry hauled the scoreline back into respectable territory but this was an extremely easy win for us.
There was a monstrous crowd at MacHale Park tonight – over 15,000 – and, when I arrived at the ground more than two hours before throw-in, there were hundreds queued outside waiting for the turnstiles to open. By the time throw-in was approaching there was a real air of anticipation around the ground about the contest about to get underway.
We made one change before the off, with Jack Carney starting instead of Bob Tuohy. Paddy Durcan replaced Eoghan McLaughlin on the subs list.
After an early flurry of wides, we opened the scoring from a Ryan O’Donoghue free. Aidan O’Shea had given a nice reverse pass to James Carr who got hauled down for the free.
The Ardagh man got our second score. He won a mark out near the ’45 and hoisted up the kick into the wind and it curled beautifully over the bar.
We turned over Kerry’s restart and in seconds the ball was in their net. Ryan carried it in, taking an indelicate number of steps in the process before poking it home. Just ten minutes gone and we’d already established a solid platform in this game.
They opened their account from a free but we responded almost immediately. We worked the ball around looking for an opening, the defence parting for Jordan Flynn to shoot over from a good central position.
There was a period then when it felt like the game could tip either way. We were looking to kick the ball inside as often as we could but Kerry were turning it over, though they were then failing to do damage in our backline.
Then we suddenly pounced to, in effect, put the game beyond their reach. We broke rapidly and Fionn McDonagh was fouled on the edge of the large square, Ryan popping the free over.
Then James Carr was fed close to the Kerry goal and it was clear he only had one thing on his mind. His shot was low and Murphy on the near side should have done better. The goal put us eight clear.
By half-time the margin had stretched to eleven. Jordan Flynn – excellent again for us tonight – added two of those and Ryan, with a trademark mark, got another. Diarmuid O’Connor got one too, hooking it over from out the left, but he left the fray before half-time, that troubling hamstring most likely the cuase of his early departure. Bob Tuohy replaced him.
Kerry had no choice but to bring on the cavalry for the second half. Dylan Casey, David Clifford and a patently unfit Seán O’Shea were all introduced and while Kerry did enjoy a happier time in front of the posts after the break, the new arrivals were never going to be able to rescue a result that was already in the bag for us.
We got the opening score after the break, with Colm Reape landing a ’45. After David Clifford pointed – and got promptly booked, following some argy-bargy with Rory Brickenden – we scored two more, Jordan landing his fourth of the night and James connecting with an attempted shot at the posts by Fionn and flicking it over.
That was our final score for close on twenty minutes, a spell in which Kerry posted four scores without reply. Then Colm Reape landed his second ’45 of the night, extinguishing whatever faint hopes the travelling support might have had for some kind of miraculous recovery.
We added late points from Donnacha McHugh and Jack Carney, stretching our lead back into double-digit territory. They had the last say on the scoreboard, though, with 1-1 without reply at the end to shrink our winning margin to seven points.
Whatever about the final scoreline, this was a game we won at our ease. We were home and hosed before half-time, as Kerry – shorn of so many of their All-Ireland winning side – visibly struggled to live with our hard pressing and high tempo approach.
But it’s only a League game in February and no-one is going to get carried away by the result. It’s great to get the win but it’ll be banked quickly and the focus will shift – as it must – to the next challenge, which will be Tyrone, back in Castlebar in a week’s time.
Still, a win at our leisure over the reigning All-Ireland champions has to be worth raising a glass or two over. Which I plan to do very shortly tonight. Mine’s a stout. Up Mayo.
Mayo: Colm Reape (0-2, two ’45s); David McBrien, Rory Brickenden, Enda Hession; Stephen Coen, Conor Loftus, Donnacha McHugh; Matthew Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1); Fionn McDonagh, Jack Carney (0-1), Jordan Flynn (0-4); Aidan O’Shea, James Carr (1-1), Ryan O’Donoghue (1-3, two frees and a mark). Subs: Bob Tuohy for Diarmuid O’Connor, Cillian O’Connor for McDonagh, Jack Coyne for Brickenden, Conor McStay for Carr, Paddy Durcan for Coen.
Who was our MOTM against Kerry? Pick your top three performers
- Jordan Flynn (30%, 1,176 Votes)
- Enda Hession (14%, 564 Votes)
- James Carr (13%, 490 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (10%, 371 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (9%, 339 Votes)
- Ryan O'Donoghue (8%, 329 Votes)
- Colm Reape (4%, 140 Votes)
- Matthew Ruane (3%, 114 Votes)
- David McBrien (3%, 112 Votes)
- Donnacha McHugh (1%, 43 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (1%, 39 Votes)
- Jack Carney (1%, 38 Votes)
- Rory Brickenden (1%, 37 Votes)
- Diarmuid O'Connor (1%, 30 Votes)
- Conor McStay (1%, 26 Votes)
- Fionn McDonagh (0%, 17 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (0%, 13 Votes)
- Bob Tuohy (0%, 11 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (0%, 9 Votes)
- Jack Coyne (0%, 7 Votes)
Total Voters: 2,001