Our last-ditch victory over Monaghan last Sunday saw us start this year’s League in a positive way but the manner in which we succumbed so badly on home turf to Kerry tonight brings us back down to earth with a fair old bump. Not only because we lost but because we played so poorly on the night too.
Now we know how much our defeat of Kerry last August hurt them. They rolled into MacHale Park tonight determined to prove a point and they did this. First, and most importantly, in the scoring department, where their excellence won them the game. Second, in the physical stakes where their tactics, in particular in the second half, were nothing short of filthy.
They lost two players to red cards in the second half but, given the number of hits they landed and the severity of some of them, it’s a wonder they hadn’t a few more shown the line as well. Ref Derek O’Mahoney had a very poor game – his failure to stamp down on their pulling and dragging early on set the tone and led directly to all of the dirt thereafter – but poor reffing, nor Kerry belting, ultimately lost us this game.
It was clear right from the throw-in that the Kingdom’s youngsters were up for this one. They bagged the night’s opening two points, both from play, before an Evan Regan free got us going at the other end. A well-worked move across the field soon after ended with Barry Moran – who’d lined out instead of Andy, with Jason Doherty starting in place of Colm Boyle (though not in his place) – clipping over the equaliser.
The visitors then enjoyed a purple patch, shooting three points without reply. When our response came, though, it was an emphatic one. Aidan won a hop ball (which should have been a free in for a drag-down on Jason Doherty) and he burst through the cover before offloading to the inrushing Diarmuid O’Connor, who smashed it to the net.
That score should have lifted us from our slumbers. Instead, Kerry went down the other end and tacked on five points on the spin. It could have been worse for us too, as Kerry were awarded a penalty for a foul on Geaney but David Clarke saved Sean O’Shea’s spot-kick superbly.
A bit after that we had a penalty of our own at the other end. Diarmuid made no mistake with his conversion, his second goal of the night cutting the gap to two points. A long-range free from Jason Doherty then cut the gap back to one at the break.
We were lucky to be just the point behind at that stage. They were cutting us to pieces at the back and their forwards’ shooting was little short of sublime. Most of the ball that came into our half, though, originated from misplaced passes or fumbles by us further up the pitch, combined with being second to the breaking ball pretty much all night.
We briefly drew level after the break, when Jason knocked over a close-in free. Then we lost the ball – Aidan looked to be fouled in the process – they broke quickly and Crowley buried it. That goal had, in truth, been coming for a while.
Diarmuid responded with a point for us – our second, and final, point from play of the evening – but we found it impossible to get into any kind of rhythm. Kerry’s incessant fouling was a factor here, of course, but we seemed devoid of ideas about how best to cope with such tactics.
Kerry deployed a twin-track approach from there to the finish. In our half they were all slick movement and registered enough scores to keep us at bay. In their half, they were absolutely trampish and eventually lost two players to red cards.
But we lost Evan Regan, felled close to goal by way of a particularly disgusting hit. That one was red all day long but merited only a yellow on the ref’s eyes.
Cillian came on and although he bagged two points from frees he missed twice as many chances from placed balls. They weren’t all gimmes but the Cillian of old would have stroked three of them over without too much bother. It’s beyond dispute now that the Ballintubber man’s freetaking is currently a pale shadow of what it once was.
Ultimately, though, we lost tonight’s game because we were unable to make use – once again – of numerical advantage on the pitch. Kerry flooded their own half, fouled repeatedly as high up the field as they could and then prevented us from moving the ball forward fast.
From our perspective it’s a depressing result, made all the more so because a young Kerry team came onto our patch and bullied us fairly badly. When a ref is as abject as Derek O’Mahoney was tonight, players need to stand us for themselves and for each other and, sadly, we didn’t seem willing to do this tonight.
Obviously, not too many players stood out for us in this game. David Clarke did well between the posts – his penalty save was superb and he prevented other goalscoring chances too. His restarts were a bit hairy at times but I thought he did better in that area tonight than he did in Clones. Eoin O’Donoghue put in another battling performance in tough conditions, as did Aidan O’Shea who, no matter how many times he was fouled, was never going to win a free tonight. Paddy Durcan, Diarmuid and Jason Doc offered the most attacking threat for us.
The good thing about this League campaign is that there’s little time to brood about the game just gone as the next one is just up ahead. After tonight, this is probably all for the best. We’ve no choice but to dust ourselves down, identify our main failings in this game and head to Salthill next weekend with the aim of putting in a much improved performance then.
Mayo: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Eoin O’Donoghue; Jason Doherty (0-3, frees), Stephen Coen, Paddy Durcan; Jason Gibbons, Shane Nally; Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor (2-1); Neil Douglas, Evan Regan (0-1, free), Barry Moran (0-1). Subs: Caolan Crowe for Cafferkey, Cillian O’Connor (0-2, frees) for Regan, Colm Boyle for Nally, Andy Moran (0-1, free) for Douglas, Fergal Boland for Barry Moran, Conor Loftus for Doherty.
Man of the Match poll:
Who was our MOTM against Kerry?
- Diarmuid O'Connor (24%, 128 Votes)
- David Clarke (19%, 99 Votes)
- Paddy Durcan (17%, 87 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (10%, 51 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (7%, 37 Votes)
- Eoin O'Donoghue (6%, 32 Votes)
- Cillian O'Connor (3%, 18 Votes)
- Conor Loftus (3%, 15 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (2%, 8 Votes)
- Fergal Boland (2%, 8 Votes)
- Shane Nally (1%, 7 Votes)
- Neil Douglas (1%, 7 Votes)
- Evan Regan (1%, 4 Votes)
- Barry Moran (1%, 4 Votes)
- Ger Cafferkey (1%, 4 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (1%, 4 Votes)
- Jason Gibbons (1%, 3 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (1%, 3 Votes)
- Caolan Crowe (1%, 3 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (0%, 2 Votes)
- Andy Moran (0%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 525