Clinical Freeman influential as Mayo heap more misery on Kerry
Late surge by the home side leaves Kingdom without a win in three games
Kerry’s Mark Griffin holds off Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin at MacHale Park, Castlebar yesterday. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Mayo 2-15 Kerry 1-13
A slow start by two of the regular contenders for major honours was settled by a decisive push for home by Mayo.
In watching their team fashion its first league win of the year, the Mayo fans also welcomed back two of the most conspicuous stars of last summer’s All-Ireland run, Séamus O’Shea and Donal Vaughan.
Coincidence or not, the Kerry men did not score after the pair came in to bolster the Mayo ranks and as the Kingdom’s challenge petered out, the visiting fans found themselves leaving Castlebar discussing the ramifications of relegation for the second spring in succession.
“Disappointing. It is what it is,” said Kerry manager Eamon Fitzmaurice afterwards. The Finuge man did not panic last year when he found himself in Castlebar when Kerry were also winless halfway through the league and he won’t panic now. But these have been a sombre few weeks for Kerry football.
“We struggled to score in the second half again. It is becoming a pattern and a worrying pattern. We had one or two chances in the last ten minutes that, if you are going to win tight games like that, you need to convert. Look, we are staring down the barrel of a gun again and we are in a situation where we are nought from three. And we need to get points on the board.”
That was Mayo’s objective here also. “It was about getting two points today . . . I didn’t care how we did it in some ways,” said James Horan at full time.
As it turned out, they did it through the reliable engine of their half-back line. Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle were excellent for Mayo yesterday and with Keith Higgins drafted from attack to corner back, their defensive unit had a forward thrust all afternoon.
Alan Freeman did about everything a big, ball-winning forward can, shooting a well-taken goal after just 30 seconds, landing an important point to put Mayo 2-11 to 1-13 clear and acting as relief free-taker when goalkeeper Rob Hennelly decided that four misses from four was enough.
Throw in a reliably productive afternoon from Kevin McLoughlin and a quietly authoritative shift at midfield from Aidan O’Shea and you were left with the sense that the defeated All-Ireland finalists are warming nicely to the season.
“We were poor in some ways...in the first half, Kerry were getting scores far too easily,” Horan pointed out.
“Every time it looked like we were getting momentum, we let them back in. But we finished very strongly which was very encouraging.”
The quality of the Kerry scoring was the distinguishing feature of the first half, with James O’Donoghue clipping a glorious early point and David Moran, who had a terrific first half, combining with Donnchadh Walsh and Conor Cox and kicking a fine point.