Kerry finally get past Mayo after extraordinary encounter
James O’Donoghue scores 2-6 as extra-time proves a bridge too far for Connacht champions
Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy celebrates scoring a goal during the All-Ireland semi-final replay against Mayo at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Kerry 3-16 Mayo 3-13 (aet)
A truly extraordinary match in Limerick this evening eventually laid waste to Mayo’s current great quest for the Sam Maguire. Kerry, in the latest incarnation of football’s most enduring power, rounded off an epic All-Ireland semi-final with the scores that drained the energy from the Connacht champions.
Once again their latest avatar James O’Donoghue led the way with 2-6, managed a decisive intervention in defence, ran hypnotic rings in attack – despite some wonderful defending by his marker Keith Higgins – and even had time for a couple of early wides.
David Moran again confounded Mayo’s expected superiority at centrefield with another terrific display and having been initially dropped, Marc Ó Sé was fetched on an emergency call at an early stage and went on to have a fine match.
After all the controversy about venue and averted suspension that ran through the week, it was again the mesmeric quality of the contest that captivated the crowd of 36,256.
It culminated in extra time and the end came wrapped in the almost anti-climactic material of three superbly taken points from replacement Jonathan Lyne, who book-ended the sequence with two, and full forward Paul Geaney, brought back into the fray for the last 10 minutes.
No-one would staked much of value on Mayo not conjuring up something but they were flat out and as the unforgiving minutes made a goal a necessity, Kerry dropped back and shut it out. There was late drama – including a one-man pitch invasion which was dealt with by a swarm defence from the stewards – with two frees for Mayo but Cillian O’Connor wasn’t able to guide the ball through the thickets in the square as time ticked away.
Worse followed for O’Connor, who kicked out at Killian Young after the second and likely last opportunity had presented itself. He was red carded – a depressingly uncharacteristic finale for a player who had shone over the two matches – and the free cancelled.
Kerry won the throw-in and celebrated as lustily as they ever have the winning of a semi-final.
It was an electric match, surging one way and then another. Like the drawn encounter in Croke Park six days ago, each side had reason to believe they had broken the back of the other’s challenge.
There were as anticipated changes before throw-in. Kerry surprisingly dropped Ó Sé and brought in Young in defence. Less surprisingly Stephen O’Brien was declared not fit and Kieran Donaghy brought in to start.