Mayo deal easily with understrength Kerry
Mayo's Shane McHale and Bryan Sheehan of Kerry tussle in an off-the-ball incident during yesterday's Division One encounter at McHale Park, Castlebar, Co Mayo. photograph: cathal noonan/inpho
Mayo 0-15 Kerry 1-6:Hope abides in the Heather County. Already, Mayo’s All-Ireland final defeat seems like a distant memory. Having sampled the delights of Miami and experimented liberally throughout the FBD League, Mayo yesterday renewed their vows as the doughtiest of all league competitors.Yesterday’s Kerry selection was not the first to find Castlebar a barren hunting ground but there was a definite air of concern about the loyal band of Kingdom followers after this match.
It wasn’t so much that they lost the match as that their youthful side failed to register a score for the entire second half. There is something almost blasphemous about a Kerry team doing that. But that’s the league for you. It is true that Kerry’s first-half scores came in snatches rather than through a prolonged period of smooth play but even so, there was little to suggest at half-time that the Kerry engines would stall as they did.
Nonetheless, a cursory glance at the match programme was evidence enough that new Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice was more interested in scanning his eye over young players than anything else. With the Dr Crokes men unavailable, Kieran Donaghy away on honeymoon and veterans like Tomás Ó Sé working back towards fitness, this was a pale shadow of a full Kerry team.
The pitch in Castlebar was slippy yesterday and the visitors played into a strong wind in the second half and then lost Anthony Maher in a roulette of yellow cards. Composure was always Fitzmaurice’s chief characteristic in his playing days and he wasn’t going to get carried away with this defeat.
“Yeah. Disappointing day out,” he said afterwards, standing in the freezing cold warm-up room. “We didn’t play well, we didn’t perform, simple as that. We aren’t going to be hiding or looking for excuses. The lads are disappointed and we have to regroup. It was always going to be a tough fixture next weekend but with Dublin coming down having played so well, it becomes even tougher.”
Still, that scoreless second-half left people shaking their heads. Kerry! Of all counties! It was a weird statistic but it would be foolish to read anything too much into it – and Kerry would have avoided it but for the fact that Bryan Sheehan missed the sort of free he has been knocking over since he was 12.
James Horan frowned for a second when asked if he remembered a team going dry for a half in Castlebar before. “I dunno. It is very unusual. There was a strong breeze today and we started dominating around the middle so there were a few things that made it easier for us. But Kerry were missing a lot of players and things didn’t go quite well for them today. They lost Anthony Maher and he was a big player around the middle for them.”
But as has been Mayo’s way under Horan, the home team were more concerned with their game than with anything else. Michael Conroy’s Second Act continues and yesterday he flashed over three fine points from play.
Jason Doherty was very impressive with his free-taking duties and Enda Varley made use of a brief appearance as blood substitute to whip over two classy points which might have served as personal advertisements to management.
Kerry have some miles to travel before they will reach the Zen-like state with which Mayo ride through thick and thin. There were flashes of encouragement in the first half, including two fine points by Michael O’Donoghue. But they will be without Johnny Buckley, the Crokes man who performed solidly at midfield here, for next week’s encounter with a Dublin team in rampant form.
It may get worse before it gets better and the Dubs are unlikely to show any leniency towards their old foes.
MAYO:D Clarke; S McHale, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; C Barrett, T Cuniffe, C Boyle; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; C Freeman, R Feeney (0-1), L Keegan; K McLoughlin (0-3, two frees), J Doherty (0-6, four frees), M Conroy (0-3). Subs: A Freeman for C Freeman (half-time), B Moran for S O’Shea (56 mins), E Varley (0-2) for R Feeney (61 mins, blood) KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O’Mahony, S Entright; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; A Maher (0-1), J Buckley (0-1, 50); M Geaney, D O’Sullivan (0-1), M O’Donoghue (0-2); J O’Donoghue (1-0), P Curtin, C Cox (0-1). Subs: BJ Keane for C Cox (42 mins), B Sheehan for M Geaney (42 mins), A Garnett for P Curtin (56 mins), S O’Carroll for M O’Donoghue (60 mins), Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).