Sheehan steps up for Kerry

 

ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION ONE Kerry 1-9 Mayo 0-8:LEAGUE ENCOUNTERS between these teams tend to be sticky affairs and this was no different.

The visitors won a stop-start game defined by 48 frees, the most contentious of which resulted in a penalty, converted by Bryan Sheehan in the 64th minute. It was the crucial moment on a damp and windy afternoon when scores were scarce and Kerry, trailing by a point before that goal, pulled away in the closing few minutes.

The incident spoiled what had been an excellent afternoon’s work by Mayo goalkeeper Robert Hennelly, who was whistled for dragging Kerry’s Darran O’Sullivan to the ground.

The Glenbeigh man came on to Donncadh Walsh’s flat pass and seemed to half lose control of the ball as he sped towards goal. He regained possession just as he met the Mayo man and although the Kerry forward appeared to initiate the contact, Hennelly was whistled by Maurice Deegan.

Sheehan, off the field having a nose bleed tended to, was hastily dispatched to slot home the penalty.

Defeat left Mayo facing a testing visit to Tuam to meet their wounded neighbours from Galway. Although disappointed with the closing 10 minutes, Mayo coach James Horan was not entirely disheartened. His defence, with Richie and Alan Feeney impressive after being drafted in as late replacements, and Tom Cunniffe outstanding, did well to contain Kerry’s marquee pairing of Kieran Donaghy and Colm Cooper.

Things didn’t work out so tidily up front, with Mayo reliant on sporadic scores of individual excellence in a shooting performance that included 10 wides.

“We started sluggishly but sorted it out,” Horan said. “We didn’t get the return on our possession and we got suckered then on the penalty. I felt it was a free out for barging. But we had a chance to clear it before Darran O’Sullivan got it. ”

Kerry started promisingly but it never amounted to much on the score board. Eoin Brosnan, back from retirement after overtures from Jack O’Connor, responded to his deployment at centre half back in encouraging fashion, reacting sharply to breaking ball and distributing it sensibly.

He did break forward when the opportunity presented itself.

“I thought he was outstanding for a man playing his first game there,” O’Connor said afterwards. “Especially in the first half, he swept across the line like a man who was there all his life.”

When asked about his latest success in luring retired Kingdom stars back to the fold, O’Connor said it was all down to timing. “He was fierce disappointed after the Dr Crokes game (their Munster club final loss to Nemo Rangers) and I went above to the game in Mallow and he was going as well as I ever saw in my life. You know, life is short and your football life is short, and why not make use of it?”

However he had no update about another Kerry veteran, Tom O’Sullivan. “Tom is a laid-back kind of lad, he’ll probably make his own mind up about coming back. But he’d want to make it up fairly sharpish cause things are moving at this stage. I’d say if he’s not back right after the Dublin game, he won’t be back.”

At the other end of the field, there were further promising flashes from O’Sullivan in his role as a livewire centre forward prior to his involvement in the penalty.

He hurried around the Mayo full-back line to supply David Geaney with the best goal-scoring chance of the half but his placed shot was well stopped by Hennelly.

Donaghy was the player all of the Kerry half forwards looked for when in possession: the big man provided Kerry’s first point – whipped over by O’Sullivan and their second, an elementary free from Cooper.

Mayo struggled in this period: they fouled 19 times during an untidy first half but gradually played themselves back into contention, with fine strikes from Ronan McGarrity and Andy Moran on either wing and the threat of Aidan O’Shea on the edge of the square sufficient to keep the Kerry back line busy.

Marc Ó Sé was excellent all day but there were episodic signs of panic in the Kerry full-back line, with goalkeeper Brendan Kealy coughing possession up to Aidan Kilcoyne and leaving himself vulnerable late in the first half; dazzled by his array of options, the Knockmore man hand passed across the face of the goal and Kerry gratefully cleared.

It was five points apiece at the break; hardly enough to warm a crowd on a biting February afternoon. And after the restart, too, play just chugged along. The home score of the day came courtesy of the Mayo defence just after half time: Alan Feeney made a marvellous catch under pressure, Cunniffe came thundering out of defence and Kevin McLaughlin finished the move with a fine point. After that, the teams traded fouls and scores as the match rumbled into its final quarter.

“Well, some decisions go for you and others don’t,” O’Connor said. “I suppose there were a few decisions against Cork we felt went against us. Maybe that one went for us but I am not sure. It was tremendous for Brian to come straight off the bench to kick the penalty.”

Sheehan’s other score, on the stroke of full time, was better still: claiming a ball, he soloed in front of the stand for 30 metres, two Mayo men in pursuit and then floated a right-foot point to settle the match and leave the Kerry men preparing for their next match in the bright lights of Dublin in good heart.

MAYO: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, A Feeney, R Feeney; P Gardiner, G Cafferkey, K McLoughlin (0-1); J Gibbons, R McGarrity (0-1); A Campbell (0-2 frees), A Moran (0-1), A Dillon; A O’Shea (0-1), A Kilcoyne, M Ronaldson (0-1 free). Subs: N Douglas (0-1) for Ronaldson (41 mins), T Parsons for Gibbons (55 mins), J Doherty for Douglas (61 mins).

KERRY: B Kealy; P Reidy, M Ó Sé, S Enright; A O’Mahony, E Brosnan, J Lyne; S Scanlon, D Moran; G O’Driscoll, D O’Sullivan (0-2), D Walsh; C Cooper (0-1, free), K Donaghy, D Geaney (0-4, 0-2 frees). Subs: A Maher for Moran (43 mins), D Casey for O’Driscoll, K Young for P Reidy (both 50 mins), B Sheehan (1-1) for Geaney (57 mins), K O’Leary (0-1) for O’Sullivan (70 mins, inj).

Referee: M Deegan(Laois).