Jack O’Connor blames four-week lay-off for rusty Kerry performance

James Horan identifies shooting accuracy as the main difference between the teams and the reason for Mayo defeat

Jack O’Connor was mainly just relieved to get out of Croke Park with all 10 fingers and all 10 toes. A man can get antsy sitting below in Kerry while the championship is trundling along without him and when the opposition waiting on him has been in the last two All-Ireland finals. He wasn’t a bit surprised that Kerry took a while to find their stride here.

“In a way I suppose it was a perfect storm,” he said afterwards. “We were four weeks without a game and Mayo played two games in the interim. Plus the slippery conditions made it difficult to get up the pace of it. Not taking away from that, I thought we were rusty in the first half. We gave away an awful lot of ball.

“I don’t have the stats to hand but we must have given away nine or 10 possession in our forward line that allowed Mayo to counter-attack. We can’t afford to do that the next day because with the running power that Dublin have they’ll punish you at the other end.

“We have to tidy things upfront. I thought we gave away a lot of ball and that was probably to do with the conditions as well. Mayo have tough, pacy backs and they were contesting the ball but I think we need to be a bit cleverer with the delivery to our forwards. We were forcing it a bit and in those conditions any sort of a hand in the ball is going to spill and we spilled a lot it in the first half.”

For James Horan, there was no real mystery to the thing. Kerry took their chances, Mayo – to a wearying degree – did not. Kerry progress, Mayo settle in for a summer, autumn and winter of discontent.

“I think we got four from 16 shots in the second half,” Horan said. “I think we’d piles of attacks today, we’d an awful lot of attacks, we just didn’t get the return from the possession that we had. I think that’s it and they certainly did, so that was the difference. I think we’d a couple into the goalies hands at a key time. I think that knocked us a little bit and gave them strength. That was where they got ahead into a comfortable lead and they managed it from there.”

This isn’t a new problem, of course. Mayo have had these days before and, on this evidence, will again. We asked Horan if he had any theory as to why.

“There can be various reasons,” he said. “We were probably missing our three highest scorers today – that certainly makes a difference. Tommy [Conroy], Ryan [O’Donoghue] and Darren McHale, who is our highest returns scorer.

“So that definitely makes a start but your point is fair. We kicked a lot into the goalie’s hands against Kildare and a lot today. Some of that is technique, some of it is the speed you are taking the shot at, all that sort of stuff. So its an area the guys will look at.”

As for whether he will be looking at it with them, he demurred, naturally enough.

“Not the day for rash decisions obviously but everyone will take to reflect, for sure. Yeah, look, it has been a tough year. I was just saying out there that if you were designing a year it would be the absolute inverse of what we had.

“From no pitches to play leagues games on to no training pitches – we had to cancel trainings. The amount of injuries – it was one of those raggle-taggle kind of seasons. But to the credit of the players they kept going and kept battling.”

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times