Gaelic GamesMatch report

Mayo breach Fitzgerald Stadium fortress to inflict humbling defeat on Kerry

Mayo substitute Eoghan McLaughlin provided the game’s only goal on the hour mark to confirm win for Connacht side

All-Ireland SFC Round 1: Kerry 0-17 Mayo 1-19

A day of calm reckoning in The Kingdom. No titles handed out, no last rites administered, only a headline shift in expectations as Mayo sent Kerry backwards in respect of their All-Ireland defence.

Undaunted by Kerry’s championship record on their sacred ground of Fitzgerald Stadium – unbeaten here since 1995 – Mayo first outmuscled and then outsmarted them throughout the field, their game tidy and relentless.

Manager Kevin McStay referenced beforehand Mayo’s troublesome seven-day turnaround between their league final win and Connacht championship defeat to Roscommon; promises were clearly made in the six weeks since.

“Very pleased with the performance, the performance obviously led to the victory,” he said. “It gives us two points. I said in the preview that that’s all that was on offer here, two points in this group. They’re valuable ones. But we had to come up with some sort of a reaction. We were very disappointed with our Connacht championship. It certainly wasn’t the way we had planned it. But we worked well, got a nice block of work in, and prepared well for the trip.”


The conquering moment came on the hour mark, Mayo’s goal from substitute Eoghan McLaughlin was a properly thundering finish, daisy-cutting to the net, after a sweet pass from Ryan O’Donoghue, and shaking the stadium ground and possibly felt far off in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks to the south.

That came shortly after Kerry left three clear-cut goal chances behind them, all from the boot of David Clifford, one brilliantly saved by Colm Reape, one blocked by Sam Callinan, the other just wide – all within five minutes.

“I would just say it was strong running by our boys,” added McStay “We just got a lot of good footballers out on the field, who we think are tidy players, and they really wanted to perform in this championship. The very pleasing thing for management is that there was consistent application right throughout.”

In the end, Mayo also boasted 11 different scorers, with O’Donoghue, Aidan O’Shea and James Carr outstanding, compared to Kerry’s five, David Clifford, again keeping Kerry in the game when other heads around him drifted in and out of the game, finishing with 0-8.

Critically, perhaps, Kerry never once got in front. Mayo were five points up at half-time, justifiably rueing why that wasn’t even more.

For Kerry manager Jack O’Connor, a minor record goes too, having never previously lost a championship match to Mayo in his three different terms as Kerry manager. “Obviously we’re not as good as people thought we were after the Clare game,” O’Connor said, referencing their 14-point Munster final win. “But the big thing for us is, we need to learn from today. We need to use this experience to pick our team the way we need to pick it and maybe set up different tactically.

“It’s like we were nervy or something, I’m not sure what the reason was. We gave away some awful stupid turnovers. And they’re a killer against a running team like Mayo. Because next time you’ll see it is when Shane Ryan is kicking it out.

“Obviously Mayo were able to go away and work for six weeks. But no excuses really. We’d still be disappointed with the way we played. I think we have to take as much responsibility as the players because we obviously did not get it right either.”

Tactically, O’Connor admitted Kerry were dragged into something they also didn’t want: “It turned too much into a basketball game, which wasn’t what we intended. What I mean by that is, it was up and down the field, up and down the court. That’s not the way we intend to play and that came about by us, particularly early in the game, giving the ball away cheaply and then not being in position to defend properly on the counter-attack.

“Mayo’s long kick-outs gave us trouble, particularly in the first half. Every time they won a long kick out, they appeared to be in on us. They are a very athletic team and powerful running team and I thought we hung out our full-back line a bit, we are going to have to look at that.”

By 3pm throw-in time, Fitzgerald Stadium was clouded over, still plenty warm, the 23,128 in attendance basking in anticipation. Mayo had two gilded goal chances inside the opening exchanges, Ryan blocking extremely well, first from Diarmuid O’Connor, and again from Carr, who was sent clean through by Matthew Ruane after four minutes. O’Donoghue fired over the opening score from the rebound.

First to every breaking ball, they took advantage of Kerry’s edginess: nine minutes in, Paul Geaney scored Kerry’s first. It was still hard work, not economical football like Mayo were playing.

Carr, O’Donoghue and later Jack Carney all scored too easily from distance, Kerry’s defence caught repeatedly off the pace. Kerry went 14 minutes in that first half without a score, the barren spell ended by a first free from Seánie O’Shea, on 26 minutes, his first notable contribution of an overall subdued performance.

Mayo, facing Louth at home in two weeks, look poised for the quarter-finals. Kerry head for Cork, another day of reckoning perhaps.

KERRY: S Ryan; T O’Sullivan (0-2), J Foley, D Casey; G O’Sullivan, T Morley, G White; D O’Connor, J Barry; D Moynihan (0-1), S O’Shea (0-3, one free, one 45), P Clifford; T Brosnan, D Clifford (capt) (0-8, three frees) P Geaney (0-3, one free). Subs: A Spillane for Brosnan, P Murphy for Casey (both half time), R Murphy for Moynihan (46 mins), B Ó Beaglaioch for Morley (58 mins), S O’Brien for Barry (63 mins).

MAYO: C Reape; D McHugh (0-1), D McBrien, P O’Hora (0-1); J Coyne, S Callinan, C Loftus; D O’Connor, J Flynn (0-1); M Ruane (0-2), J Carney (0-1), J Doherty (0-1); A O’Shea (0-3, two frees, one mark), J Carr (0-3), R O’Donoghue (0-5, two frees). Subs: P Durcan (0-1) for Doherty, E Hession for Callinan (both 47 mins), T Conroy for Carr (53 mins), E McLaughlin (1-0) for O’Hora (55 mins), S Coen for Coyne (59 mins).

Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone).

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics