Kerry punish Mayo’s mistakes in ruthless victory

David Clarke’s kick-outs proved major problem for visitors as home side took advantage

Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor reacts to a missed goal chance during their All-Ireland SFC Super 8s clash with Kerry. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor reacts to a missed goal chance during their All-Ireland SFC Super 8s clash with Kerry. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Kerry 1-22 Mayo 0-15

Killarney’s summer bib, unblemished in a quarter of a century, remains pristine. Kerry put Mayo on the griddle here and charred them till they could see nothing but smoke. A contest that had us wondering all week was all but over inside half an hour.

For Mayo, it was gallingly simple. Kerry hemmed them in and didn’t let them out with the ball, especially in the opening half. If you can’t get past halfway, you better hope the other crowd are in a generous mood. Kerry had four wides all afternoon and put up 1-22 from 31 shots. Mayo were out of lifelines decidedly early.

“We’re happy enough with where we’re going,” said Peter Keane afterwards. “It’s game by game. Like I said to ye after the last game, the first game was against Clare and we wanted to go and win that and we did. We went out and beat Cork. There was an expectation going into the Cork game that we were going to hammer them altogether, we never had that expectation.

“Suddenly when we didn’t hammer them after telling ye we wouldn’t hammer them, it was our fault because we were wrong. You can’t be right and you can’t be wrong; you have to be something. We got out of it, it was a tough game and look at what Cork subsequently did. They put up 1-17 yesterday against Dublin, that’s a big score against Dublin. Today being the first day of a new competition, we were happy to get out of it.

Paul Geaney scores his side’s final goal. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Paul Geaney scores his side’s final goal. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

“I thought we worked very hard in that first half. The heat out there, I don’t know where ye were sitting but it was very warm out there, especially in that first half. Our fellas worked like dogs out there. That was probably where the game was won, in the first half.”

For Keane, this was a tactical triumph. From the outset, Kerry treated the Mayo kick-out as a scoring opportunity. There is no more damningly faint praise of David Clarke’s goalkeeping than to say he’s a brilliant shot-stopper. Which he is, of course. But Mayo need him to be more than that and the sense that his restarts were an accident waiting to happen grew through the qualifiers.

Kerry came not to praise him but to bury him. They subjected him to a blanket attack, flooding the Mayo half of the field anytime Clarke lined up a kick-out and winnowing down his options to bad and worse. They had as many as 13 bodies in the Mayo half for each kick-out, daring Clarke to be up to the task of finding a target in among a morass of bodies.

It must have been like standing on the tee of a Par 3 and knowing you needed a hole-in-one to stay in the match. And having to do so 17 times in the first-half alone. Clarke’s go-to kick-out if he can’t get one away quickly is a high, floaty affair, the sort David Moran might have spent Saturday night dreaming of. Even when Clarke went short, the Kerry high-press was ruthless.

It all washed out into an abundance of Kerry possession, which they duly translated into an avalanche of scores. David Clifford was able to isolate himself one-on-one with Brendan Harrison inside and had four points on the board by half-time, three from play to add to an outrageous free from the right sideline. Stephen O’Brien was a constant menace, Seán O’Shea nailed his frees.

At the other end, when Mayo did manage to get up the pitch, Jason Foley was winning his battle on Darren Coen and Cillian O’Connor was trying manfully to get into the game. But they couldn’t keep up with the tick-tock of Kerry scores.

On 16 minutes, the Kerry lead was a manageable 0-7 to 0-4. From there to half-time, they outscored Mayo 0-8 to 0-2, twice doubling up with a score direct from a Clarke kick-out. The Mayo goalkeeper made a terrific save from James O’Donoghue in the 21st minute to turn a goal chance over the bar, only to see his kick-out ransacked by Kerry and for Clifford to raise another white flag.

David Clifford with fans after the game. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
David Clifford with fans after the game. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

It meant that Kerry were 0-15 to 0-6 ahead at the break and all that was left for the rest of the day was to enjoy the sun and do some housekeeping. O’Connor ended the day as the all-time leading scorer in the Championship, finishing it with 0-6 against his name. The last of those points came from a late penalty, acrobatically tipped over by Kerry goalkeeper Shane Ryan.

Both sides ran the bench and Mayo improved. Kerry didn’t press quite so aggressively as the game went on, allowing Mayo a little space to breathe. Andy Moran came off the bench to good effect, Seamus O’Shea looked lean and coltish. Straws in the wind for James Horan, maybe.

This was Kerry’s day though. Keep marrying skills to smarts like this and it will be the first of many.

KERRY: Shane Ryan; Jason Foley, Tadhg Morley, Tom O’Sullivan; Paul Murphy, Shane Enright, Gavin White; David Moran (0-1), Gavin Crowley; Adrian Spillane, Seán O’Shea (0-7, 0-6 frees), Stephen O’Brien (0-3); David Clifford (0-7, 0-2 frees), Paul Geaney (1-2), James O’Donoghue (0-1).

Subs: Diarmuid O’Connor for Spillane (blood), 34-half-time; Dara Moynihan for O’Donoghue, half-time; Graham O’Sullivan (0-1) for Enright, 51 mins; Diarmuid O’Connor for Spillane, 58 mins; Brian Ó Beaglaoich for Foley, 63 mins; Michael Burns for Geaney, 67 mins; Mark Griffin Crowley, 71 mins.

MAYO: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan (0-1), Colm Boyle, Stephen Coen; Donal Vaughan, Aidan O’Shea; Fionn McDonagh (0-1), Kevin McLoughlin, Jason Doherty; Cillian O’Connor (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 pen), Darren Coen (0-3), James Carr.

Subs: Seamus O’Shea for McDonagh, half-time; Andy Moran (0-2) for Carr, 47 mins; Ciarán Treacy (0-1) for McLoughlin, 48 mins; Fergal Boland (0-1) for Coen, 52 mins; James McCormack for Keegan, 60 mins; Eoin O’Donoghue for Barrett, 66 mins.

Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone).

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