Mayo and Kerry to take enthralling roadshow to Limerick

Mayo boss James Horan objects but replay looks set for Gaelic Grounds

Whatever way we all saw this championship unfolding, it's fair to say that none of us imagined we'd be heading for Limerick on the last weekend in August. Yet that's how it is, after a game that rocked and rolled all afternoon before sending us home shouting for one more tune. Kerry and Mayo will plug in and mic up again next Saturday in the Gaelic Grounds, a replay pregnant with intrigue after the sides ended level on 1-16 apiece yesterday.

The compromise venue isn’t one that anybody is especially pleased with but seeing as the big hall is booked for an American college football game, the GAA didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. Mayo were particularly lukewarm about the prospect of turning out at a venue where none of their players has ever played a senior match.

James Horan let it be known afterwards that they would be trying to get the game put back to Saturday week.

“I’m working with the county board at the moment and that would be our preferred option,” he said afterwards. “If that works, great; if that doesn’t work, great.


“It’s not ideal playing the game in Limerick and I’m pretty surprised that it’s the case. We’ll go and check it out during the week and we’ll be ready wherever it’s played.

“It’s bizarre that this is an All-Ireland semi-final and it can’t be played in Croke Park. If you just have a think about that, it’s bizarre. This is where every player wants to play. If we can get it to Saturday week, brilliant. We’d be up for that.”

Their chances looked somewhere between remote and non-existent last night, as the GAA moved to shut down any prospect of the game being moved. “We have invested heavily in the Gaelic Grounds and we are happy to take the All Ireland series outside Croke Park,” said a GAA spokesman.

It might rumble on for a day but it shouldn’t. Better to turn our eyes to a replay that will have go some to live up this. Mayo lost it and won it and drew it, Kerry did the same but just in a slightly different order. You could make an equal case for congratulating and commiserating with them both.

More tepid

Mayo have rarely been more tepid and wan than they were in the first half; they have never been better than they were in the second. Despite going in at the break 0-9 to 0-5 behind and a man down after Lee Keegan’s red card, they pulled a performance from the depths of themselves to lead by five with 65 minutes on the clock.

Let nobody question their stomach ever again.

They had heroes everywhere. Cillian O’Connor wiped the memory of a dire first half from his hard drive to lead the revival. Aidan O’Shea was like a chess grandmaster, playing five different games at once and advancing in them all. Andy Moran came off the bench and won ball, kicked points and shook defiant fists.

And yet Kerry found a way to stay breathing. After a first half of clinical expertise in which they kicked nine of 13 scoring chances (as opposed to Mayo’s five from 12), they got overrun in the third quarter. When Cillian O’Connor leathered a penalty into the roof of Brian Kelly’s net on 58 minutes, it was the first time Kerry were behind since the fourth minute. O’Connor doubled down, tacking on the next two points and Kerry’s legs were jelly.

But if the big question going in was their lack of experience, Kerry's answer bore the look of men who see this thing as their birthright. They certainly weren't lacking in heroes themselves. Johnny Buckley had his best day in the jersey, particularly in that opening period when Kerry picked Mayo apart with a horologist's precision.

David Moran landed two bombs in the first half and found his feet again come the endgame. James O’Donoghue didn’t have his most stellar afternoon but still ended up with 1-3 – given his level this summer, it probably represents Keith Higgins breaking even on him.

Old-fashioned way

With five minutes to go, Andy Moran kicked Mayo into a 1-16 to 0-14 lead. Bryan Sheehan clipped a free but Kerry needed a goal. They sourced one the old-fashioned way – David Moran found room on the right touchline to arc a high ball in to the edge of the square, Kieran Donaghy made the catch and dished off to O’Donoghue. Bang. One-point game.

All was frenzy now. Another score for Mayo would have done it but when they managed to create a chance down at the Hill end, they got the wrong man on the ball.

Corner-back Tom Cunniffe, whose day had been spent as a sweeper standing sentry in front of O’Donoghue and Higgins, popped up in the end of a move 25 metres out. But once he got there, he had the look of a man struggling for translation in a language he wasn’t used to speaking. He sent his shot across goal.

Within a minute, Kieran O’Leary had drawn Kerry level. O’Donoghue could have won it but his shot dropped wide off the post. Sheehan could too but a late, long free dropped short.

“It was exhilarating to watch, to be honest,” said Horan afterwards. “We had players who just weren’t going to lose.”

Both sides had.

Roll on next Saturday.