Mayo finally land knockout blow on Kerry
Stephen Rochford’s side set up All-Ireland final meeting with Dublin or Tyrone
Kieran Donaghy strikes Aidan O’Shea which resulted in a red card for the Kerry full-forward. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Mayo 2-16 Kerry 0-17
The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream will never die. Mayo tore through Kerry at Croke Park on Saturday afternoon to stride into a fourth All-Ireland final in six years and in a blaze of confidence and high emotion that finally, the lingering ghosts of 1951 will be exorcised.
They were too controlled all around the field for a Kerry team that laboured in a defensive alignment for the first half to no great end, as they trailed by five.
And as the Munster champions came at them all guns wheezing in the second half, Mayo simply kept them at arm’s length, Keith Higgins standing sentry in front of the square, leaving their delirious supporters in a crowd of 55,032 wondering what all the fuss was about.
Goals from Diarmuid O’Connor and - inevitably - Andy Moran (his third in the last three semi-finals against Kerry) , either side of half-time defined the margin on the scoreboard but Mayo were too good at the back and able to take their scores with impressive accuracy.
Aidan O’Shea started around the middle of the field but resumed his controversial posting at full back on Kieran Donaghy and if the previous week didn’t go particularly well, there was no doubt that the Kerry totem was far more subdued this time.
Part of it was down to Kerry’s set-up in the first half but even afterwards he wasn’t able to exert the same influence and in an emblematic turning of the tables, he got a straight red card for taking out his frustration on O’Shea.
In an unruly rather than violent match referee David Gough sent off three players - Peter Crowley as well as Donaghy for Kerry and Mayo’s Paddy Durcan but for double yellows. Kerry’s Darran O’Sullivan and Mayo captain Cillian O’Connor were both black-carded in the second half.
All of the speculation about who had more room for improvement didn’t factor in who had the greater potential for deterioration. From an early stage it was clear that Kerry were all in on that.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice took on board the lessons of the draw but his three late changes didn’t make a huge difference to the ease with which Mayo found space and opportunity to score.
In for the replay came under-21 defender Tom O’Sullivan, making his debut, Jack Barry at centrefield in place of Anthony Maher and Jonathan Lyne for Mark Griffin. Bulked up with defenders - former Footballer of the Year James O’Donoghue dropped out - and with Paul Murphy playing sweeper, the intention was obviously to make the Kerry defence a less welcoming environment.
Although they kept it tight for about 20 minutes Kerry failed to inhibit Mayo sufficiently and the greater numbers back led to more fouling. After scoring only a point out of 2-14 in the drawn match, Mayo got seven this time around, five in the first half.
Playing a sweeper was meant to make the approaches to goal harder to negotiate but it didn’t have that effect and it handicapped their attack, which was undermanned - at one point Donaghy won ball but had no options and when Paul Geaney arrived, he was boxed in and forced into a speculative wide.
In that conceded space Mayo were rampant, running through the middle. In the 28th minute Donal Vaughan hit a hopeful attempt at a point which Diarmuid O’Connor touched into the net for a five-point lead, 1-7 to 0-5.
Kick-outs were another area in which Mayo were clearly superior, protecting nearly all of theirs while Kerry lost more than a third, including a short re-start to the corner that ran out for a 45.
Kerry desperately needed a quick start but Cillian O’Connor kicked another free to extend the lead to six. James O’Donoghue came in for the second half in place of Donnchadh Walsh and made an immediate impact with a point in combination with Geaney. It will beg the question as to why he didn’t start as he and Geaney brought genuine menace to the attack for the first time.
With an exquisitely timed riposte Moran beat Shane Enright to an incoming ball and played a one-two with Cillian O’Connor to bundle in the second goal in the 37th minute. Eight points up, Mayo were never going to be caught and although Kerry rallied they couldn’t get the margin down lower than four.
Kerry fashioned a couple of goal chances but Colm Boyle made a great save from Geaney and a couple of minutes later Stephen O’Brien, twice, and Geaney had cracks at goal but were blocked and a free out finally awarded.
Scores were swapped freely throughout the second half but even with O’Connor gone after the black card, Jason Doherty was impeccable on the placed kicks with an acutely angled free and a 45.
As the minutes drained away so did Kerry’s hopes. Mayo’s, though, are soaring.
MAYO: 1 D Clarke; 2 B Harrison, 11 A O’Shea, 6 B Barrett (0-1); 4 K Higgins, 7 C Boyle, 3 D Vaughan; 8 S O’Shea, 9 T Parsons; 10 K McLoughlin (0-2), L Keegan, 12 D O’Connor (1-0); 13 J Doherty (0-3, two frees, one 45), 14 C O’Connor (0-6, all frees), 15 A Moran (1-1).
Substitutes: 18 P Durcan (0-1) for 3 D Vaughan (34 mins-half-time), 23 C Loftus (0-2) for D O’Connor (half-time), 24 C O’Shea for 14 C O’Connor (52 mins, black card), 19 S Coen for 8 S O’Shea (61 mins), 22 D Kirby for 7 C Boyle (69 mins) 17 G Cafferkey for 6 C Barrett (74 mins).
KERRY: 1 B Kelly; 2 S Enright, 6 M Morley, 4 K Young; 7 P Murphy, 20 J Lyne (0-1), 5 P Crowley; 23 T O’Sullivan, 8 D Moran; 17 J Barry (0-1), 10 S O’Brien, 11 J Buckley (0-1); 12 D Walsh; 13 P Geaney (0-9, eight frees), 14 K Donaghy.
Substitutes: 22 D O’Sullivan for J Buckley (half-time), 15 J O’Donoghue (0-4, two frees) for 12 D Walsh (half time), 18 F Fitzgerald (0-1) for 2 S Enright (39 mins), 21 J Savage for D O'Sullivan (45 mins, black card), 3 M Griffin for 4 K Young (51 mins), 23 BJ Keane for 23 T O’Sullivan (63 mins).
Referee: David Gough (Meath).