Mayo once again show that they have no short-term memory

High-energy assault through the middle helped them dominate Kerry in semi-final win

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea celebrates at the final whistle after beating Kerry in their All-Ireland SFC semi-final. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea celebrates at the final whistle after beating Kerry in their All-Ireland SFC semi-final. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Dublin 2-17 Tyrone 0-11

In the middle of all the historic achievement attending Mayo’s advance to a fourth All-Ireland final in six years – a first championship win over Kerry since 1996 and a first defeat in an All-Ireland replay for the losers in 45 years – lies a matter of great significance: the dangers of assumption.

Going into Saturday’s GAA All-Ireland replay after yet another drawn match they should have won, the percentage call was that as before Mayo would come close but ultimately, Kerry would have learned enough from the first day to make sure on the second.

Even at the throw-in, as news filtered through that Eamonn Fitzmaurice had made three changes to the announced starting 15 it was hard not to think of the old replay assumptions. If one team is satisfied with not winning a match and the other isn’t to the point of changing 20 per cent of the team, who’s the better bet?

All wrong.

You could argue that the secret of this remarkable team is that they have no short-term memory. Every task, every match and every season appears to be their first and they bring the same enthusiasm to bear regardless of setbacks.

Since losing to Galway in what now feels like the parallel universe of a Connacht semi-final 11 weeks ago, they have worked away getting better, refining the game and team selection to the stage where they are back in a final radiating danger and threat.

Changed aspects

Donal Vaughan

Kerry, clearly spooked by the banging gate their defence had been in the drawn match did things considerably differently.

Going with seven defenders and using Paul Murphy as a sweeper, the intention was clearly to block the approaches and make it harder for Mayo to rampage through the middle. Kerry could point to the fact that they lived off scraps for the first quarter and were still just a point behind but there were three unsettling realities about how the match was unfolding.

Telling statistic

Two, the withdrawal of players to supplement the rearguard left the attack in an impossible position. A feature of the previous week had been the opportunism of Paul Geaney and the masterful orchestration of Kieran Donaghy but both of these elements needed other players to distract the defence. Geaney needed decoys to find even the minimal space to chip over scores and Donaghy needed options when taking possession.

At one point Donaghy won ball but unlike last week – for instance when slipping Stephen O’Brien in for a goal – had no support and by the time it arrived, Paul Geaney was boxed in and forced into a speculative wide.

Three, in all of the conceded space Mayo were able to create a platform for their attacks. Keith Higgins as sweeper and Colm Boyle, frequently free as well, drove forward as did Chris Barrett for a great point on half an hour to hammer in the nail of Mayo’s first goal on 28 minutes.

When Kerry went long, looking for quicker build-up they were outplayed at centrefield, losing a third of their kick-outs whereas Mayo were beaten to only two; when they went short they were under pressure and goalkeeper Brian Kelly sustained the eye-catching indignity in the 17th minute of bending a short re-start out of play for a 45.

Goals were the decisive factor. Mayo scored two and conceded none. The first came when Donal Vaughan slightly undercooked an attempt at a point but like all disciplined forwards Diarmuid O’Connor was alert to the possibilities and got in, in front of Kelly to touch the ball into the net.

At double scores, 1-7 to 0-5, it was the moment the match started to ebb away from Kerry. They nearly got in for an answering goal but the overlapping Peter Crowley’s shot was touched out for a 45 by the excellent David Clarke.

Double barrage

Fitzmaurice abandoned the defensive emphasis for the second half. James O’Donoghue was introduced at half time and his partnership with Geaney questioned his initial exclusion, and helped bring the margin down to four at one stage after the Munster champions had taken the body shot of Andy Moran getting in for another goal two minutes after the interval.

It was the veteran’s third goal against Kerry in successive championship matches and he made it by beating (the swiftly replaced) Shane Enright to a long ball and finished it after a one-two with Cillian O’Connor.

Kerry couldn’t get the goal that might have opened up the match – Geaney was blocked by the excellent Boyle for a 45 in the 41st minute – and Mayo always appeared to have another gear.

Discipline fell to pieces in a match that was fractious without being violent. Yellow cards were handed out like confetti – messy but justified – whereas Darran O’Sullivan, just nine minutes on, and Cillian O’Connor were black-carded in separate incidents.

There were double-yellow dismissals for Crowley and Mayo replacement Paddy Durcan and in injury-time Donaghy petulantly flattened O’Shea. Seldom can any combatant stretched on the floor have had such feelings of satisfaction.

DUBLIN: 1.S Cluxton (capt.); 5. J Cooper, 4. M Fitzsimons, 2. P McMahon; 3. C O’Sullivan, 6. J Small, 7. J McCaffrey (0-1); 8. B Fenton (0-1), 9. J McCarthy; 12. Niall Scully,11. C O’Callaghan (1-2), 10. C Kilkenny (0-1); 13. P Mannion (0-1), 14. P Andrews (0-2), 15. D Rock (0-5, four frees).

Subs: 22. P Flynn (0-3) for Scully (45 mins), 24. K McManamon for Andrews (45 mins), 21. D Daly for Small (53 mins), 25. E O’Gara (1-1) for Rock (63 mins), 12. E Lowndes for Mannion (66 mins), 20. D Connolly for O’Callaghan (70 mins).

TYRONE: 1. N Morgan; 4. C McCarron, 3. R McNamee, 2. A McCrory; 5. T McCann (0-1), 6. P Hampsey, 12. K McGeary; 8. C Cavanagh (0-2), 9. C McCann; 10. D Mulgrew, 7. P Harte (0-4, three frees), 11. N Sludden (0-2); 13. M Bradley, 14. S Cavanagh (capt; 0-1, free), 15 M Donnelly.

Subs: 21. D McClure (0-1) for C McCann (30 mins), 18. R Brennan for McGarry (half-time), 22. D McCurry for Mulgrew (42 mins), 26. R O’Neill for Bradley (49 mins), 25. C Meyler for S Cavanagh (55 mins).

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