Kerry spring into summer with all guns blazing and silverware

David Clifford puts in another stunning show in 15-point win over Mayo

Kerry wouldn't normally like to make such a show of winning the league but some hammerings are hard to avoid. They came to Croke Park just shy of being at full strength and with a five-week gap until they meet Cork in the Munster semi-final.

They met a Mayo team that was short of half a dozen frontliners and who only have a three-week gap until they face-off against Galway in Connacht. Also, like everyone else in the world, Mayo don't have David Clifford.

Add it all up and Kerry were able to waltz to a 3-19 to 0-13 victory and carry home the first piece of silverware of the third Jack O’Connor era. The first and second eras began with league titles too and were immediately followed up with All-Irelands later in the same year. Ipso facto, eh Jack?

“I’m not into piseogs at all now,” O’Connor harrumphed. “I’m just happy that we are setting out our stall to be competitive in every game. It wasn’t the end of the world if we didn’t win the league, but it certainly won’t hurt. We’ve been working on getting a good shape on the team, a good structure and the lads are enjoying it which is a big part of it. They are buying into the team ethos and concept.

“We are happy with where we are at, but there’s a long road there. Kerry had huge wins in the league last year and when push came to shove down the line in the championship it didn’t do them a pile of good, so we are certainly going to keep our feet on the ground.”

Kerry were fairly rampant here and more or less had it all tidied away by half-time. Gavin White scored the first goal of the day on 25 minutes to put them five clear and Mayo were never any closer.

The one highlight of Mayo's afternoon was getting Cillian O'Connor back on the pitch, his first appearance in 10 months. With Oisín Mullin a late scratch and no sign of Paddy Durcan, Rob Hennelly, Brendan Harrison or Diarmuid O'Connor here, James Horan can do with all the sound bodies he can lay his hands on between now and the 24th.

“It looked in the last few weeks as if Mayo got all they wanted out of the league,” O’Connor reasoned afterwards. “You weren’t sure whether they wanted to be in the final or not. But I think they didn’t want to lose three games in a row so they made a big effort for last week’s game.

“We’re under no illusions. They’re down a share of top-class players. Their strength is in their back line with the likes of Paddy Durcan, Oisín Mullin and guys like that. They were down those fellas today, with Cillian O’Connor just coming on. They will be a team to be reckoned with when they have all those players back.”

None of that is Kerry's concern. Presuming they negotiate their way through Munster, they won't see another Division One team until the last weekend in June at the earliest. It will give them plenty of time to replenish, to get the likes of Paul Murphy and Seán O'Shea back in harness and to allow Clifford to have his way with the other teams down south.

The boy prince was other-worldly here at times. He finished the day with 1-6 to his name and will surely have been mentioned liberally in the time capsule panels of many census forms overnight. He came out comprehensively ahead in his battle with Pádraig O'Hora, who had been doing a reasonable job up until they had a nose-to-nose square-up after Clifford appeared to say something untoward to the stricken Mayo midfielder Jordan Flynn in the 48th minute.

Whatever it was riled O’Hora up no end and the pair got in a tangle that bought them both a yellow card. More ominously for the Mayo defender, Clifford went on to whip another 1-2 with three of the most picture-perfect scores you could wish for. He was untouchable for the rest of the game, so much so that the only man to lay a glove on him at all was the Hill 16 umpire who ran over at the end for an autograph.

In the Division Two final, a late pearler of a goal from substitute Diarmuid Murtagh won the day for Roscommon, earning them a 1-20 to 0-22 win over Galway. Anthony Cunningham's side just about came out ahead in a nip-and-tuck affair in which Galway midfielder Paul Conroy kicked six sumptuous points from play.

It was Conroy’s day, right up until the point where it was Murtagh’s, right up until the point where it was Clifford’s. Spring’s business is done. Bring on the summer.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times

READ MORE