Kerry know the value of winning
Division One A/Kerry 1-16 Mayo 0-15: Respect is earned. The All-Ireland champions, Kerry, visited Castlebar yesterday and repeated their September victory over Mayo in a hard, clean and at times chilling exhibition
.And although they were entering the Home of Hurt, it was Kerry who performed as though harbouring some grievance, with Darragh Ó Sé schooling all others around the middle of the field as though hell bent on bent on proving a point.
His attitude epitomised the hardness at the core of the spellbinding and sometimes pretty football the champions play.
It is hard to see what Kerry lack on the strength of this performance and they certainly won't fall short on motivation. Winning has not sated them.
"Winning is the priority," observed Kerry manager Jack O'Connor as the players headed away for an Easter Sunday roast.
"It improves morale and breeds that bit of confidence and it makes training that bit easier. If we lost our game here, next week against Tyrone would be of no significance. And with nine weeks to the championship, there is a long way to go and we need games."
Bad news for other contenders, the thought of the most formidable football county in the country frothing for tough engagements at this stage of the season.
They didn't use Mayo like a plaything yesterday but they did give another lesson to John Maughan's young team. From Declan Quill's point after 17 seconds, they looked intent on taking up where they finished last September. Mayo were put through much the same rigours as on their longest day.
The Kerry forwards worked ferociously when not kicking points, their wing backs punted long, high ball for Colm Cooper and Quill to pluck down and men like Séamus Moynihan, Paddy Kelly and Aidan O'Mahony got through a mountain of work. Eoin Brosnan hardly wasted a ball as he quietly chipped in with 1-4 and Quill was a constant thorn in the right corner, forcing Mayo to move James Nallen back after half-time.
Mayo trailed 0-8 to 0-7 at that stage and while Nallen did tame the young Kerins O'Rahilly man, his redeployment left a gaping hole in the middle of their defence. Kerry exploited that in the 15 minutes after half-time.
Cooper's score on 36 minutes, taking David Heaney on a dance before pointing off his right, was ominous. Five minutes later Brosnan sauntered to tap a goal from close range and Quill and Dara Ó Cinnéide pointed before replacement defender Mossy Lyons ambled up to add his name to the score sheet.
Suddenly, all was quiet in McHale Park.
Playing catch-up, it was important Mayo did not fade. A couple of breathtaking points from Ciarán McDonald kept the home fires burning. The Crossmolina man gave the kind of passes he alone is capable of yesterday but he did not get on the ball enough and was much too loose on Moynihan, allowing the Glenflesk star to build Kerry attacks with impunity.
Indeed, there were times when Mayo seemed content to stand back and look at the champions. A little less respect would have stood to them because they did plenty right here. Trevor Mortimer won plenty of ball up front, his brother Conor buzzed happily for four first-half points and Nallen, Keith Higgins and Peadar Gardiner had fine games.
Gardiner broke free for two important points and popped up on 68 minutes for Mayo's best goal chance, which he fired too high.
It was notable, however, that when he did enter the Kerry danger zone he was buffeted around by the collapsing Kerry defence like a child caught in white water rapids.
Mayo would want to discover that kind of ruthlessness and basic ferocity if they are to build on their undoubted class later this summer.
The bombshell that David Brady had decided to retire from the green and red jersey hit home as Ó Sé had his way with young Ronan McGarrity. The Ballina man, bruised but not bowed at the end of this contest, could use his senior partner while he continues to learn the ropes.
"Well I spoke to David on Friday and to be honest he is seriously considering his future with regards to playing football at any level," said Maughan. "We can't force anyone to play but the door is open. The ball is in his court now."
It could be that public pressure on Brady might coax him into reconsidering a summer working on the suntan and they could certainly use the veteran's experience.
Although Maughan was pessimistic about their chances, Mayo could still qualify for the league play-offs with a win here against Westmeath on Sunday next.
A victory here would have had a hugely restorative effect on the team but it seemed a bit fanciful at times when Kerry began to move the ball through the field at will. In the long term though, this loss might be of more use to Mayo.
It was not quite a rebuke from the champions but it was a stinging reminder of the sort of physical effort and mental toughness that contenders like Mayo are going to have to emulate later in the season.
Meanwhile, the champions will look to hunt down Tyrone as they try to defend their league title. Like all true champions, they have lost none of their greed.
KERRY: D Murphy; A O'Mahony, M Lyons (0-1), T O'Sullivan; T Ó Sé, S Moynihan, B Guiney; D Ó Sé, W Kirby; L Hasset, P Kelly, E Brosnan (1-4); D Quill (0-7, 2 frees), D Ó Cinnéide (0-2), C Cooper (0-2). Subs: B Sheehan for Hasset (34 mins), MF Russell for Ó Cinnéide (50 mins), L Hassett for Kelly (55 mins), K Donaghy for Kirby (56 mins).
MAYO: D Clarke; L O'Malley, D Heaney, K Higgins: G Mullins, J Nallen, P Gardiner (0-2); R McGarrity, BJ Padden; A Moran (0-1, free), C McDonald (0-3), A Kilcoyne; C Mortimer (0-6, 3 frees), A Dillon (0-1), T Mortimer (0-1). Subs: M Moyles (0-1) for Kilcoyne (41 mins), J Prenty for Dillon (53 mins), P Kelly for Mullins (64 mins).
Referee: E Murtagh (Longford).