All Ireland SFC Semi-Final Replay
Prepare for talk of curses and Mayo’s 66-year wait for Sam between now and 17 September after Stephen Rochford’s charges made the most of their second crack at Kerry to move within 70 minutes of a first All Ireland title since 1951.
Patrick Durcan’s injury-time point salvaged a draw for Mayo first time round, and boy did they make the most of it at Croke Park last Saturday to reach their fourth All-Ireland final in six years.
Last year they lost out by just a point to Dublin, and by the same margin in 2013, while four points separated them from Donegal in 2012.
“There are always lessons to take on the days you win and obviously on the days you lose,” said Rochford.
“Physically we are in good shape and we need to look back on the tape and see what are the areas we can get better at and how we can take the game to Dublin and Tyrone, two teams that will offer us possibly different styles and different problems but we will concern ourselves with that tomorrow.”
Mayo had trailed by 0-4 to 0-3 after 11 minutes, but during the course of the next 16 minutes they turned that into a slender but important 0-7 to 0-5 lead, before Diarmuid O’Connor rose to punch home Donal Vaughan’s effort to the back of the net.
Rochford’s men led 1-8 to 0-6 at the break, but they’d enjoyed the luxury of a four-point lead at one stage in the side’s first meeting, so no travel plans were being made for 17 September just yet.
That lead increased to 2-9 to 0-7 just two minutes after the resumption when Andy Moran threw himself to turn the ball home from close range in the 37th minute, after a nice one-two with Cillian O’Connor.
Mayo led by eight – a substantial lead, but there was still plenty of time to go. When David Clarke, with a little help from his defence, then denied both Stephen O’Brien and Paul Geaney then it started to become clear that it just wasn’t going to be Kerry’s day.
Kerry were seven adrift when Crowley was dismissed in the 63rd minute, but Geaney’s free kept Kerry hopes just about alive.
In the dying moments both Durcan and Kieran Donaghy were red carded, the latter for planting a punch on Aidan O’Shea, as Mayo closed the game out with ease to secure a first Championship triumph over Kerry since 1996.
Donaghy finished scoreless and with Kerry’s forwards largely toothless Rochford could feel vindicated for again selecting O’Shea at full back, when all and sundry were critical of that decision in the first game.
“Aidan had a fine game – no doubt about that. But you’re only as good as your last game and there is another one coming up in three weeks that we will look to be better in and that’s where our focus will be,” said Rochford.
“I thought he played well last week but others maybe thought different. I was delighted for him because he has sacrificed himself and his play for the betterment of the team. It says a lot about him.”
While many pointed to Mayo’s two goals either side of half-time as the game’s decisive moments, for Rochford it was his side’s start which was crucial, as they contained Kerry.
“We knew that Kerry were going to come at us really hard. We knew we would have to match that and do better. I thought we did that,” he said.
“It was really important that we didn’t allow Kerry to get their fast start that they had got in previous championship games.
That allowed us take a hold of the game.” Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice was gracious in defeat, admitting his team were second best on the day.
“What went wrong? Mayo were better, Mayo were hungrier and they just performed better than us,” said Fitzmaurice.
“In fairness, they have ferocious appetite because of the disappointments they have had over the last couple of years and because of how close they were.
“We have had similar disappointments, last year in particular in the semi-final but when you are going back so long since they’ve won and they’ve been so close I think they edged us in those stakes.
On the day
“That’s not something you can predict, that’s just there on the day and I think it was evident there today.”
Kerry surprisingly set up with Paul Murphy as an out and out sweeper, a tactic which simply didn’t work.
“I would, I don’t think it worked as well as we had hoped but again I think you’d have to give big credit to Mayo for that,” said Fitzmaurice.
“I think they were just operating at a slightly higher level than us. I think the kickouts in the first half were a big factor – they got on top of our kickout and won all of their own kickouts, so they had a lot of possession.
“We were playing a bit of catch up. Any day you lose a game there are aspects of your game-plan that are going to malfunction and aren’t going to go according to play.
“I’m sure people will be wondering what the hell were we trying to do, but the days it goes well then you end up winning the game and you look like a genius.”
MAYO: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Aidan O’Shea, Brendan Harrison; Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle; Donal Vaughan, Tom Parsons; Kevin McLoughlin, Seamus O’Shea, Diarmuid O’Connor; Jason Doherty, Cillian O’Connor, Andy Moran. SUBS: Paddy Durcan for Donal Vaughan (35), Conor Loftus for Diarmuid O’Connor (HT), Conor O’Shea for Cillian O’Connor (52, BC), Stephen Coen for Seamus O’Shea (60), Danny Kirby for Colm Boyle (68), Ger Cafferkey for Chris Barrett (70).
KERRY: Brian Kelly; Shane Enright, Killian Young, Peter Crowley; Jonathan Lyne, Peter Crowley, Tom O’Sullivan; David Moran, Jack Barry; Donnchadh Walsh, Johnny Buckley, Paul Murphy; Paul Geaney, Kieran Donaghy, Stephen O’Brien. SUBS: James O’Donoghue for Donnchadh Walsh (HT), Darran O’Sullivan for Johnny Buckley (HT), Fionn Fitzgerald for Shane Enright (39), Jack Savage for Darran O’Sullivan (45, BC), Mark Griffin for Killian Young (51).