A vintage display by Colm Cooper in Tralee on Sunday was the overriding difference between Mayo and their hosts from the Kingdom. The Dr Crokes sharpshooter nailed Mayo for eight points from his sides total of 13 with five from open play and the other trio form dead balls. In what was one of the most entertaining encounters of the league, John O'Mahony's side gave their all over the seventy minutes, but the lack of penetration in the danger area cost them when it came to the crunch. What the Mayo manager would do to have a forward of the class of Copper who the ringleader of the tormentors in the Kerry attack.
Even before throw in O'Mahony was forced to make a number of changes from the team in the program with both Tom Parsons and Donal Vaughan who stared for the u21s the previous day dropping down to the bench with Pat Harte and Chris Barett coming in respectively. Barry Kelly was also omitted from the first 15 with Kieran Conroy taking his place. Mayo were determined that they wouldn't get caught out by Kerry's tactics of dropping balls in on top Kieran Donaghy and Cooper, with Conroy being deployed at full back to mark the Austin Stacks man and Ger Cafferkey given a sweeping berth in front of the full back line. While the Conroy full back experiment was disposed of during the Connacht final last year after the Shrule-Glencorrib man was exposed by the nippy Galway full forward line, he for the second the second season in a row held his own against Donaghy on the edge of the square. Another Mayo man who seems to relish the opportunity to shine aginst the green and gold is Austin O'Malley who put in a very solid display at full back where he had Aidan O'Shea (son of Kerry great and former Mayo manager Jack O'Shea ) in all kinds of trouble, until Jack O'Connor decided enough was enough and took him off the St Vincent's man.
The contest was slow to get started on the scoring front with Mayo unable to put together a penetrative move early on and saw the ball blocked down or cut out three times in the opening five minutes by Kerry defenders. But seven minutes in Mayo had their first of three guilt edged goal scoring chances presented. Ronan McGarrity who had a ding dong battle with Micheál Quirke for most of the afternoon broke the ball forward from a Kerry kick-out to the arms of Trevor Mortimer. The Mayo number 11 then slipped it through to Alan Dillon who with one swivel of his hips threw off his man and a was clear on goal. Dillon miscued his shot which bounced off the ground taking the sting out of it and into the arms of Diarmuid Murphy in the Kerry goal. The first score of the game, came from the boot of the man known as “Star” by the home supporters. A long ball was dropped in which Donaghy grasped to his chest at the second time of asking, before he showed great balance and poise to create space to wrap his gangling leg around the size five and sent it towering over the bar. Three minutes later Cooper got in on the act when he showed a quick side step to escape the grasp of his marker and scoop the ball over the bar thanks to the hands of David Clarke who did his upmost to grasp it from over the black-spot. On the quarter of an hour mark Kerry looked to have found their grove when “The Gooch” nailed his sides third point from a free after Liam O'Malley hauled him down close in. Mayo responded and Trevor Mortimer skewed an effort badly wide when he should have done much better from a central position 30 yards out and it was on the 20 minute mark when Mayo landed their first minor of the game. Mayo won a free 40 yards out to the right of the posts and Mark Ronaldson showed great awareness to spot McGarrity in acres of space on the far side of the pitch, the Ballina midfielder arched the ball over for a deserving score. Mayo's second score arrived a minute later when good delivery into O'Malley saw O'Shea drag him to the ground close in giving Conor Mortimer the easy task of converting the placed kick. But Kerry weren't point to surrender their advantage easily and a brace of scores from Cooper in three minutes pushed the gap out to three with ten minutes left in the half. Mayo kept plugging with Harte and McGarrity breaking even in the middle and Tom Cunniffe and Peader Gardiner offering out balls on the over lap breaking from the half back line giving Mayo plenty of scope to break the Kerry gain line. Mortimer popped another free soon after. Mayo escaped just before the half hour mark when a long ball saw Donaghy break it down for himself in front of Conroy but for once luck was on Mayo's side when he came face to face with David Clarke and he dragged his effort badly to the left and past the post. Another Cooper free kept the Kerry scores ticking over less than a minute later, but Mayo kept plugging and Pat Harte landed one of the scores of the day when he picked the ball up 45 yards out after another bout of Mayo hand-passing in circles and took it upon himself to launch it over the bar from distance. Just before the break Kerry made sure it was double scores at the interval with points form Micheál Quirke and Cooper to leave it 0-8 to 0-4 at the turn around.
All though Mayo were trailing at the break they had shown that the Kerry defense was penetrable and within six minutes of the restart they had the gap down to the bare minimum Alan Dillon pointed from a free after O'Malley was hauled down on the left, then he got the point his efforts deserved after Tom Cunniffe battled hard to win the ball back off Declan O'Sullivan on his own 50 yard line and set up a move that involved Dillon and Trevor Mortimer before O'Malley slotted it between the posts. Andy Moran was next to hit the target for Mayo after O'Malley won a dangerous ball played in by Ronaldson in front of the goal and laid it back to Alan Dillon who along with Trevor Mortimer created the space for Moran to drift his effort between the uprights. A duo of Kerry minors by Cooper and Declan O'Sullivan bisected by a triple Kerry substitution including Thadgh Kennelly stretched the home sides advantage out to three once again by the 50 minute mark. Again Mayo stuck to the Kerry coat-tails and O'Malley grabbed his second point of the afternoon after he showed good change of direction to throw off his marker as he broke out for a ball. Soon after Mayo introduced both Aidan Kilcoyne and secondary school student Aidan O'Shea as John O'Mahony could sense the game was there for the taking, but it was Kerry who struck back first was points from a Cooper free and Declan O'Sullivan putting Kerry four in the lead with just over a quarter of an hour to go. Aidan Kilcoyne didn't take long to announce his arrival with a nicely taken score on the turn, and Andy Moran landed another shortly after with one of those kicks that seemed to agonize if it wanted to go over the bar or just drift wide from out on the left wing. It was end to end stuff at this juncture with both defenses doing their best to keep the other at bay. Kerry's final score came from Donaghy who lofted a great effort over Clarke's bar from out on the stand side of the field with Mayo's last score coming from Trevor Mortimer had no other option but to pot it over as he was about to be suffocated for space by a rampaging Kerry rearguard as Mayo looked to prise the goal that would seal the draw. Only seconds before Mortimer's score Aidan O'Shea showed great strength to break the ball away for his man and put Conor Mortimer tantlisingly clear on goal only to see a combination of Diarmuid Murphy and Padraig Reidy close the gap down in flash and clear the danger away.
While defeat is not what anyone wants at the end of the game, Mayo will have to have been happy with a battling performance over the seventy minutes where the vast majority in green and red gave their all against a Kerry side who had won three out of three before this game. Next up for Mayo is Dublin James Stephen's Park in Ballina next Sunday in what looks like a very winnable game for Mayo and could secure their division one status for another season.
Kerry: Diarmuid Murphy; Padraig Reidy, Aidan O'Shea, Tom O'Sullivan; Tomás O'Sé, Marc O'Sé, Tommy Griffin; Anthony Maher, Micheál Quirke (0-1 ); Paul Galvin, Declan O'Sullivan, Donnacha Walsh; Colm Cooper (0-8, 3f ), Kieran Donaghy (0-2 ), Darren O'Sullivan (0-2 ). Seamus Scanlon for Micheál Quirke, Aidan O'Mahony for Aidan O'Shea, Thadgh Kennelly for Donnacha Walsh (All 47 mins ), Daniel Bohan for Tommy Griffin (55 mins ), Rónán Ó'Flaharta for Marc Ó'Sé (61 mins ), Kieran O'Leary for Darren O'Sullivan (66 mins )
David Clarke; Liam O'Malley, Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett; Peadar Gardiner, Tom Cunniffe, Andy Moran (0-2 ); Pat Harte (0- ), Ronan McGarrity (0-1 ); Mark Ronaldson, Trevor Mortimer (0-2 ), Alan Dillon (0-1, 1f ); Conor Mortimer (0-2, 2f ), Austin O'Malley (0-2 ), Kieran Conroy. Aidan Kilcoyne (0-1 ) for Mark Ronaldson (51 mins ), Aidan O'Shea for Alan Dillon (55 mins )
Referee: Pat Fox (Westmeath )