Kerry young guns shoot down Mayo challenge

GAA: Comment

Arm wrestle: Neil Dogulas battles it out with Shane Enright last weekend in Castlebar. Photo: Sportsfile

Arm wrestle: Neil Dogulas battles it out with Shane Enright last weekend in Castlebar. Photo: Sportsfile

We knew life in division one was going to be tough.

Mayo's win in Monaghan hugely important in the grand scheme of things. The arrival of Kerry and the subsequent result brought everybody right back down to earth. It was a reality check for Stephen Rochford's team as Fitzmaurices's fledglings stormed Elverys MacHale Park last Saturday evening in front of almost 12,000 spectators.

Looking at both team sheets before throw-in, I guess everybody was of the same opinion, despite Mayo missing so many regulars they are still going to be far too strong and experienced for this rookie looking Kerry team who had so many unfamiliar names in their ranks with some of them still in their teens. How wrong we were.

It was obvious from the outset that Eamon Fitzmaurice had his Kerry team were pumped to the last and baying for blood, apart from having some serious footballers with lightning speed who were told go and express themselves.

They were also most definitely instructed to back down from nothing and fight fire with fire, and in a lot of cases the young Kerry whippets instigated a lot of the jostling and off the ball mini squirm aches. It must have caught the Mayo players by surprise, it certainly caught me.

I didn't expect them to be so cynical and physical. When I found out during the game that Kerry centre back Gavin Crowley was only 19 years of age I was shocked. He tussled with Aidan O'Shea like a seasoned veteran on and off the ball, right up until he was red carded in the second half.

I watched in bewilderment as last year's minor sensation David Clifford clattered Ger Cafferky off the ball when there was absolutely no need to. I was amazed as Micheal Burns (a Dr Crokes player I never heard of before ) and Sean O'Shea excelled for Kerry in the half forward line scoring two points each from play as they are only 19 and 20 years of age.

I don't condone violence or nastiness on a football field and never will, but this game cried out for a Mayo player to lay down a marker to stop these new kids on the block dictating to seasoned, well known, inter county players. However, Ronan Shanahan's high tackle on Evan Regan was disgraceful, and how Derek O'Mahoney let him away with a yellow card, I still can't figure out. Regan was barely able to keep his feet leaving the pitch with a facial fracture and concussion.

Second half wows hurt Mayo

Mayo went in at half time only a point down, and truth be told it should have been about seven. Diarmuid O'Connor scored two majors for his team, the first after some very physical and effective play from Aidan O'Shea, the second from the penalty spot after a lung busting run from Paddy Durcan who laid off to club mate Neil Douglas who was fouled inside the box.

David Clarke again showed why he is the country's number one keeper with a fine penalty save from Sean O'Shea. We hoped Mayo would come out fighting in the second half but again Kerry played on the edge. Aidan O'Shea got dispossessed on the halfway line, much to his frustration as he was clearly fouled but his marker Crowley who rubbed salt in his wounds by finding the back of the net directly from that dispossession.

Barry John Keane and Paul Geaney were real handfuls for the Mayo rearguard. I don't think Brendan Harrison has ever had a more difficult evening on a football field than he had with Geaney, who was superb for Kerry and rightfully the man of the match. The big worry for Mayo was their failure to capitalise on Kerry's indiscipline.

The kingdom were reduced to 13 men with over 20 minute to play yet Mayo failed to capitalise. Cillian O'Connor will be very disappointed with himself after missing some crucial, very scoreable frees when it was obvious Mayo were struggling for scores up front.

The damning stat, that Mayo forwards only achieved a single point from play for the entire duration is slightly worrying. Compare that to four Kerry forwards scoring 10 from play between them.

There is certainly no need to panic and if anything this poor performance will have intensified this week's training to have Mayo fully primed for Sunday's game with high flying Galway, who achieved back to back wins in the league after impressively beating Donegal away from home last weekend. Both teams will want to lay down a marker for the championship showdown. With Dublin on the horizon in round four a win in Pearse stadium is crucial.

So it was my fault

I was amused to hear a caller to Mid West Radio on Wednesday blamed my article last week as the reason Mayo lost to Kerry. I can assure him it was not my fault and I also had nothing to do with the Chinese floods of 1931, the Indian ocean earthquake in 2004 or the sinking of the Titanic.

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