Mayo find themselves in a real dogfight to secure a place in the All-Ireland semi final after a ravenous Kerry tore shreds off James Horan's men in the first round Super 8 game in Killarney.
As far as defeats go, this was as emphatic a loss that Horan and the majority of this group have experienced. It's 13 years since a defeat of this calibre was experienced by a Mayo team - when losing to Derry in a qualifier by the same margin of 10 points in 2007.
Kerry were obviously motivated by the criticism they were getting from all quarters - including some of their past stars that questioned their will to fight and put in a performance in the lead-up to this game. They responded in kind. Mayo's defeat of the Kingdom in the All-Ireland semi final replay in 2017 combined with this year's league final defeat, meant Kerry needed little in the line of motivation against Mayo.
Kerry were ready for Mayo
Mayo bullied Kerry in that league final, there was no way Peter Keane was going to let that happen again. Personnel-wise, Mayo were down three crucial players from that league decider, Mattie Ruane, Diarmuid O'Connor and the latest casualty to the list, Paddy Durcan - players we now realise we can't do without. Add Lee Keegan to the mix - who clearly isn't himself - and that makes four.
Kerry, on the other hand, had David Moran back in tow, who missed that league final and his massive contribution paved the way for his forwards to go to work. Moran clearly was intent on laying down an early marker, to prove his absence back in March was notable. He wrestled with Aidan O'Shea before the ball was thrown in and went on to produce a sensational first half of football. He gobbled up several of David Clarke’s kick-outs as he dominated the middle third. What Kerry's midfield did to Mayo before the throw-in was a carbon copy of what Mayo had done to Galway the previous week. Mayo were on the receiving end this time as the Kerry boys showed no sign of weakness as stand-in midfielder, Killian Spillane, flung Donal Vaughan away before the throw-in, in a real statement of intent.
Kerry's Midfield dominance and high press from David Clarke's restarts laid the foundation for what was about to unfold. The first half was a disaster from a Mayo viewpoint. Mayo had 17 first half kick-outs. Out of that 17, ten were kicked long and Mayo lost seven of those - which is a clear representation of getting wiped in that area. Having 17 kick-outs in one half shows you are being dominated. To add to our woes, Kerry raised a white flag on 15 occasions in the opening thirty five minutes with some prolific attacking play.
The Kingdom's first half efficiency was Dublinesque. Ten scores from 13 shots from play and five scores from six attempts from place balls tells you everything you need to know. You won't get any teams losing with those numbers. Mayo simply had no answers to the questions Kerry were asking and despite a mini reprieve at the beginning of the opening half, Kerry were dominant throughout. Mayo only had 16 first half attacks and scored just 0-6 points compared to Kerry’s 25 attacks scoring 15 times.
In Stephen O Brien and David Clifford, Kerry had two forwards who looked impossible to handle. Mayo's cause wasn't helped by some uncharacteristic passing. The worry going forward is that the players looked out on their feet in Killarney and that the four games in four weeks eventually caught up and took a toll. The blistering conditions didn't help matters either. There is no team like ours to respond in the face of adversity.
Time to get back on the horse
We need Mayo resilience of the highest order to reignite our chances against Meath on Sunday in Croke Park. That game was never going to be easy anyway, it's now a 50/50 match up at best. Mayo are down but not out, Meath on the other hand come into the game confident having Donegal on the ropes for long periods in their first round tie in Ballybofey and can count themselves very unlucky to have a goal disallowed at a crucial juncture in that game.
The final scoreline is not a fair reflection on how close this game was. Mayo need to call on every inch of experience in their bodies to beat Meath, that's a given. We need to be in a position to have something to play for in the round three game against Donegal in Castlebar, otherwise the Super 8 experience will have been a nightmare. The players are a resilient bunch - as are the supporters - and the fear of going out will hopefully inspire them.
Mayo could also do with Kerry beating Donegal on Sunday because of the high scoring difference. A win for Mayo against Meath along with that result will leave it a straight shoot out between Donegal and Mayo in Castlebar to see who joins Kerry in the semi final from our group.
O'Connor writes his name in the record books
There weren't many positives to take from Killarney but Cillian O Connor becoming the championships highest scorer of all time cannot be understated. What an amazing achievement by an outstanding footballer. At 27 years of age he has the potential to hit figures off the Richter scale if he stays fit. I cannot understand the begrudgery directed towards him and Mayo simply because he overtook Colm Cooper's record. Thankfully he's ours, well done Cillian. Long may it continue.