An outing to forget for Mayo in Croker

GAA: Casey's Call

Back of the net: David Clifford sticks home his goal for Kerry despite the best efforts of Rory Byrne and Padraig O'Hora. Photo: Sportsfile

Back of the net: David Clifford sticks home his goal for Kerry despite the best efforts of Rory Byrne and Padraig O'Hora. Photo: Sportsfile

Our biggest fears were realised, but not in our wildest imaginations did we envisage a 15-point mauling at the hands of Kerry in last Sunday's league final.

The 3-19 to 0-13 final scoreline ensured it was not a pleasant experience for the thousands of Mayo fans that descended upon Croke Park or watched it on TV all over the globe.

Truth be told, the scoreline was a little flattering for Mayo and could have been a lot worse only for the heroics of Rory Byrne in goal and a superb last-ditch deflection from Jordan Flynn to deny David Clifford palming the ball to the net in the first half. The fact that Byrne was Mayo's only representative on the team of the week tells its own story.

Four Kerry players made the selection but there could have been more as they dominated Mayo in a way we are not used to seeing, all over the field. Jack O'Connor has played down his team's impressive performance by wondering what real intent Mayo had in securing a league title, citing that Kerry’s motivation was unquestionable as they had only secured one victory in their last ten outings in Croke Park and that Mayo had beaten them twice in their last two meetings at Headquarters.

They needed little in the line of motivation against the green and red. This is where the great debate starts. Stories of Mayo not showing their hand and training exceptionally hard the week leading up to the final are doing the rounds but are of little comfort to those who travel the length and breadth of the country supporting their beloved team.

I find it hard to believe suggestions that anybody could dismiss a national title under those circumstances as part of a “master plan” especially considering the flak that has been directed at individuals as a result. After the performance, I nearly hope that was the case and Mayo were playing/training with one eye on the Galway game, because Mayo were way off it on Sunday; miles off it; destroyed in pretty much every department by a Kerry team that opened us up every time they attacked with blistering pace and accurate foot passing.

There were major problems down the left flank in the first half. Gavin White went untracked umpteen times and tore us asunder with his speed on numerous occasions, ultimately getting Kerry’s first goal after some relentless running at the Mayo rearguard as Mayo players were left in his wake.

White's bravery was all too evident as he took a heavy blow for his troubles while palming to the net after a great initial stop from Rory Byrne. Some Mayo players had decent patches of play during the game but the problem here is - patches. At this level, the performance levels have to be high for the entire contest to have a chance.

Michael Plunkett showed he knows how to score in Croke Park while Jordan Flynn again showed promise with a few marks from kick outs and a fine point also. The biggest match-up of the day and the one that commanded the most opinion after the game was of course the duel between Padraig O'Hora and David Clifford.

It was fascinating viewing and I, like everyone else from Mayo, felt for O'Hora as he was exposed and left to single-handedly deal with an exceptional player who was in exceptional form. For Clifford's first score O'Hora could have done no more. He pushed Clifford away from goal towards the Cusack stand but the Kerry maestro somehow managed to swing his dangly left foot at the ball with supreme accuracy.

O'Hora tried everything but nothing worked. Clifford was unremarkable on the day, especially when isolated on his own and players outside sliding beautiful passes into his lap. To O'Hora's credit, he even patted Clifford on the back to congratulate him after he left him for dust to score his goal.

There was very little for Mayo fans to cheer about but the sight of Cillian O'Connor running onto the pitch was uplifting in every sense of the word. Rumours were rife a few weeks back that he had a major set-back regarding his Achilles injury which thankfully turned out to be untrue. He found the going tough against a staunch Kerry defence but, give him time, and I'm sure we will see the championships all-time top scorer back to his best. Mayo have just over two weeks now to lick their wounds and get their house in order.

Roscommon and Galway played out a proper thriller in the division two final; a game that swayed to and fro right until the bitter end when Roscommon substitute, Diarmuid Murtagh, scored a brilliant individual winning goal for his team.

Paul Conroy put in a virtuoso performance for Galway scoring six points from play from midfield. One thing that can be taken from this game is that, if either Mayo or Galway think the Connaught final is between themselves and will be decided on April 24 - they better think again.


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