They were level on eight different occasions over the first 55 minutes in Elvery's MacHale Park on Sunday, but thanks to a final quarter-of-an-hour flurry which saw Mayo finish off the game with six unanswered points, James Horan's men collected their first points of this years Allianz National Football League. Alan Freeman who picked up the man-of-the-match award after scoring 1-5 of Mayo's total, kick-started Mayo's break for home in the Spring sunshine, when he fired over a close range point to level the game up at 2-10 to 1-13.
Freeman was the main-man on Sunday and was making only his second start for the county since last years All Ireland final (his previous start this year came against Roscommon in the FBD League at the end of January ). The Aghamore man in a new look full-forward line alongside Adam Gallagher and Michael Conroy hit the ground running and had the ball in the back of Brendan Kealy's net after only 26 seconds. Aidan O'Shea was fouled after winning the ball from the throw-in, Andy Moran took the free quickly and played it to Jason Doherty, who saw the Mayo number 14 inside the Kerry defence and slipped the ball to the full-forward who deftly applied the finish from close range.
The Kingdom hit back straight away with Barry John Keane pointing after he collected a long ball in from David Moran that was missed by Shane McHale. The long ball on top of the Mayo full-back line was a tactic used often by Kerry throughout the game and it did cause the Mayo defence plenty of testing moments. A few minutes later a long Donnchadh Walsh ball was just missed by Keane, who if he collected it would have been clean through on Robert Hennelly's goal. Adam Gallagher who continues to grow into the senior inter-county game with each passing week, kicked Mayo's first point five minutes in from a free. James O'Donoghue responded shortly after with a neatly finished point, after Mayo were turned over in possession in the middle of the park in the build up. David Moran drove over a point from out the park soon after and that was followed by a Keane's second point of the day to level the contest up with ten-minutes on the clock. Keane's score was one of the scores of the day, he rose high to flick the ball into the path of Daithi Casey, who then played it back to Keane who had continued his run, before he swept it over the bar.
Mayo went back into the lead four minutes later when Michael Conroy was last man on the end of a flowing move from defence to attack that was led the effervescent Lee Keegan. The game was flowing from end to end at this stage and both sides exchanged a series of points for the next 15 minutes, with Freeman (2 ), Kevin McLoughlin and Keegan hitting scores for Mayo and O'Donoghue (2 ), Conor Cox (2 ) and Walsh the marksmen for Kerry to leave the score at Mayo 1-6 Kerry 0-9 with 29 minutes gone on the watch.
Kerry pushed that out to a two point lead over the next four minutes with both Cox and Stephen O'Brien scoring points. O'Brien's score coming after a mix-up in the kick-out after Cox's point saw the ball sail over the sideline and give possession back to Kerry in the Mayo half of the field. Mayo cut the gap back to a single score on 35 minutes thanks to an Adam Gallagher free, but it got much better for Mayo before Ciaran Brannigan blew for half-time. Aidan O'Shea won the ball and set in motion a move that involved Lee Keegan and Shane McHale before it was played to Jason Doherty who drilled it to the back of the net to give Mayo a two-point half-time advantage.
Within three minutes of the restart Kerry had put themselves back into two point lead thanks to a rapid fire 1-1 in the opening exchanges of the half. First Conor Cox just about scraped the ball between the uprights from a free kick. That was followed by a sublime goal from Stephen O'Brien who picked his spot in the top corner of Robert Hennelly's net with a superb finish from 30-yards out. Kevin McLoughlin steadied the Mayo ship with a pointed free from the stand side. The free came-about after Shane Enright ankle tapped Michael Conroy as he looked to escape the Kerry man's clutches. The referee deemed the challenge worthy of a black-card and the Tarbert man was sent from the field to be replaced by Pa Kilkenny. McLoughlin's point was quickly followed by by a monster of a point from Jason Doherty who let fly with all he had from a fair distance out the park. The game was scoreless for the next eight minutes as both sides kicked a few wides, until Stephen O'Brien left Shane McHale for dead with a speedy run, before adding on his third point of the afternoon to put Kerry back into the lead. But that was to be the last time they led or even scored over the remainder of the contest as Mayo went on to add six unanswered points to finish strongly and run out comfortable winners by five points. The scores coming from four from Freeman (three of them from frees,the middle one from long distance after he took over the duties from that range from Robert Hennelly after the Breaffy man had an off-day with his long range shooting ), sub Enda Varley and Kevin McLoughlin also both got in on the act. James Horan will be pleased that he was able to call on both Donal Vaughan and Seamus O'Shea to enter the fray in the second half to get some game time in their legs as they come-back from injury. The Mayo bandwagon moves on to Mullingar next week and a meeting with the division one basement boys Westmeath, with the table toppers from Cork next up in MacHale Park in a fortnight's time. Another win next weekend and Mayo will have eased any relegation worries and set them up nicely for a crack at the rebels and a spot in the last four of the competition.
Mayo:A Freeman (1-5, 3F ), J Doherty (1-1 ), K McLoughlin (0-4,3f ), A Gallagher (0-2 ), L Keegan, M Conroy, E Varley (0-1 ) each.
Kerry: S O'Brien (1-2 ) C Cox (0-4, 2f ), BJ Keane (0-2 ), J O'Donoghue (0-3,1f ), D Walsh, D Moran (0-1 ) each
Mayo: R Hennelly; B Harrison, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, S McHale, C Boyle; A O'Shea, J Gibbons; K McLoughlin, A Moran, J Doherty; A Gallagher, A Freeman, M Conroy. Subs E Varley for A Gallagher, D Vaughan for S McHale, S O'Shea for J Gibbons, C Carolan for M Conroy, D O'Connor for A Moran
Kerry: B Kealy; P Murphy, M Griffin, S Enright; P Crowley, A O'Mahony, M Ó'Sé; A Maher, D Moran; S O'Brien, D Casey, D Walsh; BJ Keane, C Cox, J O'Donoghue. Subs: F Fitzgerald for A O'Mahony, P Kilkenny for S Enright (BC ), M Geaney for D Casey, J Sherwood for M Ó'Se, J Buckley for D Walsh, B McGurire for P Crowley.
Ref: C Brannigan (Down )