All good things come to an end and Mayo’s reign as All Ireland minor champions was finished off by an impressive Kerry team in Croke Park on the under-card of the big game between the two counties’ senior sides.
Mayo can point to the loss of captain Cian Hanley, who in vain tried to play on after picking up an nasty looking knee injury early in the first half after he landed back to earth as he caught a long ball in, as a reason for their defeat. But in reality even with the Ballaghaderreen man in the full of health they would have found it hard to keep pace with this Kerry team. Led by full forward Killian Spillane who kicked six points and their rangy midfield pairing of Barry O’Sullivan and Mark O’Connor they hit their rhythm early and despite a valiant effort by Enda Gilvarry’s side the better team won out on the day. TJ Byrne’s second goal of the day at the death put a gloss on the scoreboard, but Kerry were worth more than their four point win.
The first half was a bitty encounter with Mayo going in leading by 0-4 to 0-3 at the break. But Kerry looked to have more of the play as they kicked four wides and had two excellent goal chances they failed to take, with Matthew Flanagan saving one effort well and Eoin O’Donoghue taking another off the line. In the face of serious pressure from the Kerry full forward line the Mayo trio of Conor Kilkenny, Séamus Cunniffe and Eoin O’Donoghue did very well early on, while Gary Boylan was the Mayo danger man in the forward line.
The first ten minutes of the second half was where Kerry found their gallop as they outscored Mayo by 1-4 to 0-1, with Spillane kicking two points and the impressive Liam Carey who came on at the break and Michéal Burns getting in on the action. The Kerry goal came from a long punt in that Flanagan came to contest with one of his defenders, but Tomás Ó Sé beat both Mayo players to the ball and flicked it to the back of the net. Mayo responded in style within seconds with TJ Byrne firing the ball low to the net after being played in by Matthew Ruane as Kerry momentarily switched off to leave the gap at two points, and a fine Brian Reape score two minutes later had the gap back to the bare minimum. But that was as good as it got for Mayo as Kerry went on to kick seven points to Mayo’s single point in reply and wrap the game up before Byrne’s second late goal gave Mayo something to cheer about at the end. Kerry even had the luxury of missing a second half penalty when Flanagan saved a weak Jordan Kelly effort after O’Donoghue was harshly judged to have fouled Ó Sé.
Mayo: TJ Byrne (2-00 ), G Boylan (0-04, 3f ), C Hanley (0-01 ), F Duffy (0-01 ), B Reape (0-01 )
Kerry: K Spillane (0-06, 4f ), T Ó Sé (1-01 ), L Carey (0-03 ), S Ryan (0-01,1 f ), M O’Connor (0-01 ), M Flaherty (0-01 ), M Burns (0-01 )
Mayo: M Flanagan, C Kilkenny, S Cunniffe, E O’Donoghue; J Forkan, B Duffy, S Conlon; G Walsh, M Ruane, G Boylan (0-04, 3f ), C Hanley (0-01 ), S Akram, F Duffy (0-01 ), TJ Byrne (2-00 ), B Reape (0-01 ). Subs: L Byrne for Hanley, S Brennan for C Kilkenny (black card ), D Clarke for J Forkan, K Hopkins for M Ruane, J Reilly for F Duffy, D Cannon for S Conlon.
Kerry: S Ryan (0-01,1 f ), S O’Donoghue, B O Beaglaoich, T O’Sullivan, B Sugrue, A Barry, C Coffey, B O’Sullivan, M O’Connor (0-01 ), M Flaherty (0-01 ), B Rayle, M Burns (0-01 ), J Kelly, K Spillane (0-06, 4f ), T O Se (1-01 ). Subs: L Carey (0-03 ) for B Rayle, L Kearney for M Flaherty, R Wharton for B Sugure 52 mins; S O’Sullivan for J Kiely, I Parker for K Spillane, S Ryan for M Burns.