In what was a battle of black and blue in Killarney, Mayo started their national league campaign by showing their respect for Kerry by forming a guard of honor for the All Ireland champions when they entered the field.
But that was as much respect as they showed for the men from the Kingdom on the field as they went apart dismantling a Kerry side shorn of many of their big names, but still packing a roster full of household names. Come summer time, this satisfying win over Kerry will mean little, but it was a solid first step to hopefully greater things for Mayo.
Mayo went in leading by six points at the break after they overcame an early period of Kerry dominance and a losing one of their starting forwards after just four minutes of action.
Evan Regan who kicked Mayo's opening score had to depart the action after a nasty fall which saw him land on his neck in the fourth minute. The Ballina man required treatment for six minutes before he was carried off the field to be replace by Michael Conroy. The Davitts man hit the ground running after he was introduced scoring three points before the break.
Barry John Keane opened the scoring after 20 seconds after he held off the attentions of Stephen Coen to create space to score. Regan equalised a short time later when he picked up a bad pass by Pa Kilkenny and stroked it over the bar. Kieran O'Leary put Kerry back into the lead after the long lay off for the treatment to Regan. Barry John Keane challenged Robert Hennelly for the ball under the bar, Hennelly punched the ball to safety, but it was recycled by Kerry and worked into O'Leary's hands and he put it over the bar from close range.
Jason Doherty cut the gap back to a single point after 21 minutes when he swept over a free from out on the right hand side of the field and two minutes later Mayo hit the front for the first time. Alan Freeman won the ball tight to the end line, but the Aghamore man showed his skill and strength to hold off the challenge of a number of Kerry defenders as he burrowed towards goal, before firing the ball low under Brendan Kealy to put Mayo 1-2 to 0-3 up. Michael Conroy kicked Mayo's third point in the 27th minute when he finished off a move started by captain Keith Higgins and involved Lee Keegan. Mayo had the wind at their back at this stage and Donal Vaughan hit a huge score to put Mayo four points to the good.
Kerry were taking on water at this juncture and continued to drive long balls in on top of their full-forward line looking to put Mayo under pressure, but Kevin Keane and his full back line dealt with everything that Kerry threw at them in this fashion without much fuss. Four minutes before the break Barry John Keane cut the gap back to three points with a fine individual score, but Mayo weren't in the mood to let it their hard fought lead slip before the break. Doherty kicked his second point of the half, before Michael Conroy added on two more points before the break in injury time to put Mayo six clear at the turnaround.
Kerry introduced Tommy Walsh for his first appearance for the Kingdom since 2009 and early on in the second half he looked like he was going to turn the tide in his favour with some impressive fetches in the middle of the field. Seamus O'Shea barreled through for the first point of the half to put Mayo seven clear just after the restart. But Kerry were about to hit their own purple patch and reeled off four points on the trot with two Barry John Keane points added to by a point from Micheal Geaney a 45 from David Moran cutting the gap to three points with 12 minutes gone in the second half.
Mayo's next score turned out to be the vital score of the game and it was one that will be remembered for a long time to come yet this season. Aidan O'Shea who entered the fray to replace Alan Freeman took a quick free to Mark Ronaldson. The Shrule-Glencorrib man spotted Kevin McLoughlin looping around his shoulder and played the ball in front of the Knockmore man. McLoughlin showed a clean pair of heels to the Kerry defence and struck the ball to the top corner of the net and put Mayo six clear and into a lead they never looked like surrendering. Michael Conroy put seven between the teams with a few minutes later and Mayo were home and hosed. The full stop on the contest was applied by Diarmuid O'Connor who kicked a fantastic point to round off Mayo's scoring when he kicked across the ball with his right boot from the right hand side and bend it just inside the near post.
Will this win mean much at the end of the season, probably not. But it's as solid a start as Mayo could have hoped for in this years National Football League. Next up is Tyrone at home next Sunday, where another win would round off a good start before the first mid-league break kicks in for a few weeks.
Kerry: BJ Keane (0-4, 1 free ); P Geaney (0-2 ), D Moran (0-2,1 45, 1f ), K O'Leary (0-1 ), M Geaney (0-1 ).
Mayo: M Conroy (0-4 ), J A Freeman (1-0 ), K McLoughlin (1-0 ), J Doherty (0-3, 2f ) E Regan (0-1 ), D Vaughan (0-1 ), S O'Shea (0-1 ), D O'Connor (0-1 )
Kerry: B Kealy; M Griffin, P Kilkenny, F Fitzgerald; J Lyne, J Sherwood, P Murphy; D Moran, B Sheehan; M Geaney, K O'Leary, J Buckley; S O'Brien, P Geaney, BJ Keane. Subs: T Walsh for B Sheehan, Philip O'Connor for K O'Leary, J McGuire for J Lune (BS ), C Keane for BJ Keane, J McGuire for P Geaney, D Casey for S O'Brien, A Fitzgerald for T Walsh.
Mayo: R Hennelly; S Coen, K Keane, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Barrett, P Durcan; S O'Shea, D Vaughan; K McLoughlin, A Gallagher, J Doherty; E Regan, M Ronaldson, A Freeman. Subs: M Conroy for E Regan (BS ), D O'Connor for A Gallagher, A O'Shea for A Freeman, M Sweeney for M Conroy, C Boyle for C Barrett, E Varley for M Ronaldson, B Moran for S O'Shea.
Referee: M Deegan (Laois )