Functional Kingdom get business done as defence stands firm

A lot of intent but no real coherence or spark as questions arise over direction of the Mayo after a defeat that lacked the trademark urgency
Colm Keys

Kerry 1-18 Mayo 0-13

After the storm, the calm. Or should we say the snooze.

How could even Kerry and Mayo, purveyors of so much great drama in the recent past, countenance living up to the absorbing two-and-a-half hours served up by Galway and Armagh before that.

And with so many of the huge Armagh crowd vacating after their team’s demise on penalties the atmosphere nosedived and consequently had an impact on this second All-Ireland quarter-final before 71,353.

Kerry won all too easily with Mayo once again not making spells of dominance count on the scoreboard, especially just after half-time when they might have applied more pressure.

It had the feel of a drunk swinging punches in a late night bar as the bouncers calmly ushered them off the premises. A lot of intent but no real coherence and so much of their play similar to last year’s All-Ireland final against Tyrone. They really have made a bad habit of it.

In the end Kerry pulled away comfortably, the power of their bench in evidence as they rolled off Killian Spillane, Paul Murphy, Micheal Burns, Joe O’Connor and Tony Brosnan to make it safe.

But for a long time the concerns around being undercooked, without a game of any real competitive merit since the closing stages of the league, were well warranted.

This was poor fare, lacking any real spark from Kerry, David Clifford’s magnificent goal apart, or the trademark surge of energy from Mayo when they get a sniff of an opening.

When two such keen rivals concede just 16 frees between them (nine to Mayo by our count), it reflects a lower level of intensity that what they are accustomed to in each other’s company. Baffling really.

David Moran rolled back the years though with a fine display in his first competitive start for 10 months, winning ball, recycling and getting forward to score two points and win frees while Tom O’Sullivan popped up to score three points, one of which probably should have been a goal on 56 minutes after great approach work from Sean O’Shea, while also keeping tabs on Cillian O’Connor at the other end. O’Sullivan outscored O’Connor from play by 0-3 to 0-1 which paints its own picture.

While acknowledging the absence of Ryan O’Donoghue and Tommy Conroy, Mayo’s two dynamic inside forwards, Kerry will still be pleased that they curtailed Mayo to 13 points, their average concession during the league and the same figure they held them to in the league final in early April.

This was another clean sheet for them to add to the two in the championship, six in the league and three in the McGrath Cup. They all count, 12 in all (just two goals conceded) now from 14 games, irrespective of the opposition.

Tadhg Morley’s sweeping influence continues to tell. At one stage in the second half he mopped up a break that fell from Aidan O’Shea and Jason Foley as they contested Diarmuid O’Connor’s delivery. It was typical of his quiet efficiency all year.

But they’ll know that there is much improvement to make in advance of a semi-final with Dublin on Sunday week.

Clifford, the subject of injury speculation beforehand, never gave the impression that he was entirely comfortable, especially after jarring his lower right leg when he appeared to stand on a ball early on.

For much of the first half his marker Oisin Mullin had the better of him, especially in one-to-one contests where the ball was in dispute.

But just as he did in the league final Clifford was able to conjure magic from a deep-lying position, teeing up Stephen O’Brien initially and then racing on to his shoulder to take a return on 28 minutes and spin away from Paddy Durcan for another stunning goal to add to the growing collection. No sign of any lingering issue in that moment but credit to O’Brien too for the patience he showed to wait for the right opportunity.

It gave Kerry the lead again after they had briefly fallen behind to a Stephen Coen point, 0-7 to 0-6, just a minute earlier.

Neither side could really claim initiative for any prolonged spell in the opening half. Kerry players put in some crunching tackles, O’Shea, Gavin White and Diarmuid O’Connor especially, to turn possession over but gains up front were left to individual excellence, Moran and and Sean O’Shea in particular showing neat footwork for points.

Paul Geaney was lively throughout but will feel he should have done better with an early goal chance when he screwed wide after a magnificent ball over the top from Tom O’Sullivan.

Gavin White’s line breaking at pace was again one of Kerry’s better outlets to get forward early on until Jordan Flynn, one of Mayo’s best players, managed to curtail him in the second half. For White the frustration is though that he too often runs into trouble.

Aidan O’Shea was black-carded, apparently on the advice of one of the officials, for a tangle with Clifford but in his 11 minutes or so off the field either side of half-time Mayo outscored Kerry by 0-2 to 0-1.

By the break it was 1-7 to 0-9 and Mayo may feel they should have led after Kevin McLoughlin’s shot screamed over from close range three minutes into added time.

They had a spell of pressure just after half-time but from their first six attacks scored just one point from Jordan Flynn. Lee Keegan, McLoughlin, Matthew Ruane and Diarmuid O’Connor wides, a shot off the post from Patrick Durcan and a shot dropped short from O’Connor hurt them and ultimately knocked the life out of them.

James Carr did nudge them close again on 48 minutes with a point but from there Kerry stepped it up and outscored their opponents by 0-8 to 0-1. Kerry were functional at best and will require more from Paudie and David Clifford and O’Connor to lift them to the level that they need to get to.

For Mayo, it’s a disappointing end to a poor season and afterwards the sight of Keegan and McLoughlin in particular lingering on the pitch begged the question as to whether they will commit to being back on this stage again.

James Horan’s latest four-year term is complete and afterwards he said he would take time to think about his own future and whether he would want to commit again. There will be a temptation with a full deck and maybe even an entitlement, given the credit line, for another year. But this group looks like it’s in need of a fresh voice and new ideas at this stage.

Scorers – Kerry: D Clifford 1-3 (2m f), P Geaney (1m) 0-4, T O’Sullivan, S O’Shea (1f) 0-3 each, D Moran 0-2, G White, G O’Sullivan, K Spillane 0-1 each. Mayo: C O’Connor 0-3 (2f), J Flynn 0-2, K McLoughlin, J Carney, M Ruane, A O’Shea, R Hennelly (f), C Loftus, J Carr, S Coen all 0-1 each.

Kerry: S Ryan 6; T O’Sullivan 9, J Foley 7, B O’Beaglaoich 6; G O’Sullivan 7, T Morley 8, G White 7; D Moran 8, D O’Connor 6; D Moynihan 5, S O’Shea 8, S O’Brien 7; P Clifford 5, D Clifford 7, P Geaney 8. Subs: K Spillane 6 for Moynihan (48), P Murphy 6 for O Beaglaoich (57), M Burns 6 for O’Brien (59), J O’Connor for D O’Connor inj (65), T Brosnan for D Clifford (67), G Crowley for Foley temporary (73).

Mayo: R Hennelly 7; E Hession 7, O Mullin 7, L Keegan 6; P Durcan 6, S Coen 6, E McLaughlin 6; J Flynn 7, M Ruane 6; C Loftus 5, K McLoughlin 5, D O’Connor 6; J Carney 5, A O’Shea 7, C O’Connor 6. Subs: J Carr 7 for Carney (h-t), F Boland 6 for Loftus (51), A Orme 6 for McLoughlin (57), P O’Hora for O’Shea (64), J Doherty for C O’Connor (69), A Orme for Towey temporary (73).

Ref – D Gough (Meath).

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Man of the Match Tom O’Sullivan (Kerry) Scored three points and played the most delightful pass over the top for a Paul Geaney goal chance while also reducing Cillian O’Connor, who he shadowed, to one point from play.

Talking Point The lack of urgency from both sides. Kerry won by eight points yet there was no real conviction about them. The game was delayed an hour, the majority of the crowd had left and it was flat all round. For Mayo, questions arise around the future direction of the team and of the management.

Magic Moment David Clifford’s goal, another for the bulging collection. He started it, Stephen O’Brien showed patience to pop it into him, and the finish was sublime.

Match Statistics Wides – Kerry 7 (3 in first half); Mayo 13 (4) Yellow cards – Kerry 2 (Diarmuid O’Connor 37, Tony Brosnan 70+5) Mayo (Diarmuid O’Connor 66) Black cards – Mayo 1 (Aidan O’Shea 30)

What’s next? Kerry meet Dublin in the semi-final on Sunday, July 10 at 3.30pm. Mayo must reflect on a disappointing year and where they go now.


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