The majestic Magillicuddy Reeks provided an idyllic backdrop to today’s Super 8s meeting with Kerry at Fitzgerald Stadium. Down on the pitch, though, where the sun beat down and where the temperature was in the high twenties, what was on view was, from our perspective, far less attractive. Kerry were always on top in this game and they beat us with considerable ease.
We lined out as selected, going with minimal change from the last day and with no Paddy Durcan on the bench either. They made four changes before throw-in, which, in essence, meant switching out most of the young lads from the named team and going instead with more experienced heads.
We opened the scoring, Lee Keegan pointing inside the first minute. But before we had time to settle at all, Kerry reeled off four points without reply in as many minutes, two of these from Clifford, one from Geaney and the first a pointed free from O’Shea.
We responded well, though, with Darren Coen set up nicely by Cillian O’Connor before firing over and then Fionn McDonagh thumping over to cut the gap to one.
Three fairly silly fouls presented O’Shea with the straightforward task of extending Kerry’s lead to four from the resultant frees. They had a goal chance soon after too, which we managed to scramble away, and Cillian opened his account with a smartly taken point on the turn.
It was during this period that our forays forward ended repeatedly by our having attempted kickpasses intercepted. Each time this happened it gave them – and their increasingly vociferous supporters – a lift, deflating us in the process.
Kerry upped the pressure, in particular on our restarts, where they deployed a full press, with the result that our kickout strategy fell to pieces.
If we went short we struggled to get the ball out, if we went long the ball ended up in the grateful hands of the brilliant David Moran.
All those attacks and those, mostly successful, shots at the target meant there were plenty of restarts for us in that half. We lost the bulk of them and, by half-time, we’d lost the game as well.
By then we were bleeding badly, 0-15 to 0-6 in arrears, by which time it was clear that we were now in damage limitation mode. The prospect of a first Championship hammering in well over a decade was now a real and present danger for us.
In truth, they could easily have been completely out of sight at that stage. David Clarke had saved brilliantly from Geaney shortly before half-time, pushing the full-forward’s piledriver onto the crossbar and over. That was Kerry’s clearest goal chance of the half but we had a few other hairy moments close to our goals besides.
We made one change at half-time, Seamus O’Shea coming on for Fionn McDonagh. We got the half’s opening score, Cillian edging closer to the all-time Championship top scorer record.
We enjoyed our best period of the game – such as it was – in that third quarter. Andy Moran came on for James Carr, Ciaran Treacy replaced Kevin McLoughlin and Fergal Boland was introduced for Darren Coen. With the injection of fresh blood we began to show a bit more purpose in attack.
A pointed free brought Cillian level with Gooch’s all-time record and a goal effort soon after, which cannoned back off the crossbar, very nearly saw him become the all-time Championship top scorer in spectacular style. More pertinently, a goal then would have cut the gap to just six points.
A free a few minutes later made Cillian the all-time top scorer but there was little time to celebrate this achievement. After Jason Doherty was penalised for a double-hop, Kerry swept downfield, Stephen O’Brien’s hard running cutting us open. He bore down on goal and then laid it on a plate for Geaney to palm the ball to the net.
They got the next two points as well to widen the gap to thirteen points. Fair play to the lads, though, they fought back, with points in quick succession from Fergal Boland, Andy Moran and Ciaran Treacy.
A great run by James McCormack – who’d come on for Lee – ended with a foul in the square and a penalty for us. Up until today, Cillian had never before failed to extract maximum punishment from the penalty spot but Ryan superbly pawed Cillian’s spot-kick over the bar. It just wasn’t our day today.
Andy got another one to cut the gap back down to eight. They had the final say on the scoreboard, however, with two points in injury time sealing a ten-point win for them.
So it’s a second defeat for us in this year’s Championship but, by virtue of the current structure, it’s not one that eliminates us. But it’s a big setback for us, not least given that the margin of defeat is the worst we’ve suffered in the Championship for a very long time.
Walking up to Fitzgerald Stadium today we were lamenting the fact that we’d had no time at all to savour to the full last weekend’s delicious defeat of Galway. Well, the same is truly the case of this afternoon’s deflating loss. We’ve another game coming down the tracks fast at us next weekend and so the focus now needs to shift away from today’s train wreck and onto next Sunday and Meath.
Today’s reversal is a sobering one for us. It’s not, though, the end for us yet for this year. We’re down, for sure, but we’re not yet out. Battered and bruised we may be tonight but on we’ll go. We’ve no choice but to do so.
Mayo: David Clarke; Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan (0-1), Colm Boyle, Stephen Coen; Donal Vaughan (0-1), Aidan O’Shea; Fionn McDonagh (0-1), Kevin McLoughlin, Jason Doherty; Cillian O’Connor (0-6, two frees and a penalty), Darren Coen (0-2), James Carr. Subs: Seamus O’Shea for McDonagh, Andy Moran (0-2) for Carr, Ciaran Treacy (0-1) for McLoughlin, Fergal Boland (0-1) for Darren Coen, James McCormack for Keegan, Eoin O’Donoghue for Barrett.
Who was our MOTM against Kerry? Pick your top three performers
- Cillian O'Connor (29%, 419 Votes)
- David Clarke (14%, 197 Votes)
- Aidan O'Shea (11%, 151 Votes)
- Andy Moran (8%, 112 Votes)
- Darren Coen (7%, 101 Votes)
- Keith Higgins (4%, 60 Votes)
- Donal Vaughan (4%, 59 Votes)
- Seamus O'Shea (4%, 59 Votes)
- Colm Boyle (4%, 55 Votes)
- Lee Keegan (2%, 34 Votes)
- Fergal Boland (2%, 29 Votes)
- Chris Barrett (2%, 25 Votes)
- Brendan Harrison (2%, 24 Votes)
- James McCormack (2%, 24 Votes)
- Stephen Coen (2%, 23 Votes)
- Jason Doherty (1%, 20 Votes)
- Ciaran Treacy (1%, 11 Votes)
- Eoin O'Donoghue (1%, 11 Votes)
- James Carr (0%, 7 Votes)
- Fionn McDonagh (0%, 6 Votes)
- Kevin McLoughlin (0%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 822