Mayo crowned Allianz Football League Division 1 champions
Allianz Football League Division 1 Final
MAYO 3-11 KERRY 2-10
By John Harrington at Croke Park
As the Green and Red of Mayo blasted from the loudspeakers shortly after the final whistle blew on this Allianz Football League Division 1 Final, there was a real sense of catharsis in Croke Park.
Mayo have suffered serial heartbreak in this stadium in recent years, so this was a very sweet moment for their players and supporters alike.
It might not quite make up for the four All-Ireland Finals they’ve lost in this decade, but the genuine outpouring of emotion from both the Mayo players and supporters afterwards spoke volumes for just how much this win meant.
It was a thoroughly deserved one too, but, Mayo being Mayo, they didn’t make it easy on themselves and but for a brilliant injury-time save by Robert Hennelly would probably have lost.
It was only when substitute Ciaran Treacy goaled in the third minute of injury time that the long-suffering Mayo supporters would have allowed themselves to believe they were going to win this match.
That goal really put the icing on a brilliant second-half performance from the Connacht side after what had been a scrappy and error-strewn first half.
Sean O’Shea opened the scoring for Kerry in the very first minute when he won and converted a free, but it was Mayo who looked more convincing in the opening exchanges.
Their hard-running game was gouging big openings in the Kerry defence and they would have had a goal after seven minutes had Shane Ryan not pulled off a fine save from Donal Vaughan’s shot.
Vaughan’s run from deep put him clean through on goal, but Ryan did well to race from his line and smother the shot.
Those sorts of off the shoulder runs continued to trouble the Kerry defence and by the 13th minute Mayo were 0-3 to 0-1 ahead, with their points coming from Fergal Boland, Patrick Durcan and Matthew Ruane.
All that good work was undone though when Kerry went down the field after Ruane’s point to score their first goal of the match.
David Clifford won the ball in the left corner of the pitch and muscled his way towards goal along the 21-yard line.
Just when it looked like he’d taken too much out of the ball he fisted to Gavin Crowley who did brilliantly to step inside Chris Barrett and fire a scud of a shot to the bottom left corner of the net past a helpless Rob Hennelly.
Points followed from Sean O’Shea (f) and Clifford before Jason Doherty hit back for Mayo.
The Connacht side were rocked on their heels again when Kerry struck for their second goal.
Dara Moynihan did well to claim a long ball and then popped a perfectly timed pass to Stephen O’Brien who took it at full pace to outstrip the scrambling Mayo defence.
He still had a lot to do but thanks to a combination of his own ambition and slack Mayo defending he was able to drive as far as the edge of the square before blasting his shot to the same corner of the net that Crowley had already bulged.
Mayo were starting to really lose their way now. They had plenty of possession but were far too lateral in their use of it in front of a massed Kerry defence.
The game was becoming increasingly error-strewn with both teams guilty of errant passes and poor option taking in the opposition’s half.
The only other score before half-time was a Fergal Boland fisted point when he possibly should have shot for goal after rounding Shane Ryan, and so Kerry took a 2-3 to 0-5 lead to the dressing-rooms.
Right from the start of the second-half there was an appreciable improvement in the quality of the game, and that was mainly thanks to Mayo.
James Carr pinged a beauty of a left-footed point from the right win a minute into the half, and then followed that up with one with his right peg after winning a mark out by the left touchline.
It looked like Carr might then score a goal when he picked up the ball with one thought on this mind, but Shane Ryan smothered his close-range shot.
Darren Coen pointed after picking up the rebound and Mayo now really had the wind in their sails with the deficit down to the minimum.
Kerry briefly steadied themselves by kicking the next three points, but all that good work was undone when Mayo scored their first goal of the match on 49 minutes.
Matthew Ruane picked up the ball around 35 yards from goal and played a neat 1-2 with Darren Coen that created the opportunity.
Ruane still had a lot to do, but rounded Jack Barry superbly before drilling an emphatic shot low and hard to the back of the net.
Mayo were rampant now. Ruane and Aidan O’Shea were dominating the middle third, and most of the play was flowing towards Kerry’s goal.
The Connacht team were given further impetus when Diarmuid O’Connor suddenly thundered into the game after a quiet first-half.
Two brilliant long-range points by the Ballintubber man helped Mayo into a 1-11 to 2-7 lead and really rubber-stamped their growing dominance.
There was better to come from him. When Patrick Durcan miscued an attempted point, O’Connor got his fist to the dropping ball ahead of Shane Ryan to punch it to the back of the net and push Mayo three points clear.
There were just five minutes of normal time left to play, but Mayo gave their supporters palpitations down the home stretch.
Paul Geaney reduced the gap to two points and then Kerry were given further encouragement when the hugely influential Aidan O’Shea was given his marching orders after getting a second yellow-card.
Then came Hennelly’s moment of heroism when he made an incredible reflex save after David Clifford attempted to palm a Stephen O’Brien pass to the back of the net from point-blank range.
Clifford did manage to score a point shortly afterwards to leave just one point between the teams with two minutes to go.
But just when you thought a Kerry equaliser was inevitable, Mayo finished the match with a huge exclamation mark when Treacy goaled.
Diarmuid O’Connor and Andy Moran combined to put him through on goal, and Treacy showed a lot of bottle to take the shot on rather than fist the ball over the bar.
The net billowed and Mayo supporters jumped for joy. This feeling was a long time coming for them.
Scorers for Mayo: Diarmuid O’Connor 1-2, Matthew Ruane 1-1, Ciaran Treacy 1-0, James Carr 0-2 (1 M), Fergal Boland 0-2, Jason Doherty 0-2 (1f), Patrick Durcan 0-1, Darren Coen 0-1,
Scorers for Kerry: Sean O’Shea 0-5 (5f), Gavin Crowley 1-1, Stephen O’Brien 1-0 David Clifford 0-2, Jack Barry 0-1, Paul Geaney 0-1,
MAYO: Robert Hennelly; Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins; Patrick Durcan, Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan; Matthew Ruane, Aidan O’Shea; Fergal Boland, Jason Doherty, Diarmuid O’Connor; Kevin McLoughlin, Darren Coen, James Carr. Subs: Andy Moran for Darren Coen (51), Colm Boyle for Donal Vaughan (58), Evan Regan for James Carr (62), Ciaran Treacy for Jason Doherty (67)
KERRY: Shane Ryan; Peter Crowley, Jack Sherwood, Graham O’Sullivan; Gavin Crowley, Paul Murphy, Tom O’Sullivan; Jack Barry, Diarmuid O’Connor; Dara Moynihan, Sean O’Shea, Stephen O’Brien; David Clifford, Tommy Walsh, Kevin McCarthy. Subs: James O’Donoghue for Dara Moynihan (ht), Jason Foley for Jack Sherwood (40), Mark Griffin for Kevin McCarthy (42), Paul Geaney for Tommy Walsh (54), Gavin O’Brien for Gavin Crowley (66)
Ref: Fergal Kelly (Longford)