THE opposition might not have been up to the standard of some that had gone before but Kerry still produced their most complete performance at the perfect time to see off an average Mayo team and capture the Kingdom's 15th All-Ireland junior football title.
Kerry produced a measured, determined, polished and near perfect 60 minutes of football at a sunny Cusack Park, Ennis that would probably have been good enough to beat most opposition on the day, and was certainly far too good for a limited Mayo side that never lacked in courage but simply didn't have the skill or the collective spirit that Sean Moynihan's team had.
If Kerry had struggled for the early initiative and momentum in all their other games up to this final, then they most definitely turned that on its head on Saturday. Starting in blistering fashion Kerry outscored Mayo by eight points to one in the first 27 minutes, and not even a saved penalty from Conor Cox could upset Kerry's focus or derail that early momentum.
Indeed, Cox showed super maturity beyond his 20 years as he never allowed that early penalty miss to throw him off his game. He had scored just a point before that - a neat effort in the eight minute - but he finished the game as top scorer with eight points, six from play.
Two points from Niall O'Mahony ahead of Cox's first score had Kerry into an early lead. Ronan McNamara converted a longrange free for Mayo, but Kerry were already up to full pace and David O'Callaghan's point kept three between them.
This is a youthful Kerry team and a great passage of play involving three of the youngest, James Walsh, Niall O Se and Jack Sherwood, saw the latter come from the defence to win that 16th minute penalty. Cox - another of the young stars of this team - struck his shot poorly, making for a fairly routine save by Paul Mannion, but where Mayo should have grabbed the initiatve Kerry kicked on impressively.
A quick volley of points from O'Callaghan, O'Mahony, Cox (free) and Alan O'Sullivan pushed Kerry 08 to 0-1 clear, and it could have been worse for Mayo but for another intervention from goalkeeper Mannion, this time denying Niall O'Mahony a goal from a one-on-one situation.
Indeed, given the paucity of Mayo's attack and penetration up front that Mannion even got himself on the scorebaord with a converted '45' late in the first half after Enda McManamon had scored from a free kick, as Kerry led 0-9 to 0-3 at half time.
The half time whistle can often be a curse to the team on a roll but whatever the Kerry management said at half time ensured the Munster champions returned even more focussed and determined. O'Mahony and O'Callaghan (free) mined early scores and it looked like this All-Ireland final would never catch fire.
Mayo wing backs Micheal Forde and Oisin Quinn got forward for points but Mayo could never get closer than six points as Cox replied in kind to every Mayo point.
With 10 minutes left Mayo trailed by seven, 0-14 to 07, and looked to be playing for mere pride. Sometimes pride can be a strong catalyst. A bold move by Mayo full back Liam O'Malley got him into an advanced position before he delivered a slide rule pass to substitute Joe Kelly. He turned and took the ball around Sean Og O Ciardubhain and slipped the ball to the net. The gap was just four points.
It wasn't quite disaster for Kerry but it was one of those moments of adversity they had found themselves in before and of which manager Sean Moynihan had spoken of
previously. The response was as it always was.
Within two minutes Spa club mates Mike O'Donoghue and Niall O'Mahony had pointed two great efforts, with Cox's converted free minutes later cancelling out the worth of the goal.
Mayo didn't score again as Colm Kerins pointed well and, fittingly, Cox underlined the afternoon with his eighth, and Kerry's 19th, point for a most emphatic and deserved victory. KERRY: Sean Og O Ciardubhain (Cordal), Kieran Quirke (Duagh), Brendan O'Mahony (John Mitchels), Kevin O'Dwyer (Waterville), Marcus Mangan (Milltown/Castlemaine), Jack Sherwood (Firies), James Walsh (Knocknagoshel), Andrew Garnett (Spa), Alan O'Sullivan (Tuosist), Niall O'Mahony (0-5) (Spa), Niall O Se (Dromid Pearses), Paul O'Donoghue (St Marys), David O'Callaghan (0-4, 2f) (St Pats), Michael O'Donoghue (0-1) (Spa), Conor Cox (0-7, 2f) (Listowel Emmets). Subs: Eamon Hickson (Annascaul) for Quirke, Michael Brennan (Churchill) for Garnett, Colm Kerins (0-1) (Milltown/Castlemaine) for O'Callaghan, Brendan Poff (St Pats) for P O'Donoghue, Pat Corridan (Finuge) for Mangan, Edmund Walsh (Knocknagoshel) for Brennan (blood). MAYO: P Mannion, M Walsh, L O'Malley, B Leonard, M Forde (01), O Feeney, O Quinn (0-1), R McNamara, P Collins, P McManamon, E McManamon (0-2f), S Cloherty, A McTigue, C Dempsey, A Egan. Subs: M Moran for Feeney, J Kelly (1-0) for McNamara, K Gibbons for McTigue, C Horan for P McManamon, G McDonagh for Cloherty. REF: Maurice Condon (Waterford)