A WORTHWHILE exercise? Certainly. Not everything Jack O'connor tried out on Sunday afternoon worked – Brian Mcguire at full-back, for example – but that's sort of besides the point. To try and fail and to learn is far more use in a situation like this than not to try anything at all.
Other experiments worked much better. Killian Young looked very competent at fullback once moved in there to replace Mcguire (who had another stormer once moved to his more favoured half-back berth). Johnny Buckley had another fine game at wing-forward winning some great primary possession along the way (strenghtening his case for a run at midfield sooner rather than later).
Midfield was a little out of sorts, which is probably understandable enough with the late withdrawal of Anthony Maher to be replaced by Bryan Sheehan. Sheehan and his midfield partner for the day, Kieran Donaghy, both had their moments – Donaghy won some great possessions – but overall Mayo had the edge, by some margin, around the middle of the park.
Kerry missed Maher's industry. They missed Paul Galvin's too so it was no surprise to see him called into the action early enough to replace David O'callaghan, who showed some nice touches (his shooting did let him down, however). With Aidan O'shea lording matters Mayo had the platform to dominate the game.
After twenty six minutes that dominance was at its strongest. They led the Kingdom 1-8 to 0-3, but consider the following: Colm Cooper was denied a brilliant goal for a fifty / fifty call of touching the ball on the ground, while Mayo's goal (converted by Jason Doherty) might well have been a square ball (replays suggest it was a legitimate goal, however). That's a six point turn around.
Still it was hard to dispute that Mayo were the better side at that stage. Kerry begged to differ, however. Four points without reply in the final five minutes of the half – Bryan Sheehan, Colm Cooper and Patrick Curtin all scored to bring it back to a four point game.
Kerry called in the cavalry for the second half – Paul Galvin and Darran O'sullivan came in straight away, with Declan O'sullivan introduced midway through the half – and gradually bore down on Mayo, who didn't give up the ghost at all.
They scored some nice points and still dominated around the middle, but they weren't getting enough of a return on their possession. When Colm Cooper was bumped over on his way towards goal referee Maurice Condon, who had a poor game, pointed to the spot. Bryan Sheehan stepped up and blasted it to the net.
Kerry had almost quarter of an hour now to see this game out – they were one point down and had a numerical advantage after the sending off for a second yellow of Lee Keegan – but they were sloppy and failed to ram home their advantage.
Luckily for them Mayo were sloppy too, spurning a couple of chances to see this one out. That allowed Bryan Sheehan step up and slot the winner in injury time.
KERRY: Brian Kelly, Shane Enright, Killian Young, Brian Mcguire, Peter Crowley, Eoin Brosnan, Jonathon Lyne, Bryan Sheehan (16, 1-0 pen, 6f), Kieran Donaghy, David O'callaghan, Barry John Keane, Johnny Buckley, Colm Cooper (0-2), Patrick Curtin (0-3), Kieran O'leary Subs: Pauk Galvin (01) for D O'callaghan, Darran O'sullivan for BJ Keane, Marc Ó Sé for E Brosnan, Declan O'sullivan for K O'leary, James O'donoghue for J Buckley
MAYO: David Clarke (0-1, '45), Eoghan Reilly, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins, Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Danny Geraghty, Jason Gibbons, Aidan O'shea, Kevin Mcloughlin (0-2), Andy Moran (0-1), Alan Dillon (0-1), Cillian O'connor (0-6f), Jason Doherty (11), Michael Conroy Subs: Kevin Keane for E Reilly, Conor Mortimer for M Conroy, Evan Regan for C O'connor, Shane Mchale for J Doherty
REFEREE: M Condon (Waterford)