Kernan handed 'reality check' as Mayo run riot
Joe Kernan developed a reputation early in his reign as Armagh manager for stirring half-time speeches that always struck a chord.
From hoisting old orange shirts above his head to smashing losers' plaques off dressing room-walls in Croke Park, Kernan's delivery rarely failed to miss its target.
Still, it was hard to imagine the best address for his players during the interval in McHale Park yesterday, his first significant bow as head of affairs in Galway.
Was it the stick or the carrot that was required as they trailed by six points, the legacy of a really woeful 35 minutes of football?
A 0-11 to 0-5 deficit actually flattered them. They should have been much further behind to a home side who showed lightness of touch and footwork to make a mockery of predictions that the division will be a struggle for them.
Rumours of Mayo's demise appear greatly exaggerated, and if they can add a little more punch to their inside forward line in the coming months the possibilities for them, on this evidence, are endless.
From Donal Vaughan, probably their best player throughout, to Enda Varley in the far corner, the energy positively crackled through green and red shirts everywhere, allowing them to win virtually every battle.
Kernan applied various permutations to Galway's perennially troublesome midfield quarters but failed to break the stranglehold largely enjoyed by Ronan McGarrity and Tom Parsons.
At one point in the second half, courtesy of goals from Varley and Trevor Mortimer, Mayo led by 13 points, 2-14 to 0-7, but a red card not long after his goal for Mortimer for a high challenge on Gareth Bradshaw gave Galway a foothold they scarcely deserved.
By the end, Galway had almost halved that deficit as Michael Meehan's probing -- he came on at half-time -- and the numerical advantage kicked in. But the wonder was what Mayo could have achieved here if Mortimer had not been dismissed?
Kernan described the performance and the defeat as a "reality check" for everyone associated with Galway. In six of the sides' previous seven meetings, the deficit either way has only been a point. To lose by seven was a jolt to the system.
"It was the first time I have got my team together and we were outgunned and outmuscled all over the pitch, with the exception of probably Gareth Bradshaw, Tomas Fahy and Donal O'Neill.
"They were probably the only three or four players who stood up today, which is disappointing, but it is our first game," he stressed. "If you wanted a reality check, well I'm sure the Galway people will settle down and say there's a lot of work to do here."
Kernan has inherited the problem his two predecessors, Peter Ford and Liam Sammon, both had: finding the right balance at midfield.
Joe Bergin and Mark Lydon started, Niall Coleman and Barry Cullinane later had spells there but the statistics of six Mayo marks taken to Galway's one in the opening half spelled it out starkly.
Worse for Kernan, however, was the failure to snaffle much breaking ball in the same vicinity.
"Around the middle of the field we didn't win much of the ball; we didn't win the break-ball in particular.
"They seemed faster than us, they were keener to every ball but the bottom line is they are not that fitter than us, they can't be," he reasoned. "It's all about wanting it enough and unfortunately we didn't win those battles."
The fruits of Mayo's labours at U-21 level in the middle part of the last decade may now be ready for harvest. O'Mahony is already on the record as stating that Mayo will be successful. He's just not sure if it will be on his watch, and yesterday he reiterated that.
"Mayo have four U-21s in a row so there are a lot of good players coming through. Now it is about seeing the guys that really have the ambition to build on it going forward," he said. "I have no doubt that Mayo will have a very successful team. How soon, that is the question, and we are all working to try and get that as soon as possible."
He bristled at a suggestion over the weekend that he was presiding over a team in decline.
"I heard an assessment of our team yesterday that we had gone back a bit before we kicked a ball at all in the league," he said. "If they were basing it on the FBD league, we are in the final of that which we weren't in five or six years. Maybe they should have said we have gone back since the Connacht final or something."
O'Mahony credited the sharpness of his team with a decision to virtually rest them last week. They met once on Thursday last but the coach spared them otherwise and it paid dividends.
From early on, the difference was palpable. Andy Moran was so dominant against Niall Coyne that Coyne was switched after 14 minutes and whipped off four minutes later. Kernan had to be equally ruthless with newcomer Paddy Kennedy, who found the impressive Kevin McLoughlin such a handful in the opening 22 minutes.
McLoughlin nailed two first-half points as Mayo poured forward impressively. By half-time, six of their 11 points had come from either a defender or midfielder as Vaughan, Gardiner, Parsons and McGarrity raided successfully.
Two quick Mark Ronaldson frees piled on the misery for a Galway team that could scarcely execute a telling tackle, and when Varley ghosted in to grab a Vaughan delivery and steer a shot past Paul Doherty, the result would never be in doubt again.
Varley had a hand in the second goal on 45 minutes, weaving in along the end-line before squeezing a pass to Mortimer, who couldn't miss.
Mortimer's red card halted their impressive momentum, and it was a decision O'Mahony felt was "harsh" and would be the subject of a review. Meehan sprang for a consolation goal on 50 minutes but it didn't spark panic in a Mayo defence where Keith Higgins and Ger Cafferkey also stood out.
Kernan chose to keep the hair-dryer in the box afterwards, suggesting instead that Galway players will have to "take a look at themselves", adding: "The beauty of this thing is we have next week to lift the heads and go and assess this performance this week coming."
The sight of so many of his players being tossed aside so casually will be the focal point for any review.
Scorers -- Mayo: E Varley 1-1, M Ronaldson 0-4 (0-4f), T Mortimer 1-0, K McLoughlin, A Moran 0-2 each, P Gardiner, T Parsons, D Vaughan, A O'Shea, R McGarrity 0-1 each. Galway: M Meehan 1-3 (0-3f), N Joyce 0-3 (0-2f), S Armstrong, M Martin
(0-2f) 0-2 each.
Mayo-- D Clarke; D Vaughan, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; P Gardiner, T Howley, K McLoughlin; T Parsons, R McGarrity; A Moran, S O'Shea, T Mortimer; E Varley, A O'Shea, M Ronaldson. Subs: A Freeman for S O'Shea (48 mins).
Galway -- P Doherty; D O'Neill, F Hanley, G Bradshaw; D Meehan, G O'Donnell, N Coyne; J Bergin, M Lydon; P Kennedy, P Conroy, N Coleman; S Armstrong, N Joyce, M Martin. Subs: T Fahy for Coyne (18 mins), D Commins for Kennedy ( mins), M Meehan for Lydon (h/t), B Cullinane for Martin (41 mins).
Ref: Marty Duffy (Sligo).