Kerry boss Jack O'Connor admitted that the 1-12 to 1-10 defeat against Mayo was the reality check that the Kingdom might well have needed now, rather than later in the year, as Mayo powered to a deserved victory at the Austin Stack Park in Tralee yesterday.
Four points from the boot of Conor Mortimer and a stunning goal in the 58th minute from Tom Parsons made all the difference as Mayo outgunned the Kingdom.
Kerry boss O'Connor was philosophical in the aftermath of his side's third league defeat and knows that at least one more win is required to avoid getting involved in a relegation dog fight.
"We were poor today. We were very lethargic and tired-looking for some reason," he said. "We knew that Mayo were going to be tough today because you don't go away to Tyrone and Derry and win games like they did, without going well."
Mayo boss John O'Mahony, on the other hand, was left elated as his side now sit proudly on top of the table with Dublin and Cork and in pole position to make it to the league final.
Kerry suffered a body blow before throw-in when Kieran Donaghy was not able to start because of tonsillitis and Bryan Sheehan came in to captain the side for the first time.
The opening half was scrappy with both sides turning the ball over regularly as Mayo kicked six wides and it was Enda Varley who kicked all of their first-half points, as Kerry led 0-5 to 0-4 at the interval.
Kieran O'Leary then gave the Kingdom a 0-7 to 0-5 lead, but once Mayo introduced Mortimer, Kerry were in trouble. Despite another Cooper point in the 45th minute, Mortimer proceeded to kick four points from the 43rd to 52nd minutes as Mayo moved 0-12 to 0-8 clear. Parsons and Seamus O'Shea were now on top at midfield and the game was over as a contest when Parsons netted in 58th minute.
Bergin leads by example
GALWAY plunged Tyrone deeper into relegation trouble with a 1-15 to 0-14 victory victory at Pearse Stadium yesterday.
After the collapse to Kerry, in Tuam yesterday the Tribesmen got respite, lifting themselves away from the foot of the table and driving Tyrone into a more serious relegation dogfight.
Kernan's call for players to "stand up and be counted" was met with conviction, especially from Joe Bergin, who was captain for the day under the management's policy of moving the armband around in the search for real leaders.
"Joe Bergin has always been a good player in my eyes and he showed that today. When we needed someone to stand up today he certainly stood up. He led like a captain," enthused a relieved Kernan.
Mattie Clancy finished with 1-3, the goal after four and a half minutes the perfect tonic as Bergin and corner-back David Reilly combined to tee up the Oughterard man for a powerful finish.
Galway took oxygen from that start and made light of the strong breeze to push on, twice leading by four points before Tyrone, with Martin Penrose again looking sharp, closed to just one (1-4 to 0-6) on 32 minutes.
But Galway finished the half impressively with points from Clancy, Gary Sice and impressive newcomer Eoin Concannon giving them a 1-7 to 0-6 lead.
Even more impressive was the way they kicked on after the restart, with Concannon and Nicky Joyce adding frees before Clancy struck his third point for a seven-point cushion.
Substitute Cormac Bane and Bergin landed points from a different parish as Galway ran out worth winners.
Monaghan win at canter
A rampant Monaghan proved too strong for a lacklustre Derry with a 1-16 to 0-12 win in Scotstown yesterday.
Monaghan effectively had this game wrapped up by the halfway stage when they led by nine points. Conor McManus was on fire, especially in the first half, as he led the Derry defence a merry dance and lofted over a series of points from a range of distances and angles.
Tommy Freeman scored the goal in the 16th minute of the first half and Monaghan added a further five points without reply, four from the boot of McManus, to lead 1-10 to 0-4 at half-time.
By the halfway stage in the second half, 10 points still separated the sides despite the fact that Derry were now enjoying a greater degree of possession.
They hit three points in quick succession between the ninth and 12th minutes, but Monaghan did take their foot off the pedal as Seamus McEnaney introduced a number of subs to replace players who will be involved in the Ulster U-21 championship on Wednesday night against Antrim.