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Mayo can rule the Kingdom in Limerick

WHEN Lee Keegan was sent off just before half-time for an innocuous but equally stupid flick of his foot at Johnny Buckley in Croke Park last Sunday, Mayo were forced to abandon their policy of playing a sweeper, an unmitigated disaster all through the first half.

It suited them.

Quite why they required an extra body in their own half, when it was obvious they had sufficient cover in front of James O'Donoghue in their own half-back line, only James Horan will know.

Speaking of their manager, Horan called the bit that came next, Mayo's stirring and ballsy period of unshakable dominance after half-time, "as good as any team has played", and you'd be inclined to agree.

But nor did Kerry necessarily help themselves.

Quite what Brian Kelly was doing kicking the ball into a re-energised Mayo midfield when two and often three short Kerry options presented themselves is difficult to decipher but Eamonn Fitzmaurice will perhaps have learned more about his team last Sunday than Horan of his.

There was an imperfect beauty to the rest of the game but it was utterly enthralling.

For all that, there are a few inevitabilities heading into Sunday.

Cillian O'Connor is certain not to pass up as many chances as he did in the first half in Croke Park. If James O'Donoghue gets ball, he'll score too.

By the same token, if Aidan O'Shea gets ball and a yard to take an initial stride, it will take some kind of elephant tranquiliser to take him down without fouling.

Kieran Donaghy will make a longer contribution this evening. As will Andy Moran, whose own gutsy class was largely lost in the rush to re-acclaim 'Star'.

And just a small word on the venue, because more than enough has been said already this week.

Horan called it "bizarre", Fitzmaurice ventured "a bit strange all right", and the reason for their restraint is both men understand players and know the ignition of major controversy would just look like a manager coming up with an excuse.

Lets hope it doesn't turn out to be much of a contributory factor.

The old worn-out maxim says that favourites always winning replays.

It's not universally true, of course. But it should hold here.

BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Mayo 5/6, Draw 8/1, Kerry 11/8


MAYO: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, K Higgins, L Keegan, C Boyle, D Vaughan, J Gibbons, S O'Shea, K McLoughlin, A O'Shea, J Doherty, C O'Connor, A Freeman, A Dillon.

KERRY: B Kelly; M Ó Sé, A O'Mahony, S Enright; P Murphy, P Crowley, F Fitzgerald; A Maher, D Moran; M Geaney, J Buckley, D Walsh; S O'Brien, P Geaney, J O'Donoghue.