Croker rout as Kerry go heavy on Mayo
KERRY 1-20 MAYO 2-9 All-Ireland SFC Final THE GAA netted over ?4m in gate receipts at Croke Park yesterday but Kerry supporters were the only ones who didn't feel short-changed by one of the most disappointing All-Ireland football finals for many years.
The stadium was one-third empty by the time referee, Pat McEnaney blew full time in a game that promised so much only to deliver a pitiful return in terms of drama and excitement.
Mayo arrived with genuine hope of ending a 53-year wait for an All-Ireland title but suffered so many power failures all over the pitch that Kerry cruised to their 33rd crown without being asked any hard questions.
They recovered so quickly and so comfortably from the shock of seeing Mayo wing-forward Alan Dillon whip home a goal after only five minutes that they had the game neatly wrapped up by half-time when they led by eight points, 1-12 to 1-4.
Mayo missed a glorious opportunity to launch a revival six minutes into the second half when Conor Mortimer drove his shot over the bar when a goal looked certain.
It's unlikely that even a goal at that stage would have been enough to unsettle Kerry but it might at least have injected some hope into Mayo's bloodstream.
Instead, they squeezed ever tighter into their shells and were battling for no more than respectability long before the end.
Substitute Michael Conroy made a decent contribution to that particular cause when he volleyed the ball past Diarmuid Murphy in 69th minute but, by then, Kerry captain, Dara Ó Cinnéide was already preparing his acceptance speech.
So then, after three miserable years in which Croke Park was a scene of desolation for Kerry, they are back on the summit, having won the National League, Munster and All-Ireland treble for the first time since 1997.
They completed the haul with a style and fluency that suggested they had plenty more in reserve if Mayo managed to raise their game. But it wasn't necessary since Mayo froze solid after getting off to the best possible start.
They were blitzed at midfield where Eoin Brosnan and William Kirby controlled most of the crucial action and were forced into repair mode after 24 minutes when David Brady replaced an ineffective Fergal Kelly.
Brady brought about some improvement but with Ronan McGarrity well off the pace he set in previous games, midfield remained a barren area for Mayo all day.
That, in turn, left their forwards trying to survive on measly rations which ran out very quickly.
The Mortimer brothers were unable to exert the authority of other days, Ciaran McDonald tried hard but often found himself way too far out from goal; James Gill didn't get into the game while Brian Maloney didn't enjoy the best of luck.
Alan Dillon scored 1-1 from play as did sub Michael Conroy but overall there was no great rhythm to a Mayo attack who found Kerry's defensive locks tightly secured by Michael McCarthy, Tom O'Sullivan and Tómas Ó Sé.
The other defenders were pretty solid too while goalkeeper, Diarmuid Murphy was alert and vigilant.
However, it was at the other end of the field that Kerry really showed their dominance with the full-forward line of Colm Cooper, Ó Cinnéide and Johnny Crowley repeatedly tormenting the Mayo defence.
Cooper scored 1-4 from play in a man-of-the-match contribution while Ó Cinnéide kicked 0-8, 0-2 from play.
Jack O'Connor's decision to start Crowley was richly vindicated as the Glenflesk man offered a formidable ball-winning presence close to goal.
His fetching and direct running style seriously disrupted the Mayo full-back line, allowing Cooper to carry out his sniping duties with the utmost efficiency.
His 25th minute goal was a prize for his poaching instincts as he had an awful lot of work to do when he fetched a delivery from Eamon Fitzmaurice. However, he didn't shirk the responsibility and burrowed his past Pat Kelly before beating Burke from close range.
That goal effectively sealed the game as Mayo never looked likely to recover from an eight-point interval deficit.
However, they remained determined to also win the second half and looked like achieving it until Conroy's late goal.
Still, Kerry managed an impressive 1-20, the highest scored by any side in an All-Ireland football final since 'Bomber' Liston and his Kingdom colleagues put 5-11 past Dublin in 1978.
There were times in the second half when Mayo looked totally disjointed leaving their bewildered supporters to wonder what had happened to the form which took Maughan's men past Galway, Roscommon, Tyrone and Fermanagh.
They simple weren't able to win enough possession to test the Kerry defence and were also well beaten in the battle for breaking ball.
Kerry were quick and eager while their voracious work rate had Mayo in trouble right from the second minute when an enterprising move left Marc Ó Sé with the opportunity to slot over an excellent point.
It was an early warning sign for Mayo and while Dillon's goal might have been a settling agent on another day, it did little more than delay the inevitable yesterday.
Still hurt by the criticisms of their performances against Armagh and Tyrone over the last two years, Kerry were intent on re-asserting themselves and achieved in with some style. They did it without Dara Ó Sé, while Seamus Moynihan and Mike Frank Russell were both kept in reserve for three quarters of the game which underlines the amount of quality at O'Connor's disposal.
He used it wisely and has now joined an exclusive band of managers who won an All-Ireland title in their first season in charge.
SCORERS - Kerry: C Cooper 1-5 (0-1f), D Ó Cinnéide 0-8 (5f, 1'45'), W Kirby 0-3, M Ó Sé, D O'Sullivan, P Galvin, MF Russell 0-1 each. MAYO - A Dillon 1-2 (0-1f), N Conroy 1-1, C McDonald 0-3(2f), B Maloney, A Moran, C Mortimer 0-1 each.
KERRY - D Murphy 8; A O'Mahony 7, M McCarthy 8; T O'Sullivan 8; M Ó Sé 8, E Fitzmaurice 7, T Ó Sé 8; W Kirby 8, E Brosnan 8; L Hassett 7, D O'Sullivan 8, P Galvin 8; C Cooper 9, D Ó Cinnéide 8, J Crowley 8. Subs: S Moynihan 7 for Hassett (54), MF Russell 7 for Crowley (57), R O'Connor for Ó Cinnéide (64), P Kelly for Galvin (67), B Guiney for T Ó Sé (71).
MAYO - P Burke 8; D Geraghty 5, D Heaney 5, G Ruane 5; P Gardiner 6, J Nallen 6, P Kelly 5; R McGarrity 5, F Kelly 5; T Mortimer 5, C McDonald 7, B Maloney 6; C Mortimer 5, J Gill 5, A Dillon 7. Subs: D Brady 7 for F Kelly (24), C Moran 6 for Geraghty (ht), M Conroy 7 for Gill (ht), A Moran 6 for C Mortimer, P Navin for Heaney (65).
REF - P McEnaney (Monaghan)