Sunday 21 April 2019

Billy Keane: 'Horan's men take lead from St Patrick to remind us they can still prosper'

Fuming: Peter Keane was annoyed following Kerry’s performance against Mayo in
Austin Stack Park. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Fuming: Peter Keane was annoyed following Kerry’s performance against Mayo in Austin Stack Park. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

St Patrick spent a good bit of time in Mayo as a shepherd slave or doing penance on wet mountains. Our patron saint inspired Mayo people for generations and one of his many accomplishments was his perseverance.

The saint was always in dread he would be bumped off by his enemies, but he stuck to his task. Patrick took on snakes and druids.

There were times when he looked bate. But on he went, and in the end Patrick turned us all in to Christians.

The only man before or since who has had such a dramatic influence on the partying of our pagan island is Shane Ross.

The non-believers were adamant that Mayo were finished after the Dublin game. Mayo were listless, inaccurate and as flat as a griddle when the Dubs turned on the heat.

Then Mayo played Theresa May football against Galway. They had loads of chances but couldn't deliver, and were beaten again.

But anyone who watched Mayo outplay, out-fight and out-think Kerry on St Patrick's Day eve in Tralee will note the men of the west as definite challengers to Dublin.

It could be their year. There was a remarkable happening in Austin Stack Park. A referee favoured Mayo.

James Horan always has a plan. His plans are well thought out. Mayo will have a plan for Dublin when the time comes, and they might even get a ref who is underawed by the Hill.

Mayo were up for this from before the beginning. The start was similar to the frantic throw-in at hurling games. Mayo still have the hunger.

The team who dream have found new players. Fionn McDonagh wore 10 on his back and his rating was 10 out of 10, or even 11 out of 10. Fionn is big, rangy, skilful and intelligent.

Matthew Ruane has an excellent understanding with his Breaffy clubmate Aidan O'Shea, who was terrific. Mayo miss Tom Parsons so much, but Ruane has been outstanding. He is cute too.

Ruane scored the winning goal and here's what happened or didn't happen. Kerry took off Mark Griffin, who was marking Ruane. There was about two minutes to go. Griffin played well and marked tight.

There was no Kerry player within 20 metres of Ruane and he took his goal brilliantly, but this was a big mix up from Kerry.

Here are just a few negatives. Some of the Kerry attackers made little or no effort to press the Mayo kick-out when the home side were playing with the wind.

Peter Keane was fuming. Sean O'Shea was roaring and urging his team-mates to pick up a man. Kerry have to press all the time, and all of Kerry must buy in.

Kerry will trouble Dublin big time if they meet up in the Championship but from now on they must visualise every team is wearing sky blue.

They haven't reached the fervour of the Dublin game, even though they forged gritty wins.

Kerry did too much lateral and back passing. I thought those days were gone. But Kerry played some great football. The Donie Buckley-inspired tackling was excellent but the ref didn't get it.

Kerry are still contenders and Croke Park will suit. Diarmuid O'Donoghue did bring organisation when he came on. David Clifford will be back soon but the most important Kerry player didn't start.

Goalie Shane Ryan is as good a man-picker kicker as Rory Beggan and close on as good as Stephen Cluxton. His replacement Brian Kelly had a very good game.

Tom O'Sullivan is a massive find. Kerry now have options at the back.

The team is young and the conditions didn't suit. The shepherd St Patrick wouldn't stir outside of his beehive hut on such a night, even if the wolves were eating lamb for dinner.

Kerry should have asked for the roof to be closed.

The Kingdom were at their best when the ground was hard and the weather was fine during a February that swapped places with May.

It was around the time Raftery the poet was getting himself ready for the road to Mayo that I met a lady in the shop some time after Brigid's day.

Her forecast was "we will pay for this fine weather yet". It was as if God kept a weather ledger.

This Mayo team are a serious threat to any team, in any conditions.

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