Inexperience of 'nervous Nellies' lets Kingdom off hook
Kerry teams are rarely unsure of themselves when they come to Croke Park, but yesterday their more discerning followers might just fall into that category.
Certainly they won the game with relative ease, but bearing in mind that they got a head start of 1-5 to 0-0 score after 17 minutes against a team of ‘nervous Nellies’ wearing maroon jerseys, there are still plenty of reasons not to describe Kerry as the second best team in the country after this performance.
What Kerry did show quite clearly is that they have plenty of football talent, something the anti-Kerry brigade had been expressing doubt about over the winter.
Apart from the new star in green and gold, James O'Donoghue, who scored 1-5 yesterday, a whole raft of others are clearly about to form another great Kerry team. The question is when?
Yesterday, Galway were too inexperienced to drive home their own advantages, such as the fact that they dominated Kerry at midfield like I have rarely seen in Croke Park for many years.
Bryan Sheehan's departure through injury so early in the game may have been a factor in this, but certainly the Kingdom will be in serious trouble from now on if that midfield situation is not greatly improved.
For most of the first half in this game, it looked like the sort of challenge game that used to be played to boost church restoration funds or some similar event.
It was tepid, casual and, of course, in such a situation, Kerry were able to control the game and cash in on Galway's naivety – until the 31st minute, that is, when Galway midfielder Thomas Flynn woke up the attendance and the television audience with what will surely be favourite to win the ‘Goal of the Season’ award.
He set off on a solo run from midfield with total abandon and kept going and going and going before tapping the ball past Kerry ’keeper Brian Kelly almost with casual nonchalance.
For those who still knock the black card, this was their answer. In previous years that goal would never have happened because one of several Kerry opponents would have pulled him down as he stormed through their backline.
As I have often stated, it is the fear of the black card that is the deterrent to cynical fouling more than the actual issuing of the card itself.
The Tribesmen got off to a terrible start, mainly because they seemed to be totally overawed by their opponents and no Galway player seemed capable shaking his shoulders and saying to his team-mates: “come on lads, there is nothing special about these fellas” – except of course, O'Donoghue, he might have added.
The Legion player is the best forward in Ireland at the moment and his stunning goal in the 12th minute really rattled whatever bit of confidence the Galway backline had at that stage.
Full-back Finian Hanley had one of those games that every player hopes will never happen to him and seemed terrified of the mere presence in the vicinity of O'Donoghue. But when Galway got their mojo back, they competed with Kerry in the second half on more or less equal terms and therefore the losers’ fans can reasonably hope that they have the makings of a serious football team. But how long will they have to wait?
Kerry will be warned somewhat after having watched the Mayo – Cork game, but they will have to improve if they want to reach another All-Ireland final.
Judging on recent events, they seem capable of that improvement.
But don't talk about winning an All-Ireland just yet.
Mayo show substance to match style, but know Kerry will be a greater test
We had a wonderful game of real football between Mayo and Cork with the latter probably wondering today how they played so badly in the recent Munster final. Yesterday they played some brilliant football and must be considered a bit unfortunate not to have got a couple of scoreable frees near the finish that could have left them winners.
Make no mistake, Mayo deserved this win and, because it was their toughest game of the champion- ship, it will be of huge benefit to them. Above all, what James Horan will most appreciate is the fighting qualities of his players.
They outscored Cork by eight points to one in the opening 15 minutes of the second half and looked like coasting to victory.
But then we got a disconcerting aspect of Mayo's performance when they went to sleep and allowed Cork score five unanswered points. Buoyed up by this revival, Cork largely took over and, in a pulsating final 15 minutes, we saw drama after drama with goals galore and incredible feats of courage from several players.
Mayo were hot favourites because of their championship record in recent years but, at times, they showed uncertainty and a lack of bite. However, they still remain the second best team in the country and their battle with Kerry will be a game of special importance.
Eight points in the first half was a poor score for Mayo, but they compensated in the second period when scoring 1-11. Aidan and Seamus O'Shea were key figures in this result for Mayo.
There are still many doubters among the public about the real worth of Mayo but the team and mentors should not worry too much about that. A team need only believe in themselves, and the view of the public is not really important inside the camp. Mayo are as advanced this year as they were this time last year. It now remains for them to add another 25pc to leave them within touching distance of achieving their ambition – starting of course with Kerry.