Friday 19 January 2018

Kerry and Mayo have shown they've got courage in spades

James O'Donoghue really proved he has the stomach required to be one of the very best in the game
James O'Donoghue really proved he has the stomach required to be one of the very best in the game
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

Absolutely breathtaking. I thought the All-Ireland semi-final of 12 months ago between Kerry and Dublin was the greatest spectacle I'd ever witnessed, but yesterday almost reached those highs.

Maybe the pure skill levels weren't as mind blowing, but for intensity, drama and most crucially bottle, it will be hard for this one to be bettered. I felt all along that Kerry's bench was going to play a critical role one way or the other.

And by god did that come to pass. Kieran Donaghy was majestic and his catch and pass to James O'Donoghue was first class and arguably the most significant moment of the game.

Kieran O'Leary meanwhile, came on and sent over a brilliant point to level the game and force the draw. Barry John Keane won a few vital breaks while Killian Young and Bryan Sheehan both made an impact.

I was so impressed with David Moran. He was outstanding, and it was the type of performance everyone in Kerry knew he had in him. While he didn't have the same sort of influence after half-time, it was him who managed to free himself in little space on the sideline to send the ball into Donaghy which led to the goal. Moran and Johnny Buckley worked their socks off.

Nor could I praise James O'Donoghue enough. He was double marked, a sweeper put in front of him, and he just kept going. He was constantly looking for the ball and to finish with 1-3 under the circumstances was testament to him. We know about his natural ability, but yesterday showed his bravery and really proved he has that inner desire and the stomach required to be one of the very best in the game.

The first half was almost like a game of chess in the way the teams were feeling each other out but Kerry deservedly took the advantage into the break.

In fact, only for Cillian O'Connor, the Connacht champions would have been in serious bother. He was a one man show for long periods. Andy Moran made a massive difference to be fair and helped carry the load up front.

An element that I didn't like however, was Mayo's overall aggression in the first period. I'm all for controlled aggression and physical combat. But there were occasions where I felt they went over the line, or certainly ran along it very tightly.

I never like to see anyone sent off but David Coldrick had no choice. Lee Keegan kicked his leg in the direction of his opponent. Whether or not it would have inflicted any damage is irrelevant. A striking action is a red card.

People are saying a yellow would have sufficed. But the ref would have been completely wrong to give one in that instance. Keegan is one of the finest players in modern football but unfortunately, I believe he made a big mistake here.

To their credit though, the determination they showed to get back into it was impressive. Conor Boyle and Aidan O'Shea played like men possessed for large chunks of the second half. O'Shea did benefit from Kerry's own mistakes however.

He picked up an ocean of primary possession but it was somewhat naïve of Kerry to go long with kickouts when in the first half they used the short restart to great effect.

I felt they maybe tried to close the game out a bit too early when they were in the position of strength while they were guilty of some poor unforced errors.

But again, the players showed incredible fight to get back into it having fallen five points behind and seemingly dead on their feet. They took the shackles off and went for broke and it worked. Indeed, it nearly did so to such and extent that the width of the post denied them a victory.

But Kerry will be happier with a draw than Mayo I would think. They rescued what appeared to be a lost cause and I just can't wait to see them going at it again on Saturday.

I am disappointed with the decision to take the replay out of Croke Park. Would Dublin be brought to Limerick for a replay of an All-Ireland semi-final? We all know the answer to that one.

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