Mayo learn lessons to leave questions for Keane
Mayo 1-10 Kerry 0-11
From facing into a relegation dogfight to seeing the sunny uplands of a National League final. That was the journey Mayo travelled in seven hours of exciting action on Saturday.
Results during the afternoon took away the spectre of relegation and then Mayo broke loose, on the back of Matthew Ruane's 68th-minute goal, to record a fine win in Tralee.
Midfielder Ruane has been the find of the League for Mayo. Even in games where they were not going well, such as Dublin and Galway, Ruane stood out.
And he had another fine game in the wind and rain here.
Such are the permutations in Division One that Mayo could win their final match, against Monaghan in Castlebar next Sunday, and not get to the final. Or they could draw it and go through if Tyrone beat Galway.
But Mayo manager James Horan wasn't thinking that far ahead after the win, he was just happy to take the good and bad points out of each League game and move on.
"We put them all up on flip charts after the games," he said, "and take it from there."
Well something that was surely written down following Mayo's previous match was "close out games better". In that game, Mayo had the wind at their backs and the momentum against Galway and managed to lose.
On Saturday, following Ruane's fine finish off a lovely pass from Kevin McLaughlin, Mayo were in exactly the same position - and they had learned their lesson. They played out the eight minutes of normal time and injury time and never looked like letting the win slip away.
"I was very pleased with the whole performance," said Horan, who hailed his side's discipline in keeping the free count down. "Our work-rate was good, we were good in the tackle."
They got off to a cracking start, scoring the first three points of the game when playing into the teeth of the gale that blew directly down Austin Stack Park.
"Yes, they were big scores," Horan continued, "they gave us a foothold in the match and even though we only scored one more point in the half, it was still okay for us at 0-7 to 0-4 down at the break."
Kerry manager Peter Keane felt the start of the match was crucial to its outcome too.
"In the first 15 minutes I think we were a bit off it," he lamented. "The urgency was missing in that first twenty minutes and maybe again at the start of the second half."
So will this defeat be a good learning process for a management who had not tasted defeat thus far?
"I would have taken every day as a learning day and I think tonight is another learning night and we will take a look at the video and see where we go," Keane added.
Keane will be worried about the ongoing reliance on free-taker Sean O'Shea, who converted one '45' into the wind that was just magnificent.
Yes, things will improve when David Clifford and James O'Donoghue, a late sub here, return to full action.
However, the other five Kerry forwards scored just three points between them and three of them ended this match on the bench.
Certainly the new Kerry forwards found it hard going against a grizzled Mayo defence in which Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison and Donal Vaughan were too strong.
Kerry only need a draw from their final match, away to Roscommon, to get to the decider.
But this was a shot across the bows of their young team. There are lots of teams out there with two or three years of a head start, in terms of conditioning on these young lads. There is ground to be made up.
Scorers - Mayo J Doherty 0-5 (4fs), M Ruane 1-1, K McLoughlin 0-2, F McDonagh, F Boland. Kerry: S O'Shea 0-6 (4fs), K McCarthy 0-2, T Walsh, D O'Connor, J O'Donoghue 0-1.
Kerry - B Kelly 7; P Crowley 6, T Morley 6, B O'Beaglaoich 7; G Crowley 7, P Murphy 7, T O'Sullivan 6; J Barry 7, M Griffin 5; D Moynihan 5, S O'Shea 9, G O'Brien 5; K McCarthy 6, T Walsh 8, S O'Brien 6. Subs: D O'Connor for McCarthy (47) 7, T ó Sé for Moynihan (49) 7, J O'Donoghue for Walsh (59) 7, A Spillane for Griffin, P Geaney for O'Brien (both 69).
Mayo - D Clarke 7; C Barrett 8, B Harrison 7, K Higgins 7; S Coen 7, M Plunkett 7, D Vaughan 8; M Ruane 9, A O'Shea 8; F McDonagh 7, C Loftus 7, D O'Connor 7; K McLoughlin 7, J Doherty 8, J Durcan 7. Subs: F Boland for Loftus (51) 7, A Moran for Durcan (58) 6, L Keegan for Vaughan (64) 6, R Hennelly for Clarke (70).
Ref - N Cullen (Fermanagh)
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