Monday 26 February 2018

Stephen Rochford gets tactics spot on as Mayo power into All Ireland final with clinical win over Kerry

Mayo 2-16 Kerry 0-17

Andy Moran of Mayo celebrates scoring his side's second goal
Andy Moran of Mayo celebrates scoring his side's second goal

Conor McKeon in Croke Park

ON Mayo go. A fourth All-Ireland appearance in six years.

This afternoon in Croke Park, they achieved one of only two things this team hasn’t done in its colourful lifespan; they beat Kerry in a Championship match.

They did it more comprehensively than their five-point winning margin suggests too and Kerry’s lost discipline late on told its own story.

ayo’s one remaining conquest awaits on September 17th against Dublin or Tyrone, who do battle tomorrow.

Darran O’Sullivan of Kerry remonstrates with referee David Gough as he is shown a black card
Darran O’Sullivan of Kerry remonstrates with referee David Gough as he is shown a black card

Stephen Rochford, pilloried for his tactical deployment of Aidan O’Shea last week, looked like the smartest man in Croke Park today.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice will take shelter for the winter.

The tone was set early here.

Fitzmaurice gave his frazzled full-back line a new look and a dedicated minder.

Paul Murphy played as their sweeper.

Tom O’Sullivan, the 20 year old Dingle defender was thrown in for his Championships debut. James O’Donoghue was sacrificed from their attack.

Paul Geaney of Kerry is tackled by Mayo players, from left, Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins, Séamus O'Shea and Aidan O'Shea
Paul Geaney of Kerry is tackled by Mayo players, from left, Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins, Séamus O'Shea and Aidan O'Shea

In the opening 15 minutes, three different players marked Kieran Donaghy.

Donal Vaughan started on him. Seamus O’Shea went back for a spell. And Aidan O’Shea, whose positioning last week caused such tumult, started as Mayo’s extra defender both gravitated towards Donaghy as the half wore on.

The opening stages were hostile and confrontational.

Jason Doherty and Tadhg Morely wrestled as they took their positions.

Both Aidan O’Shea and Donaghy were booked 21st minute, albeit for separate incidents.

On 17 minutes, we had had surely a first for Croke Park.

Brian Kelly looked up from a kick-out and saw all his men marked.

He opted to go short but actually kicked the ball over his endline for a Mayo ’45.

It was that sort of hectic afternoon but Mayo appeared like the team who were more comfortable with the exchanges.

They were patient and measured, looking for all the world like a team who had anticipated Kerry’s tactical tweak.

Frequently, they generated Colm Boyle as their extra man and he broke Kerry’s line early and often.

Kerry, meanwhile, had nothing to offer in an under-manned attack other than Paul Geaney.

In the 28th minute, Mayo’s superiority was rewarded.

Vaughan shot from an acute angle out near the Cusack Stand sideline and Diarmuid O’Connor anticipated the flight, snuck in front of Brian Kelly and palmed to the net.

Before Croke Park had time to catch its collective breath, Peter Crowley drilled one wide at the other end.

At half-time, the consensus had it that Kerry had made too many allowances for Mayo. That Fitzmaurice had made too many changes.

He brought on two subs at the same break, got rid of his extra man at the back and after an initial bout of sparring, Mayo got another goal.

Damned if you do…

Andy Moran fielded in front of Shane Enright, played a one-two with Cillian O’Connor and palmed to the net.

It got worse for Kerry.

Darran O’Sullivan, one of their half-time subs, was black-carded in the 44th minute and took out his ire on several officials on his way off.

Five minutes later, Liam Hassett – one of Fitzmaurice’s backroom team – was sent from the line by David Gough.

Cillian O’Connor walked for a black of his own midway through the half but at that stage, Mayo were operating off their presumption that if they prevented Kerry scoring a goal, the final spot would be their

The final moment of the match summed it up for Kerry.

Donaghy slumped off the pitch, red carded after a swipe at O’Shea.

Mayo are tantalisingly close to the summit once again.

One more giant step.

SCORERS – Mayo: C O’Connor 0-5 (5f), J Doherty (1f, 1 ’45) 0-4, A Moran 1-1, D O’Connor 1-0, C Loftus, K McLoughlin 0-2 each, C Barrett, P Durcan 0-1 each. Kerry: P Geaney 0-10 (8f), J O’Donoghue 0-3 (1f), J Lyne, J Buckley, J Barry, F Fitzgerald 0-1 each.

MAYO: D Clarke; C Barrett, A O’Shea, D Vaughan; B Harrison, K Higgins, C Boyle; L Keegan, T Parsons; D O’Connor, S O’Shea, K McLoughlin; A Moran, C O’Connor, J Doherty.

Subs: P Durcan for Vaughan (38), C Loftus for D O’Connor (h-t), C O’Shea for C O’Connor (52 black card), S Coen for S O’Shea (61), D Kirby for Boyle (69), G Cafferkey for Barrett (74).

KERRY: B Kelly; S Enright, K Young, T Morley; P Crowley, P Murphy, T O’Sullivan; D Moran, J Barry; D Walsh, J Buckley, J Lyne; P Geaney, K Donaghy, S O’Brien. Subs: J O’Donoghue for Walsh (h-t), D O’Sullivan for Buckley (h-t), F Fitzgerald for Enright (39), J Savage for O’Sullivan (45 black card), M Griffin for Enright (51), BJ Keane for T O’Sullivan (63), A Maher for Barry (66)

REF: D Gough (Meath)

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