Friday 19 July 2019

Two remarkable records could be broken in mouthwatering Kerry v Mayo showdown

Cillian O'Connor of Mayo is congratulated by fans after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 3 match between Mayo and Armagh at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar, Mayo. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cillian O'Connor of Mayo is congratulated by fans after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 3 match between Mayo and Armagh at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar, Mayo. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Mayo's Cillian O'Connor. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

One Kerry record looks destined to fall in Killarney on Sunday but there's another that the locals will be a lot more interested in preserving as their 24-year unbeaten streak in Fitzgerald Stadium comes under arguably its most serious threat yet.

Kerry have not lost a championship game in Killarney since the 1995 Munster final, when a three-in-a-row-chasing Cork team beat them by 0-15 to 1-9.

Since then home supremacy has been enjoyed by another golden era of Kerry players who went through their careers without tasting a championship loss on their own turf.

For the 30 games they have played there since 1995 they have come out on the right side or at least enjoyed parity each time.

Inevitably, much of the focus on Sunday will be on Cillian O'Connor's possible elevation to the top championship scorer in history, a remarkable feat for a player who is still just 27 and has played 51 championship games for Mayo.

That O'Connor will overtake Colm Cooper, if he scores five points, just up the road from Cooper's home, gives an added dimension to the baton-passing.

O'Connor currently sits on 23-279 with some 70 per cent (8-219) of that coming from placed balls.

Eight goals have been scored from penalties, quite a reflection on the nerve O'Connor has in these situations.

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The Ballintubber man has scored three championship hat-tricks in his career, two coming in back-to-back games in 2013 against London in the Connacht final and the subsequent All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal, and another against Limerick in last year's qualifier.

He has never scored a goal in eight championship appearances against Galway but has managed 0-44. He's almost managed a goal a game against Kerry, however, his penalties in each of the 2014 All-Ireland semi-finals helping him to 4-26 in five games against the Kingdom.

Additionally, he has never failed to score fewer than seven points against Dublin, contributing 2-53 in seven championship games.

Kerry's 24-year run without defeat in Killarney has been chiefly cemented through Munster Championship games and their recent dominance over Cork, at a time when Páirc Uí Chaoimh was closed for revamp which helped to extend the sequence significantly.

Notably

But there have been qualifier games too, most notably in 2012 when Mickey Harte's Tyrone came down and were beaten by 10 points on an emotion-filled evening.

Kerry needed a win after losing an All-Ireland semi-final and two All-Ireland finals to their Ulster foes in the previous nine years.

The hurt against Mayo has been much more recent with a 2017 All-Ireland semi-final loss, followed by league and league final defeats earlier this year.

Mayo teams have cultivated quite a winning habit on their visits to Kerry over the last decade with four league wins and a draw, dating back to their last defeat in 2009.

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