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Dublin: 21 °C Sunday 22 July, 2018

Stephen Rochford answers 'donkey' jibe, Kerry's breakdown in discipline and Mayo dominate midfield

5 talking points after Mayo blow Kerry away to reach another All-Ireland final.

Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park

1. Kerry’s breakdown in discipline

BY THE TIME Kieran Donaghy swung in anger at Aidan O’Shea in the 74th minute, Kerry’s goose was cooked. Kerry lost discipline as Donaghy joined Peter Crowley, who received two yellows, and the black-carded Darran O’Sullivan on the line.

Kieran Donaghy clashes with Aidan O’Shea which resulted in a red card Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Kieran Donaghy clashes with Aidan O’Shea which resulted in a red card Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Kieran Donaghy red carded by referee David Gough Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The O’Sullivan black card appeared to be a harsh one and Eamonn Fitzmaurice indicated his disappointment at the decision after the game.

Kerry selector Liam Hassett was also sent to the stands for voicing his anger at a call during the second-half. David Gough was quite whistle-happy throughout and didn’t allow the game flow as much as it did the first day out.

There were 19 cards altogether between the teams, including 3 reds and a black, while Kerry selector Liam Hassett was sent to the stands. Paddy Durcan is free to play in the final as he’s already served a one-match ban for his red against Derry.

Sadly, it could be the last outing in Croke Park today for Donaghy (34) and O’Sullivan (31).

Aidan O’Shea celebrates after the game Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

2. Stephen Rochford answers ‘donkey’ jibe

Last Monday, Eamonn Sweeney dubbed Mayo a team of lions led by donkeys. He’ll surely revise that view now after Stephen Rochford led Mayo to their second successive All-Ireland final under his stewardship.

Tactically, this was a masterclass from Rochford. He stuck with his guns and it worked out to a tee. Aidan O’Shea moved into full-back after 10 minutes on Donaghy and completely wiped him out, both on the ground and in the air.

Jason Doherty, Andy Moran and Cillian O’Connor all got on ample ball inside, despite the presence of seven Kerry defenders. Mayo ran at Kerry and made full use of their extra body in midfield.

Defensively, the Connacht side looked sound. They conceded just 0-5 from play to Kerry forwards, while David Clarke pulled off an outstanding triple-save from Stephen O’Brien in the 45th minute.

Once James O’Donoghue was brought in at half-time, Rochford sent Chris Barrett back into the full-back line and he was forced to shoot from range.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Out-of-sorts Kerry display

Much of the criticism after this game will centre around Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s decision to play with seven defenders but he needed to do something after Kerry were opened up last weekend.

Conceding an extra man in midfield just allowed Mayo get their running game going from deep and Kerry couldn’t live with it.

Kerry looked devoid of energy and half-forward duo Johnny Buckley and Donnchadh Walsh were hauled off at half-time.

Darran O’Sullivan and O’Donoghue were introduced while Murphy was moved back up to wing-forward for the second period, but it had little effect. Mayo were able to sit deep and pick off scores on the breakaway.

4. Mayo dominate midfield and kick-out battle  

In stark contrast to last Sunday, Mayo completely owned midfield this time around. They effectively pushed up on Brian Kelly’s restarts, even forcing him to put a ball out for a 45 from one kick-out.

Tom Parsons, Seamus O’Shea and Colm Boyle ruled the airwaves in the middle third.

Mayo had a platform for attack as David Clarke consistently went short on his restarts.

Kerry had just five fowards up front, meaning Aidan O’Shea and Keith Higgins could collect kicks into space and start attacks from deep.

James O’Donoghue and Keith Higgins Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Mayo back in another All-Ireland final

You can’t keep this team down. Mayo are back in the All-Ireland final and ready for their 10th game of an epic summer. They’ve been put through the back-door, brought to extra-time twice and a replay twice, but here they are.

It’s a fourth All-Ireland final in six years for much of this group of players, and they’ll feel their form coming into this September outing is as good as it’s ever been.

They’ll look on with great interest tomorrow as Tyrone and Dublin do battle at HQ. Will this finally be Mayo’s year?

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Kevin O'Brien

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