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5 talking points after Kerry and Mayo finish deadlocked in gripping All-Ireland semi-final

Round two next Saturday afternoon.

David Moran and Tom Parsons clash while battling for the ball.
David Moran and Tom Parsons clash while battling for the ball.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

1. A game that gripped the imagination until the end

After all the wailing post the quarter-final ties about the gulf that existed between the Top Four and everyone else in Gaelic football, this game was a timely reminder of what the sport can offer. Trust Kerry and Mayo to deliver a compelling duel on an afternoon borrowed from the depths of winter.

Nets were rattled three times in the opening twenty minutes. The teams were level six times from the 45th minute on and neither side ever enjoyed an advantage greater than a single point.

Mayo saving themselves at the death courtesy of substitute Paddy Durcan holding his nerve after the team had hit a few rash shots. A Bryan Sheehan free from a mile out that looped short as Kerry pursued a winner. Nerves were frayed amongst the 66,195 fans but everyone was treated to a true contest.

2. Mayo’s tactical choices

Amidst all the pre-match chat of who Mayo would pitch in to thwart Kieran Donaghy, the name of Aidan O’Shea was down the pecking order. Yet it was the Breaffy figure that was stationed alongside the Austin Stacks man for the duration of the afternoon. It was a brave, bold and at times baffling call.

Did it work? Donaghy may not have caused Mayo pain in the air but he was still regularly involved and while O’Shea battled furiously, his team lost something significant with him not operating in the middle third.

Lee Keegan featured in the Mayo half-forward line in an intriguing duel with Paul Murphy but didn’t get the same scoring return or surging runs as he has produced from his half-back berth. Keegan dropped two points attempts short, dragged another wide and did win a free which Cillian O’Connor converted.

Where Mayo place their two lynchpins in next Saturday’s replay will be influential.

3. Moran and Geaney sparkle in front of goal

Both teams saw scoring weapons wreak havoc on opposition defences. The impact that Andy Moran and Paul Geaney could make in their respective sectors was well advertised beforehand but both still delivered. It’s 13 years since Andy Moran made his senior championship bow yet the 33-year-old was still electric today.

He packed power and showed a clinical streak for the finish for that 4th minute goal before proceeding to take the Kerry defence for five points from play in a highly intelligent target man performance. Geaney showed his composure to land four first-half pointed frees before reeling off three points from play after the break. His importance to the Kerry cause was again rubber-stamped.

A combined haul of 1-12 between them illustrated the worth of Moran and Geaney.

Andy Moran scores his sides opening goal despite Johnny Buckley Andy Moran fires home Mayo's opening goal of the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

4. Kerry’s concern at the back

Kerry may have kept clean sheets in their two games preceding today but that statistic masked the fact that both Cork and Galway had prised apart the Kingdom rearguard to create goalscoring chances. Neither side availed of those openings but Mayo were in no mood to cough up those opportunities in the first half.

Andy Moran and Colm Boyle billowed the net to highlight a problem sector for the Kerry defence. Mayo could have had a third when the ball pinged around the Kerry goalmouth in the 23rd minute, an example of the chaos that was reigning there. For the remainder of the game Kerry managed to tighten up with Brian Kelly not called into action again but it is a concern they will seek to address this week.

5. Marathon Mayo men keep on going

And so for the ninth time this season, Mayo’s fans have a championship game to look forward to. It’s a remarkable statistic considering that they’re not even at the final stage yet. It’s been an action-packed spell since they opened at home to Sligo on 21 May.

Since then they have lost to Galway, been taken to extra-time by Derry and Cork, won away to Clare, while facing All-Ireland series replays against Roscommon and Kerry. Their endeavour and resilience have been remarkable.

Even when Paul Murphy nudged Kerry ahead entering injury-time today, Mayo refused to quit and found a way to prolong their 2017 dream through Paddy Durcan’s point. The marathon men keep on going.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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