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5 talking points after Mayo lift league title with victory over Kerry

An 18-year wait for a Division 1 crown was ended by Mayo this afternoon.

Andy Moran celebrates Mayo's win with his children Ollie and Charlotte.
Andy Moran celebrates Mayo's win with his children Ollie and Charlotte.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

1. Mayo end an unwanted Croke Park record

As much as the current Mayo group seek to detach themselves from the weight of the county’s historical record in showpiece finals, they must be delighted to have brought one losing streak to a halt today. Since the 2001 league triumph, Mayo have competed in ten national deciders with the 2016 All-Ireland final draw the only solitary tie that did not culminate in defeat. This was a seminal game as they hit the winning notes against Kerry to close out a final in a successful fashion and ensure they had a trophy in tow on a Sunday evening as they departed Croke Park.

2. Horan’s return sees Mayo back to lifting silverware 

Another upshot of this league final victory was it marked a Mayo return to the winners’ enclosure. It was a defining feature of the Horan era how Mayo ruled Connacht with an iron fist but they have been placed on the backfoot by a spell of recent Galway dominance as they made exits before the provincial trophy was handed out. This Division 1 title stands as Mayo’s first piece of silverware since they pulverised Sligo to complete a Connacht five-in-a-row in 2015. Rediscovering that winning habit will be a nice tonic for their group as the spring action concludes, captain Diarmuid O’Connor inspiring them with his second-half play. 

Lee Keegan celebrates Lee Keegan celebrates Mayo's victory over Kerry. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Kerry see interval advantage wiped away

After a first half that was characterised by toil, Kerry had constructed a five-point margin as a buffer by the interval. They were rewarded for their clinical converting of two goal chances, Gavin Crowley drilling home a brilliant finish and Stephen O’Brien punching a hole in the heart of the Mayo rearguard to net. However the second half was a different affair as Kerry were outscored 3-6 to 0-7.

Fine margins can settle games of course, David Clifford saw his palmed effort to find the net tipped away by Rob Hennelly just moments before Mayo’s clinching third goal from Ciarán Treacy with the match emitting a final few gasps of breath. But ultimately Kerry saw Mayo get to grips with the threats they posed. Mayo notably targeted the stifling of Sean O’Shea’s influence as essential and in terms of white flags managed to restrict Kerry to just a pair from play in the first hour of the game.

4. Mayo’s new guns fire in front of goal

If the Mayo teamsheet for a Croke Park final was populated with familiar names in the rearguard, there was a sense of novelty as numbers 8-15 were scanned. Matthew Ruane underlined his title as their breakout star of the league, an afternoon of hard running from midfield was complemented by the scoring touch that yielded 1-1.

Fergal Boland has re-emerged confidently this spring with Darren Coen another figure returning to the frame and James Carr settling in for his first outing from the start. That trio weighed in with a combined haul of 0-5 while Treacy notched that third goal after being propelled from the bench. Fresh faces helped get Mayo over the line.

Fergal Boland celebrates by throwing the trophy Fergal Boland celebrates Mayo's league final victory with his team-mates.. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Mayo the blemish on Kerry’s positive league 

With a new era taking shape in Kerry under Peter Keane, he can largely be pleased at the first spring statement issued under his watch. Kerry reached a league final, claimed a couple of big home wins against both of last year’s All-Ireland finalists while winning impressively on the road in Galway. The blemish on their record was provided by Mayo who pipped them in Tralee on St Patrick’s weekend and repeated the tricky on a chilly Sunday Croke Park afternoon.

That means questions will still be raised about how Kerry will improve their showing from last summer in the championship, the arena where more definitive judgements will be made. Tadhg Morley, David Moran and Paul Geaney have all had disrupted springs due to injury, established figures that will be needed to marry experience to the youthful dash their newcomers have provided.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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