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Brilliant Mayo deliver first national title in 18 years with power-packed dismissal of Kerry

James Horan’s side had four points to spare over Kerry in Croke Park.

Mayo 3-11

Kerry 2-10 

Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park 

IT’S TOO EARLY to say how significant a victory this is for Mayo, but their second-half dismantling of Kerry was a major statement by James Horan’s team this afternoon.

Diarmuid O'Connor lifts the trophy Diarmuid O'Connor lifts the trophy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After coming away from their last ten national finals at Croke Park empty-handed, Mayo powered to their first league title since 2001 thanks to second-half goals from Matthew Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor and Ciaran Treacy.

But it was Robbie Hennelly’s stunning 70th minute save from David Clifford that set them on the path to victory. 

At that stage, Kerry were two behind when Stephen O’Brien drove along the end line and played in Clifford, who was denied by Hennelly’s quick reflexes before Colm Boyle pounced on the loose ball. 

The psychological boost gleaned from heading back west with the Division 1 trophy should stand Horan’s squad in good stead heading into the championship.

Prior to today, David Clarke was the only man on the panel with a league medal. Mayo supporters will be hoping it’s not the last trophy Diarmuid O’Connor lifts on the steps of the Hogan Stand in 2019.

David Clifford dejected David Clifford reacts to a late missed chance. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

There were huge performances all over the field, from Brendan Harrison and Chris Barrett at the back to the midfield pairing of Aidan O’Shea and Matthew Ruane. Captain fantastic Diarmuid O’Connor chipped in with 1-2 and was their outstanding player in attack.

Kerry led by four after wind-assisted opening half and looked dangerous in attack after twice rattling the back of Hennelly’s net. Mayo shored things up after the break and defensively matched up extremely well with the Kingdom attack. 

They made light of Cillian O’Connor’s absence with several booming efforts from distance in the second-half, the highlight of them from his brother Diarmuid.

His goal in the 65th minute sent Mayo into a lead they wouldn’t relinquish and substitute Treacy slid in their third three-pointer deep in stoppage-time to put the result beyond doubt.

Kerry twice cut through the Mayo rearguard to raise green flags inside the opening 30 minutes. Gavin Crowley’s 12th-minute goal was a stunning effort, created by the strength and awareness of Clifford. 

The reigning Young Footballer of the Year drove inside past Brendan Harrison and flicked it towards the wing-back, who dispatched it low into the bottom corner. That left the Kingdom a point to the good after Mayo shaded the opening exchanges.

O’Brien’s goal in the 28th minute pushed them 2-3 to 0-4 clear. He timed his run off Dara Moynihan’s shoulder to perfection and left three defenders in his wake as he smashed it past Rob Hennelly.

Paul Murphy and Diarmuid O'Connor with Matthew Ruane Paul Murphy and Diarmuid O'Connor contest a high ball with Matthew Ruane. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Fergal Boland was Mayo’s brightest spark up front and his second point of the half sent them in five behind at the interval. 

James Carr, Mayo’s tenth debutant this league campaign, curled over two early scores (one advanced mark) to kick off the second period. An outstanding O’Shea tackle broke down a Kerry attack and started a swift counter-attack that saw Carr denied a goal by the outstretched leg of goalkeeper Shane Ryan.

In the 48th minute, Ruane dispatched his second goal of the league against Kerry, jinking expertly inside Jack Barry to score after Kevin McLoughlin’s hand-pass set him through.

Then Horan sent for his veterans, with Andy Moran and Colm Boyle introduced by the hour mark. Barry and sub Paul Geaney pulled back scores for Kerry either side of O’Connor’s fisted 65th-minute goal that was pivotal for Mayo.

Clifford clipped over a score and saw a goal chance saved by Hennelly, before Mayo counter-attacked and Treacy rolled in the insurance goal. Aidan O’Shea was sent-off on a second yellow card late on but it mattered little as the Westerners held firm in stoppage-time.

Both sides finished with 14 men after Diarmuid O’Connor’s late dismissal for Kerry. He received a second yellow for a tussle with Ruane at the death.

Scorers for Mayo: Diarmuid O’Connor 1-2, Matthew Ruane 1-1, Ciaran Treacy 1-0, Fergal Boland, Jason Doherty (0-1f) and James Carr (0-1m) 0-2 each, Paddy Durcan and Darren Coen 0-1 each. 

Scorers for Kerry: Sean O’Shea 0-5 (0-5f), Gavin Crowley 1-1, Stephen O’Brien 1-0, David Clifford 0-2, Jack Barry and Paul Geaney 0-1 each.

Mayo

1. Robert Hennelly (Breaffy)

4. Keith Higgins (Ballyhaunis) 
2. Chris Barrett (Belmullet)
3. Brendan Harrison (Aghamore)

7. Donal Vaughan (Castlebar Mitchels)
6. Lee Keegan (Westport)
5. Paddy Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels)

8. Matthew Ruane (Breaffy)
9. Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy)

10. Fergal Boland (Aghamore)
11. Jason Doherty (Burrishoole)
12. Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber — captain)

13. Kevin McLoughlin (Knockmore)
14. Darren Coen (Hollymount/Carramore)
15. James Carr (Ardagh) 

Subs

25. Andy Moran (Ballaghaderreen) for Coen (50)
21. Colm Boyle (Davitts) for Vaughan (58)
24. Evan Regan (Ballina Stephenites) for Carr (61)
23. Ciaran Treacy (Ballina Stephenites) for Doherty (67)

Kerry

1. Shane Ryan (Rathmore)

3. Jack Sherwood (Firies)
2. Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers)
7. Tom O’Sullivan (Dingle)

5. Gavin Crowley (Templenoe)
6. Paul Murphy (Rathmore — captain)
4. Graham O’Sullivan (Piarsaigh na Dromoda) 

8. Jack Barry (Na Gaeil)
9. Diarmuid O’Connor (Na Gaeil)

12. Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare)
11. Sean O’Shea (Kenmare)
10. Dara Moynihan (Spa Killarney)

13. David Clifford (Fossa)
14. Tommy Walsh (Kerins O’Rahillys)
15. Kevin McCarthy (Kilcummin)

Subs

20. Brian O Beaglaioch (An Ghaeltacht) for O’Sullivan (blood sub, 6 – 7 mins)
24. James O’Donoghue (Legion) for Moynihan (ht)
19. Jason Foley (Ballydonoghue) for Sherwood (39)
21. Mark Griffin (St Michaels/Foilmore) for McCarthy (42)
26. Paul Geaney (Dingle) for Walsh (54)
22. Gavin O’Brien (Kerins O’Rahillys) for Crowley (66)

Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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