Mayo's Aidan O'Shea and Kerry's Jason Foley. Evan Treacy/INPHO
Talking Points

What key themes emerged for Mayo and Kerry after Saturday in Killarney?

Mayo won out by five points in Fitzgerald Stadium.

1. Mayo’s power in reserve

It was striking to see the substitutions Mayo made on Saturday. Between the 47th and 59th minutes, they whipped Paddy Durcan, Enda Hession, Tommy Conroy, Eoghan McLaughlin and Stephen Coen off the bench, pressing them into action. Durcan is Mayo’s captain; Conroy and Coen share the role of vice-captains. The trio all started the 2021 All-Ireland final, Hession came on that day against Tyrone, and McLaughlin would have been involved but for the jaw fracture he had sustained against Dublin.

That’s a lot of experience to introduce to instil energy and provide composure at a time when Kerry were clawing their way back into contention. Durcan notched a point and was fouled for a converted free, McLaughlin surged through for the goal that copper-fastened Mayo’s win. It felt a sharp contrast to the options Kerry had and while fitness issues influenced his selection, the teamsheet also pointed to the confidence Kevin McStay had in defensive rookies – David McBrien, Sam Callinan, Donnacha McHugh and Jack Coyne.

“They’ve had a tough grilling in the league, we’ve played eight elite teams,” said Kevin McStay afterwards.

“Sam was marking Shane Walsh for a period, he’s got great experiences as has Donnacha McHugh and others. the big challenge for us as a group, to keep this game in the melting pot all the way through.

“Thankfully we got a little bit of a gap, so bringing on experienced players when you’ve a gap, you can mind the ball a bit more carefully, you don’t have to be as gung-ho. It was lovely to see them all back.”

2. Clifford’s genius cannot carry Kerry single-handedly

Even when Kerry play poorly, their prospect cannot be discounted with the presence of David Clifford in their full-forward line. The captain and number 14 had smashed home 2-6 in the Munster final win over Clare and if Saturday brought defeat for the collective, it brought another scoring masterclass for the individual.

The Fossa man totted up 0-8, five in the second half when Kerry chased the game and two particularly memorable efforts in the wake of McLaughlin’s Mayo goal. Kerry’s comeback hopes hinged on his capacity to cope with the Mayo defensive unit, how one of his three screamers in the third quarter did not nestle in the net seemed a mystery.

Therein lies the rub. His genius could not carry the team single-handedly. Paul Geaney did his best to aid Clifford as he bagged three points but it was a subdued afternoon for the remainder of the Kerry offensive unit.

david-clifford-with-padraig-ohora David Clifford with Padraig O'Hora. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

3. Mayo’s big improvement in front of goal

When Mayo landed in Croke Park to face Kerry in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, they lost out by eight points. They only registered a paltry total of 13 points over the 70-plus minutes. Indeed 13 was the number of point chances they missed in the second half alone of that game last June between wides, shots that fell harmlessly shot and a Paddy Durcan effort that knocked against the upright.

On Saturday they had reached the 12 point figure by half-time. By the 41st minute they had surpassed the 2022 tally against the Kingdom when Jason Doherty arced over their 14th point. At the final whistle the scoreboard proclaimed Mayo had struck 1-19. 11 different players chipped in.

The dynamism of Matthew Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor and Jack Carney found plentiful gaps in the Kerry rearguard but it was the full-forward line of James Carr, Aidan O’Shea and Ryan O’Donoghue, who posted a combined 0-10 in the first half, that really hurt Kerry. This was impressive stuff from Mayo up front and but for Shane Ryan’s defiance in goal, the end tally would have been greater.

jack-oconnor Kerry's Jack O'Connor. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

4. Kerry’s wake-up call

Back in February Jack O’Connor branded his Kerry team’s performance as ‘unacceptable’ when they took on Mayo in the league. Saturday saw him again reaching for critical language when they took on Mayo, this time in the championship. ‘It’s a big wake-up call for us. No excuses.’

A sense of lethargy gripped Kerry’s display from early on and while they would have been satisfied to be only a point adrift on the half hour mark, the game rapidly got away from them as they fell five behind. After cantering to yet another Munster title win, this national assignment was a more sobering experience.

The jolt to the system after losing the county’s proud unbeaten championship record between games in Killarney and Tralee, a run that stretched back to 1995, will require a response. A trip to Cork awaits, then a renewal of acquaintances with Mickey Harte and while they will still be expected to emerge from the group, the long-range forecast has a layer of uncertainty added to it now.

O’Connor invoked the spirit of 2009 in his post-match conversation, a perfect example of how a Kerry team rebounded in mid-summer. The hard work starts now.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel