Kerry and Mayo live to fight another day

August 26th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

We were expecting a thriller last Sunday in the semi-final and boy did we get one. And to begin as the fellow said, "first things first", and that is a massive thanks to both counties for providing us with one of those truly memorable games that will be forever spoken about and remain etched in the memory until the day we answer our own final whistle. This was an epic battle and at the end of the day it was right and fitting when the Croke Park smoke had cleared both sides were still standing and had lived to fight another day. Of course not for one moment are we surprised that our own county would be involved in such an epic battle in headquarters because put a green and gold jersey on a Kerry lad, let him race on to the green sward of Croke Park and nine time out of ten he will rise to the occasion. This is his heritage, his tradition, his birth right and down the decades we have seen so many glorious deeds performed here by Kerry men and then add to that mix side line generals who know the game literally inside out and you have the perfect blend.

 And of course I am referring to our two managers last Sunday, Jack o Connor and Eamon Fitzmaurice. Now there will be thousands of words spoken and written about last Sundays heroic happing's in Croke Park. However behind the drama, the color and heart stopping moments from a Kerry perspective we must never overlook but generously acknowledge the all consuming and passionate dedication these men and many more continue to devote to the coaching and development of young men in Kerry. The second half display by the minors was truly powerful stuff, now these exemplary young men will be exposed to the harsh glare of the highly knowledgeable Kerry supporters and media in the run up to the final and win, lose or draw what they are experiencing now will stand to them greatly over the next few years as hopefully many of them blossom and develop into future senior stars.

Jack o Connor is endeavoring to become the first man to guide his county to a minor title following his senior success and it would be a very foolish man to bet against the South Kerry native achieving this incredible mile stone. Eamon Fitzmaurice has literally worked wonders with his senior men. The great Kerry side of the last decade has literally disintegrated before our very eyes, and yes there are a few of the old warriors still shedding blood, sweat and tears for the cause but its the young guns the Finuge man is coaching, advising, guiding and developing that have taken the championship by storm. I have constantly stated here that Kerry is in transition and the displays this summer and in particular last Sunday from both minor and senior teams has proven, if proof were needed that the future of the county is assured. How soon will Kerry be back on top, well that is a story for another day, but what other county could produce a similar story. Amazing stuff.

Mayo nearly shot themselves in the foot, they were so obsessed with all the talk about the scoring skills of James o Donoghue that they abandoned their natural all attacking style as they defended in dept and it was not until they lost their All Star Leo Keegan that they were forced to throw of the shackles and play some magnificent football.  I am reading and listing continuously about the referee being correct and following "the letter of the law "re the sending off of Keegan. In my opinion is was a wrong decision, and if players are going to be send of for a harmless powder puff offence like this then God help gaelic football. I heard no one use the referee's most important mantra of all, "common sense". The incident reminded me of a little child bawling crying outside a shop kicking out at his mother for refusing to buy him an ice cream.

Both counties showed magnificent battling qualities and one area Kerry will question closely is the use of their extra man. Brian Kelly's tackle to prevent Cillian o Connor from goaling in the first half was superb goalkeeping but I wonder was he ordered to continuously drive the ball out to the centre in that second half when the extra man might have won every kick out? Last week in my match preview I remarked here, "the strength of the Kerry bench is much better than last year as was proved against Galway when five men were introduced but surprisingly not Kieran Donaghy. The famous grapevine tells us he is flying in training, any reason why he will not prove to be a trump card? He should be mad for road by now and must still have an awful lot to offer". And so it proved. Donaghy's brilliant fielding and basketball style lay off to o James Donoghue for that goal was a thing of beauty and joy forever. And let's not overlook the superb centre from the brilliant David Moran which set up the score.

 Donal Vaughan caused Kerry huge problems with his direct running and this indeed resulted in the penalty. Aidan o Shea was a colossus for Mayo and really it was he who dragged them back into contention when they trailed by five points early in the second half.  Mayo however are far from a one trick or even a two trick pony and their substitutes are now just like Dublin a massive part of their story. Tom Parsons, Andy Moran and Michael Conroy were immense when introduced and looked as if they had won the day for James Horans side but then Donaghy, Barry John Keane and Kieran o Leary were sent into battle and the rest is history. Kieran o Leary was the manager's last throw of the proverbial dice and what beautiful poise, skill and balance and most importantly of all experience he showed as he slotted over the equalizing point, brilliantly taken under the most extreme circumstances. Finally what can we say about Donnacha Walsh? only this, he should be held up as an example of what being a Kerry footballer is all about, enough said.

I have given my vote to Kerry all this year so far, I am doing so again for next Saturday. My heart I fear a little rules me now but my head tells me different. A win for Kerry will in my opinion rank as one of our greatest achievements in modern times as we face a wonderful Mayo team. To refuse these footballers and supporters of staging the re-play in Croke Park is nothing short of outrageous. Our stadium, our players, our games, our history, our heritage means nothing to some people.

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