Kerry resurgence continues with win over Mayo

March 15th, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

The Kerry resurgence continued apace in Castlebar last Sunday as Eamon Fitzmaurice's men edged closer to a semi-final place in the league and following the disappointing start with losses to Dublin and Roscommon things are certainly looking far better than we have seen in a league campaign for a number of years. Following the much discussed battle against Donegal last Sunday week it was evident when push came to shove against Mayo that  we are now looking at a battle hardened, highly experienced, determined, and very fit Kerry squad. 

Of course when you look at the starting fifteen last Sunday and realise that all those players are All Ireland senior medal holders and at least six of those listed on the subs bench also hold Celtic crosses then the amount of experience is staggering. And it has shone through over the last two weekends; you simply can't put old head on young shoulders.

Marc O Se, Kieran Donaghy, Brian Sheehan, Darren o Sullivan, Colm Cooper and Donnchadh Walsh  in particular are leading by example and for me what came shining through against Donegal and Mayo was their ability  as they say to close out the game during those final crucial fifteen  minutes when a lead has to be defended. .

And then of course you have the warrior, Aidan o Mahoney, playing some of the best football of his life. The Rathmore man was superb last Sunday, occupying that sweeper role in front of his full back line he has his job down to a fine art and from the very word go he was intercepting and clearing ball after ball. His reading of the game is faultless and while speed my not be his greatest asset at this stage of his illustrious career the mark of a great player in any sport is their ability to read situations developing around them.  And this is what he is doing to perfection.

There was some brilliant all round displays in Castlebar and the defence to a man kept Kerry in the game in the first half. All six men put in a massive shift and when you have a colossal of a man like Aidan o Shea driving at you on a continuous basis and the tackling and turnovers is non-stop it really demands great fitness and bravery. And this we saw in abundance.

That first half was poor from a Kerry perspective and two incidents just before the short whistle really decided the final outcome in my opinion. The Kerry forwards had been struggling to break down the home defence and had just a Darren o Sullivan point to show for their efforts as we neared half time.  Excellent defender Peter Crowley and Captain Brian Sheehan (free) were the other point scorers.  Mayo led 0-7 to 0-3 and when you realise they kicked thirteen wide's during the course of the game it shows the amount of possession they had but wasted badly.

Then we saw those two defining game changing moments. First goalkeeper Brendan Kealy was forced to leap to his left to brilliantly turn a bullet of a shot around the post and Mayo were denied a crucial goal. Then minutes later came the first Kerry goal and it was never more badly wanting. The outstanding Darren o Sullivan who is showing probably his best form for a number of years wriggled free from his markers to find Johnny Buckley and the Croke man literally glided and shimmed through the home defence in superb style to shoot between Robert Hennelly's legs for decisive goal.

So after playing fiddle for the entire first half those two incidents send Kerry to the dressing room trailing by just 1-3 to 0-7. Whatever Eamon Fitzmaurice said to his men certainly worked wonders for the second half. Kerry literally doubled their work rate, and unlike the first half did not squander hard won possession. Colm Cooper began to spray a series of defence splitting passes around the forwards, a high centre from his free on the wing was badly mishandled by goalkeeper Robert Hennelly's and Donnacha Walsh was on hand to finish to the net.   

In the 63rd minute Mark o Se sallied up field to loft over a magnificent point with his left leg from a very acute angle. Colm Cooper set up Barry John Keane just one minute later and the o Rahillys man looking sharp, fast and mad for action raised another white flag.  Kerry were now six ahead and as mentioned their vast experience came into play and try as they might Mayo were never allowed to get through for the goal they so badly needed.

And then we also saw the introduction of five Kerry subs in that second half and like the Donegal game all the men who came on added great impetus and freshness to the side and to add to that Brendan o Sullivan raised two white flags and Barry John Keane added another so the developing squad gives added hope for the championship.  With a number of injured men yet to return the biggest and most welcome problem the selectors will now face is picking the starting fifteen.

Monaghan away next and a win here is definetly on the cards and a place in the league semi-final and the added competitive fixture this will bring. Competitive matches fuels competition for places on the team and adds greatly to what's happens in training.

Of course the championship Sundays with the sun high in the sky will be a different kettle of fish and new questions will be asked of all the Kerry players, both young and old with Cork, Dublin and Tyrone waiting around the proverbial corner, all building and looking good.  That was a very encouraging second half from Kerry last Sunday in Castlebar; however the flashing of yellow, black and red cards is a worry and needs to be addressed before the championship begins. I know it's not easy to avoid the wrath of referees in today's game with all the swarming, heavy tackling etc. but I have yet to see a team in any sport win majour honours without near perfect discipline.

Fogra: I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of that wonderful Cordal GAA man Tom Wren last Sunday. The chairman, county board delegate and trustee of his beloved Cordal Tom had literally given his life to Cordal since he first played at sixteen years of age. He was the quintessential GAA man and expounded everything that is great and good in the grass roots of the association in this county. Tom was one of those wonderful exemplary people from the smaller rural clubs you would  love to meet in your GAA travels his passion for his club knew no bounds.  He will be greatly missed and to his wife and daughter, extended family and club members we extend our deepest sympathies.

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