National League

Kerry overcome Mayo in Castlebar

February 22nd, 2011
by Weeshie Fogarty

I was positioned high up at the very back of the superb new ten thousand seated stands at the magnificent Pairc Mhi Eile last Sunday in Castlebar as this disappointing Alliance National League tie between Mayo and Kerry entered the closing ten minutes. The game had chugged along on a cold bitter wet February day littered with up to sixty frees as Maurice Deegan the Laois man in control blew for the slightest infringements.  We were now in the 64th min of the game and once again Darren o Sullivan having another excellent outing cut in to the Mayo square, he lost control of the ball as he soloed in and as he reached the edge of the small square Mayo's excellent goalkeeper Robert Hennelly moved to contest the ball as he was quite entitled to do, he collided with the Kerry man and without consulting his umpires the Laois official after a little hesitation I felt pointed the spot.  Now my very first split second initial reaction was no foul and I always have in the past judged such situations from the perspective of posing the question, "if a penalty was not awarded there would there be any adverse reaction". Well in this situation the answer for me is no, the game would have continued on without the slightest controversy.

Now as all this unfolded on the field of play Brian Sheehan was receiving treatment for a bloody nose on the side line. The St Mary's man had entered the fray minutes before hand and as the referee signaled for that penalty Jack o Connor very wisely hurried Sheehan back into play. To a massive chorus of boos and whistles Brian stepped up cool as ice and hammered the ball low to the goalkeepers left and the umpire was reaching for the green flag. Kerry were back in the lead, 1-6 to 0-7. Shortly after this the same player raced away from two chasing defenders to angle over a beautiful score, Kieran o Leary added another and the points were safely in the bag. However for the remaining minutes we saw Kerry marshaled by the magnificent Mark o Se, what a classy footballer, and play possession football denying the home side the opportunity to hit back. The interdiction of the South Kerry man was crucial as he hit 1-1 which was so decisive. He as expected was well up to the pace of the game following his great run to All Ireland glory with his club. He will surly start against Dublin next Saturday.

Now let's get one thing straight about the dubious penalty award which swung the game Kerrys way. The old adage "what goes around comes around" is most fitting in this instance because last year we saw Kerry goals disallowed in two games, decisions which I wrote about here as being completely wrong. The championship game against Down and a league game in Tralee. Kerry lost both times due to that infamous interpretation of the hand pass rule. Then following the recent league game against Cork also in Tralee I gave my opinion that three refereeing decisions in the closing minutes had deprived Kerry of at least a share of the spoils.  So on and on it goes. When if ever will we see general agreement in the interpretation of the rules by our referees? I am now more full convinced than ever that our inter county referees are so confused by meeting, seminars, video re-plays, leactures,when and when not  to issue cards that they are not using the most obvious rule of all, 'simple common sense" . Enough said for the moment on that issue.

Kerry had started in great style jumping into a three point lead; however Mayo found their feet and began winning a lot of ball around the middle of the field. One crucial moment in the first half saw Darren o Sullivan set up David Geaney in front of goal but the Dingle man's low shot was too soft and a great goal chance, probably the only clear one was lost. Geaney had an excellent first half, kicked two lovely points from play and while substituted in the second will have learned much from this outing. Jonathan Lyne continues to improve at wing back showing great fitness speed and delivery while Shane Enright, another new kid on Jack o Connors block can also be well pleased with his performance and we observe these new comers progress with continued anticipation.  The return of Owen Brosnan to centre back was on this one showing a complete success. He has added great strength to the half back line and now his role is completely different to what he was always accustomed to. That is instead of busting past defenses he is now busting out of defense. Kieran Donaghy continues to be a focal point of attack and alarm bells were once again ringing when the big Tralee man had to be moved to a struggling mid field in that first half. Michael Quirk in my opinion is still the best over head fielder of a ball in this county, of course he is no Jack o Shea or Dara o Se ranging from end to end but surly he can be used to great advantage for some periods of games. The selectors know better, he might not be available, I don't know.

This league is certainly showing exactly who will be and more importantly who will not be ready for the championship. There is a lot of sleepless nights ahead for Jack and his men as they endeavor to build a squad (not just a first fifteen) for the championship. Next weekends tilt with Dublin will answer more questions. Dublin looked superbly fit and very sharp against Cork. Their 6 am training sessions have them in great shape for this time of year, probably too good too soon. They don't rely now on any one individual for scoring and had nine different players on the score sheet last Saturday against a very unfit looking Cork; Connor Counihan is timing his run for the championship I believe. A win for Kerry over unbeaten Dublin in Croke Park would be a massive boost to one and all. Let's hope it happens however I feel they are ahead of Kerry at the moment in their preparations. Nevertheless its fascinating watching Jack and his men chop and change as they continue to build for the future.

Fogra: Lovely tribute to my former teammate, the late Donie Murphy in the programme last Sunday. Donie died last year, is buried in Castlebar and gave many years of great service to Castlebar Mitchels training and coaching their teams.  He was one of life's true gentlemen.

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