All Ireland Semi-Final Football Review: Mayo 2-16 0-17 Kerry

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Mayo advance. Kerry lick their wounds

The scoreline was kind to Kerry. A rampant Mayo middle third set the foundation early to secure an All Ireland football final appearance next month. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action, a result where Mayo put the Kerry championship hoodoo aside and one more game to potential Sam Maguire glory.

Mayo domination

The perception during the lead-up to this replay was that Kerry would make the necessary adjustments to offset the Mayo threat from the first encounter. The assumption was wide off the mark as Kerry struggles continued to struggle in the areas that were highlighted last week.

The first sign of trouble within the Kerry ranks was the decision to introduce war-horse Donnacha Walsh in the Kerry half forward line. Speculation in Kerry suggested that Walsh would be most likely not line out given his hamstring injury woes. The decision of Kerry management to select the player indicated that all defensive options were exhausted; Walsh was required fit or unfit. The move backfired and Walsh exited proceedings at the break. Advantage Mayo.

Credit to Stephen Rochford and Mayo management who were under constant question from Mayo and national football pundits. They stuck to their convictions and fielded O’Shea to mark Kieran Donaghy again early doors. O’Shea fulfilled the role with more confidence this week and the goal threat apart from two goal threats in either half was non-existent. Mayo’s defensive setup were on point, great work rate and tempo and their physicality in the tackle was too much for Kerry’s attacking units.

Mayo’s middle third again set the platform. Kerry’s midfield were routed on the long kick-out with Parsons and O’Shea enjoying prominent moments. The key was the pace and support of Diarmuid O’Connor and Kevin McLaughlin in the dirty ball stakes as well as providing scoring threat something not done last week. 1-2 from the half-forward pair and O’Connor’s goal was a critical strike to assert the territorial dominance of Mayo on the scoreboard. More of the same in three weeks is expected.

The Mayo half-back line were dominant and the likes of Colm Boyle were sublime in defensive and attacking duties. Chris Barrett was solid defensively and allowed his wing backs to push further forward. Patrick Durcan energy from the bench saw Kerry further need to focus on defensive work. The sight of Paul Geaney in his own half to assist defensively spoke volumes in the first half.

Mayo full back line and keeper were comfortable for long periods. Clarke in goals was point with his kick out strategy; availed of Kerry’s decision to retreat defensively. Easy kick outs to the impressive Harrison, Boyle, Higgins creating good attacking opportunities for the Westerners.

The full forward line again were extremely dangerous. Jason Doherty’s work rate and movement off the ball was pivotal in creating space for Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran who was superb again in open play. The decision to drop Mark Griffin did not yield any rewards for Kerry as the full forward pair continued to enjoy time and space. If Mayo had dream’t of the perfect afternoon, this was it. Kerry had no answers.

Mayo advance to the All Ireland football final where serious questions will be posed by either Dublin or Tyrone. Game composure was not tested yesterday. It was a stroll for Mayo but they did the job well.

Ponderous Kerry have no answers when asked

This is a defining loss for the squad and management of this Kerry team. A side on paper with the skill set and caliber to contend for All Ireland honors this season but in various games this season, cracks have emerged in several Kerry lines. No significant answers to the questions posed and the result yesterday was no surprise on reflection.

The goalkeeper situation is again under the microscope. Brian Kelly in these two Mayo games has lacked the authority in the square and his kicking game was put under pressure from the first whistle. His kick-out which went for a forty-five in the opening quarter was a blooper reel moment. Mayo latched onto his kick outs thereafter and Kerry struggled to create attacking threats further up the pitch. A clear problem area to address. Kelly will be disappointed with the first goal as well as Diarmuid O’Connor showed the more conviction and hunger to punch the ball to the net.

The full back line have being unconvincing this season. Galway showed in the All Ireland Quarter Final and Cork in the Munster SFC final that this Kerry full back line when quick ball was distributed that this line struggled. Goal chances were missed by both teams but credit Mayo for implementing the tactic.

The Mayo half forward line and Jason Doherty created the space, quick ball inside and the results were devastating. Mayo’s second goal was a prime example; good attacking play and swift passing exchange between Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran to score. The game was over as a contest. The full back line consistently second best to their opponent. Young tried hard to support his colleagues but it was a forlorn battle. Alternations required. Full back a top shopping list item.

The half-back line are not immune to criticism. They lacked defensive conviction in these Mayo fixtures, leaving massive space behind for their much maligned full back line to deal with. Morey worked hard but as a half-back, not sure if that this was his position. The sweeper system was chaotic in implementation. Paul Murphy attempted to fill the role against Mayo but robbing such an attacking threat undermined Kerry.

Donnacha Walsh’s absence was huge and other half-forward options could not fill the role that Walsh fulfills. Crowley’s discipline again surfaced with an early bath in the second half; the ultimate final nail in the coffin. A defensive line which lacked leadership, poise and physicality when required. A stark contrast to when you consider the likes of Marc / Tomas O’Se, Aidan O’Mahoney in the ranks in recent years; leaders of men who put their bodies on the line, did not get the same impression from this current crop defensively.

Midfield area was a disaster for Kerry. The quality undoubtedly in the ranks is there but Mayo’s mobility in the area was a pivotal factor to this success yesterday. Moran had moments but was far from influential in attacking play. Jack Barry is a player who will continue to progress but this was a game which required leadership in the middle of the park. Anthony Maher would have fitted the bill; experience and leadership in abundance. Dry ball day and Maher could have provided composure particularly in the opening period. A clear mistake from Kerry management.

The forward line unit struggled for cohesion throughout against a Mayo defensive system that never gave a Kerry forward player any time and space. Only Paul Geaney and Kieran Donaghy (first Mayo game) can come out of these fixtures with any tangible credit. O’Donoghue’s early season promised evaporated under the immense pressure of Mayo defensive work. The impact off the bench was minimal. Jack Savage carried plenty but no cutting edge and Darran O’Sullivan’s cameo was short and brief with a needless black card. Mayo’s focus then turned to Star and they defended the long ball threat admirably.

A season which offered plenty for Kerry culminating in a NFL title has now being reduced to rumble. The Kerry underage conveyor continues to churn out quality inter-county talent but the side is lacking leadership and organization. A change in management maybe required; tactically one dimensional and the squad depth was hit and miss. Barry John Keane surely should start more games. Several key issues to be addressed for Kerry in the off-season. They are even further behind Dublin this season compared to last season. An intriguing off-season beckons.