By Eoghan McIntyre
Kerry 1-10 Mayo 0-15
Andy Moran ignited a stunning Mayo comeback in the second half at Austin Stack Park as Kerry coughed up a four-point half-time lead to lose by two.
A goal from Barry John Keane had Kerry in total control at the interval, but the Kingdom only managed to kick three points after the break, while Mayo took over in all areas of the field.
Both sides ended the game with 14 men as Tom Parsons was sent off in injury-time, while two blacks cards caught up with Kerry, who had introduced all of their substitutes.
There is no doubt that Kerry should have been much further ahead at the break than the 1-07 to 0-06 lead they accumulated from a dominant opening 35 minutes.
From midfield Jack Barry was an unstoppable force and his driving run saw Kerry open the scoring after just 12 seconds, while Jack Savage at corner-forward and David Moran also ruled the roost over their respective markers.
If Kerry were as ruthless as they have shown in the past, they could have hit six goals in the first half.
Barry twice pointed when a goal chance was available; Adrian Spillane rattled the crossbar six minutes into his first league start for the Kingdom; Barry John Keane palmed the ball over the bar from close range in the 21st minute; and Moran saw his harshly awarded 13th-minute penalty well saved by David Clarke.
That failure to kill off Mayo meant Cillian O’Connor and Moran could chip away at the deficit, but Mayo too could say they were sloppy up front, as along with their two wides, O’Connor dropped two medium range frees into Brian Kelly’s hands.
Mayo management and players should be "very happy" with the second-half performance against Kerry, says Mayoman David Brady #rtegaa https://t.co/B7tekbMEMk— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) February 12, 2017
Mayo’s effort and work-rate definitely improved after the penalty save – David Drake was penalised for a jersey pull on Spillane – but other than efforts from Parsons and Moran, Mayo struggled in front of goal.
A hamstring injury for James O’Donoghue meant he was replaced by Conor Keane before the throw-in, but injury struck twice for Kerry as both Killian Young and Paul Geaney also limped off early on with leg muscle injuries.
Barry John Keane was one of the substitutes introduced and he finally broke Kerry’s goal drought five minutes from the break. A quick free from Savage found Moran, but his point attempt dropped short. Clarke then failed to get the required punch on the ball and the onrushing Barry John Keane rattled the net from close range.
That goal put Kerry 1-07 to 0-04 ahead, but a couple of O’Connor frees – either side of one that dropped short – meant Mayo only trailed by four at half-time.
The improvement from Mayo after the restart was remarkable though. A point from Conor O’Shea was added to by Cillian O’Connor to halve the deficit by the 38th minute, and after a Barry John Keane point, Mayo went on to score three of the next four to level matters by the 51st minute, 1-08 to 0-11.
While it was far from a game plagued with dirty play, referee Padraig Hughes dished out a red card, 11 yellow cards and a three blacks – to Evan Regan and Kerry’s Jonathan Lyne and Barry O’Sullivan – but the frequent fouling from the Kerry defenders was regularly penalised by Cillian O’Connor.
Substitute Conor Geaney did give Kerry the lead with a good point on the turn after 58 minutes, but from there to the end it was Mayo that dominated. Ten minutes from time Cillian O’Connor’s eighth free levelled the game, and five minutes from time Moran fired Mayo into the lead for the first time, while Cillian O’Connor finished off the job in injury-time.
An ugly mass brawl in the fifth minute of injury-time saw Parsons singled out and Hughes flashed a straight red chard his way – he was also booked earlier – but the two points from Tralee will please Mayo hugely.
NEXT UP: Mayo host neigbours Roscommon under lights at McHale Park on Saturday 25 February. The following afternoon sees Kerry welcome Monaghan to Fitzgerald Stadium for a 2pm throw-in.
Mayo: D Clarke; P Durcan, K Higgins, D Newcombe; S Coen, C Boyle, D Drake; D Vaughan, T Parsons (0-01); F Boland, C O’Connor (c) (0-09, 0-09f), C O’Shea (0-01); K McLoughlin (0-01), A Moran (0-03), J Doherty.
Subs: E O’Donoghue for Drake (24 mins), D O’Connor for Boland (46), S Nally for Vaughan (51), E Regan for Doherty (59), M Plunkett for Regan (68 BC), D Kirby for O’Shea (71).
Kerry: B Kelly; R Shanahan, M Griffin, P Crowley (c); J Lyne, K Young, T Morley; D Moran, J Barry (0-02); A Spillane, P Murphy (0-01), D Walsh; J Savage (0-01), P Geaney (0-02, 0-02f), C Keane.
Subs: BJ Keane (1-03) for Geaney (20 mins), T O’Sullivan for Young (27), M Geaney for Spillane (46), C Geaney (0-01) for C Keane (48), J Foley for Shanahan (58), B O’Sullivan for Lyne (61 BC).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)