Anthony Hennigan in Killarney
Not since 1995 had Kerry lost a championship match at Fitzgerald Stadium but the Kingdom were every bit deserving of their five points loss to Mayo, who issued a serious statement of intent in the backyard of the defending All-Ireland champions on Saturday afternoon.
The Green and Red’s 1-19 to 0-17 victory in Killarney was perhaps even more convincing than it sounds, with Shane Ryan saving four excellent Mayo goal chances before substitute Eoghan McLaughlin eventually rifled the game’s only goal past the Kerry custodian in the 61st minute.
David Clifford was at his brilliant best for the hosts, scoring eight points and drawing a superb second-half save from Mayo ‘keeper Colm Reape, but as a collective Jack O’Connor’s side were much inferior.
It was no exaggeration to say that Mayo should have had 2-2 on the board before Ryan O’Donoghue hit their opening point in the fourth minute. But crucially they never trailed Kerry in the first-half and with Aidan O’Shea leading the line superbly at full-forward, they actually hit the last four points before half-time to lead 0-12 to 0-7, James Carr having struck three points from play and drawn two close-range saves from Ryan.
The Kingdom were never able to get closer than three points in the second-half, despite ten minutes of serious pressure upon Reape’s goal, with Clifford having no fewer than three attempts at raising green – Sam Callinan even blocking one on the line.
But with Mayo boss Kevin McStay rejigging his starting team and introducing team captain Paddy Durcan and vice-captains Tommy Conroy and Stephen Coen off the bench, the visitors had the strength and experience to round out a landmark win, with no fewer than eleven players registering scores by full-time.
The result means Mayo are automatically red-hot favourites to top Group 1 of the All-Ireland SFC and take the direct route into the quarter-finals. Their next outing is in two weeks at home to Louth.
See Tuesday’s edition of the Western People for a full report, post-match reaction and analysis.