Pundit Watch: Pat Spillane enthralled by Mayo's refusal to die
“RESILIENCE, resilience, resilience, resilience,” was how Pat Spillane summed up Mayo on yesterday's Sunday Game.
In the aftermath of a ding dong All-Ireland semi-final, Spillane was just relieved Kerry were still standing and was full of praise, with the usual reservations, for their opponents.
“Mayo, again, the same failings coming down the stretch, getting the wrong players in scoring positions, bad shot options, bad execution, but… you've got to admire them… people say you're only soft soaping them, but… they come back, they come back, they come back,” was how the Kingdom veteran sketched the westerners on the final whistle.
At half-time, with the sides neck and neck, Spillane was no less captivated by the contest: “It's gripping, enthralling, lots of mistakes, lots of excitement… very slippery, slippery ball, slippery ground conditions,” he said.
“Mayo, for 20 minutes, played all the football, yet the game is a draw and it is in the melting pot. Mayo came into this game battle hardened, they're on the back of lots of competitive games, where they'd to dig deep in so many matches. Kerry came into it on the back of three handy Championship games all summer, no tests. They're off the pace, defensively they're wide open, but we're not surprised because Cork opened them up and Galway opened them up.”
However, Spillane was also alive and alert to Mayo's familiar hang ups: “If there's two failings with Mayo, Mayo have lost seven of their 13 kick-outs” he added.
“Mayo don't seem to have a consistent free-taker - two frees, two missed chances and, on the other side, Mayo have handed five easy frees to Kerry – Kerry struggling, Kerry convert five easy scores.”
Joe Brolly was in agreement: “That's been the difference,” he said of Spillane's comments, momentarily forgetting that there was, in fact, no difference between the sides.
“Five needless fouls, five soft frees. The last three scores that brought Kerry back level, three needless fouls, there was no need to commit a foul. The other big problem is that [David] Clarke's kick-out has completely collapsed – two over the side-line, five intercepted, so it's a huge burden it's putting on Mayo, but on the other hand, Kerry have no strategy whatsoever to protect against goals. They're not protecting their square… it is mayhem in there.”
There was a whiff of damning praise about these compliments for Mayo and you suspected Kerry may just have ridden the storm. Not so, so far at least, and there was plenty of optimism in the RTÉ studio at full-time.
“This is what you expect and demand of a sporting contest,” said Spillane.
“Twists, turns, excitement, intensity, mistakes, heroics - these two teams gave it all, gave us a great 75-80 minutes of entertainment and I'm really looking forward to the replay.”
Brolly was slightly more tempered in his enthusiasm: “Mayo played most of the football, I mean it's extremely disappointing that they didn't win that game.”
But if the Derry man was seeking to put a dampener on things, Colm O'Rourke was having none of it: “Far from being downhearted about this, I think Mayo will go into next Saturday's replay and they will have a new sense of energy and enthusiasm… now we know Mayo are back, they are a really, really tough hardened outfit.
“Kerry, to me, are not a great team.”
Famous last words? Watch this space.