WITHIN fifteen minutes in the replay, Mayo were four points to the good, and Conor Mortimer had three points from play.
He was terrorising the Fermanagh defence and that good start, coupled with a strong finish, was enough to see Mayo break Fermanagh’s hearts and reach the All-Ireland final.
They needed late scores from him, his brother Trevor and Austin O’Malley to finally shake off the gritty Erne challenge.
“Look it, we obviously expected to beat Fermanagh. The first day we got them, it started bucketing down rain and that kinda dragged the game down and slowed it down a bit,” recalls Mortimer.
“In those kind of games, I don’t think people gave Fermanagh enough credit. They played fairly well, they were hard enough to beat after beating Armagh in the quarter-final themselves.
“I don’t think they were given enough credit at that time. We were lucky enough I suppose. It went to a replay and we got it done in the end. They were a tough side to play.”
The Connacht champions had deposed Tyrone in the quarter-final and Mortimer recalls their unfamiliarity with Mickey Harte’s side as the key to their success.
But the fact that they didn’t come through their semi-final more convincingly was a dent to the confidence ahead of the final with Kerry.
“We’d no fear of Tyrone along those years. We hadn’t crossed them that often, only in the 2000s when they started coming to the fore.
“They beat us in the under-21s in ’01, and then won the three senior All-Irelands after that.
“Those was their golden years. We were there as well. We played in a few finals and obviously didn’t win them. If we had, it would have been us having the golden 2000s.
“Maybe we mightn’t have been as tuned in for Fermanagh, I don’t remember to be honest. I’d imagine we fairly were, because it’s an All-Ireland semi-final, no matter who you’re playing. You can’t take things for granted.
“We pulled through in the end, though it might have been the writing on the wall for the final that we didn’t win the game that well. We struggled in the first game.”
The All-Ireland final began well for them with Alan Dillon’s early goal, but Kerry soon overwhelmed them with an awesome display of power and panache.
“Realistically, they got going after 20 or 25 minutes and kinda blew us away. They were far more physical, they had more power around the middle, won a lot more ball.
“We were living off scraps effectively. They were just a better side.
“People will always say you could have done this in the build-up or you could have done that, but it’s a load of bullshit really. You’d never question it if you’d won it.
“If we’d won that, what we did in the build-up, every team would be doing it.
“You’ve got to lead your own path and go at it, and try to outfox these systems that teams are playing now. In fairness, our build-up in ’04 and ’06 had some good points and some bad points, same as every team.
“You can’t get everything right. If you’re playing players and you’re not up for it on the day, and it goes against you…it might happen one or two players; it happened probably seven or eight of our players on the one day, me included.
“It’s difficult to recover from that as a team in the actual game. We just didn’t have an answer, and unfortunately we got beaten. That was it.”