GAA Football

David Clifford leads the way as Kerry hammer Mayo in Division One final

David Clifford picks his spot past Mayo goalkeeper Rory Byrne. Pic Philip Walsh
Andy Watters at Croke Park

Allianz National Football League Division One final: Kerry 3-19 Mayo 0-13

THE MAYO driver must have started his bus midway through the second half because it seemed the Westerners could not get out of Croke Park quickly enough yesterday.

Six points down at half-time, Kerry hammered them by 15 at the finish to capture the Division One title with a stroll in-the-park win in a match that was packed with brilliant scores but short on tackles and intensity.

Mayo won’t read too much into losing and Kerry won’t read too much into winning but you’d rather be in the Kingdom camp this morning. Michael Plunkett gave the Westerners the lead in the first minute but they never led again as Kerry took complete control and eclipsed their 13-point winning margin when the sides met in the 2006 All-Ireland final.

The biggest plus point for the Westerners was Cillian O’Connor’s return to the fray and he looked to be moving well after all his injury problems. He scored from a free but it was a token effort for a Mayo side that didn’t look like they fancied it yesterday, particularly in the second half.

David Clifford fancied it alright and the Kerry skipper collected the Division One trophy to a smattering of applause from the fans who stayed on to watch.

“We came out on the right side of it today, but there’s no doubt we’ll be meeting ye again lads,” said Clifford, who paid a thoughtful tribute to Sligo player Red Og Murphy who passed away on Friday aged just 21.

If Kerry and Mayo do meet again, James Horan will have to rethink his man-marking strategy because, although the game was over by that stage, Clifford did lay down a marker when he shrugged off Padraig O’Hora (Paddy Durcan and Oisin Mullen weren’t involved yesterday) and added a goal to his six points to earn the man of the match award.

A game that petered out began with a fine score from Mayo’s Plunkett but the pace and movement of the Kerry forwards immediately began to cause him and his defensive colleagues problems and the Kingdom attack weaved its first score when Paul Geaney held off Lee Keegan and played in David Clifford who held off O’Hora to equalise.

Then Paudie Clifford, revelling in the space he was given, kicked the ball to Stephen O’Brien who was allowed too much time to gather it and then wriggle through a posse of defenders to send Kerry ahead.

Enda Hession hacked the ball off the line after Rory Byrne (whose saves kept Mayo in the game in the first half) blocked Paudie Clifford’s shot and, as the game swung from end to end, Matthew Ruane accepted an invitation to shoot and levelled.

Ryan O’Donghue, who struggled to break free of Tom O’Sullivan, hit the post and Jack Barry, as quick as his midfield partner Diarmuid O’Connor, ran the ball clear.

Adrian Spillane added a point and, even though Ruane won his second kick out in succession, Mayo could do nothing with the possession and David Clifford’s free edged Kerry two in front before his brother took O’Brien’s pass and made it 0-5 to 0-2 after 15 action-packed minutes.

Conor Loftus had a sniff of goal but couldn’t control the ball and, although James Carr and Ruane scores either side of a Geaney point left one in it, Kerry had the title in the bag by the break.

Geaney, O’Brien and David Clifford were all involved as Barry got forward to score Kerry’s sixth and the Kingdom seized control of the game (and never lost it) when Gavin White burst up the left wing. He passed to Geaney whose first time shot was saved but White had followed up and he bravely punched the rebound into the net.

David Clifford added a point but Mayo hung in there with three in-a-row. O’Donoghue got the first when he took a pass from Aidan O’Shea – shunted up to full-forward but in and out of the game around midfield mostly – and Carr and Loftus followed suit to reduce the gap to four points.

Kerry hit back when Graham O’Sullivan raced up the right wing and played in Clifford who swung over his fourth point of the half and Shane Ryan’s brilliant free from the sideline meant Kerry went in six points ahead (1-10 to 0-7) at the break.

During the interval, Croke Park was announced as the world’s first ‘Age-friendly stadium’ and Mayo fans must have hoped that veteran Cillian O’Connor would run out for the second half but the Ballintubber forward was kept on the bench.

Once again it was Plunkett who got the scoreboard moving but a Geaney free and a Paudie Clifford 45 cancelled it out before O’Donoghue’s free left it 1-12 to 0-9.

O’Hora, David Clifford and Barry were booked but the game remained luke-warm and, although O’Donoghue kicked a couple of points, Kerry took complete control despite losing Diarmuid O’Connor to a black-card after he tripped Aidan O’Shea.

The floodgates opened with a terrific score from David Clifford and Kerry had added three more points before the Fossa clubman roasted O’Hora down the left, cut in on goal and picked his spot past Byrne.

Cillian O’Connor won a free and converted it to bring Mayo up to a dozen as the game petered out and even Kerry full-back Foley managed a ‘major’ before the final whistle brought an end to the phoney-war foolishness.

Thank you League, you’ve been great but it’s on to the Championship now.

Kerry: S Ryan (0-1 free); G O’Sullivan, J Foley (1-0), T O’Sullivan; G White (1-0), T Morley, B O’Beaglaioch; D O’Connor, J Barry (0-1); D Moynihan (0-1), P Clifford (0-2, 0-1 45), A Spillane (0-2); S O’Brien (0-1), D Clifford (1-6, 0-1 free), P Geaney (0-5, 0-1 free)

Subs: T Brosnan for O’Brien (49), G Crowley for White (52), M Burns for Spillane (63)

Temporary sub: G Crowley for White (27), White for Crowley (32)

Yellow card: Barry (45), D Clifford (45)

Black card: D O’Connor (52)

Mayo: R Byrne; L Keegan, S Coen, P O’Hora; M Plunkett (0-2), R Brickenden, E Hession; J Flynn, M Ruane (0-2); C Loftus (0-1), A O’Shea, J Carney; J Carr (0-2), J Doherty, R O’Donoghue (0-5, 0-2 frees)

Subs: K McLoughlin for Carney (HT), C O’Shea for Flynn (45), A Orme for Doherty (50), C O’Connor (0-1 free) for Carr (56)

Yellow card: O’Hora (45)

Referee: N Mooney (Cavan)

Attendance: 31,506

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