Kerry 1-20 Mayo 1-11: In the end, it was a relatively straightforward day at the office for Kerry.
They may have encountered spasms of resistance from a feisty Mayo outfit but their experience, guile and sophisticated finishing skills eventually piloted them into yet another All-Ireland final.
And as ever, Kingdom boss Jack O’Connor was pragmatic afterwards, his demeanour though clearly indicating that he feels his side are now even better prepared to confront either Dublin or Donegal in the All-Ireland football decider next month.
“Mayo put in some ferocious tackling and heavy hits throughout but that suited us.
“Dublin and Donegal are not exactly shrinking violets and they will tackle very hard so we will know what to expect,” observed O’Connor.
The colossal input of Colm Cooper who racked up 1-7 was pinpointed by O’Connor as central to his team’s victory but he could also have highlighted the contribution of Aidan Maher and Bryan Sheehan at midfield and the vigilance for the most part of a solid defence.
“Colm sprayed the ball around very intelligently and we were more comfortable in possession as the match wore on. We were guilty of some bad turnovers in the first-half,” added O’Connor.
Mayo diced with danger in the opening 10 minutes and were fortunate not to concede a goal as Kerry, who shot four wides in this period, virtually claimed ownership of the ball.
Yet as an element of frustration crept into the Kingdom’s play, Mayo began to look much more composed and by the 18th minute they had nosed into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead against the run of play, Enda Varley (2), Cillian O’Connor and Donal Vaughan snapping up their scores with Kerry restricted to points from Tomas O Se and a Cooper free.
But when Mayo subsequently spooned the ball into the arms of goalkeeper Brendan Kealy on three occasions, were guilty of several turnovers and saw O’Connor miss two easy scoring chances, Kerry did not look a gift horse in the mouth. With Tomas O Se driving forward at every opportunity and both Declan O’Sullivan and Kieran O’Leary working hard, they revealed much more patience and composure.
In the last 10 minutes of the first-half they swept over five unanswered points from Eoin Brosnan, Ciaran Donaghy, Bryan Sheehan and Cooper (2) before Andy Moran trimmed the Kingdom’s interval advantage to two points by landing a skyscraper point from far out on the touchline to keep James Horan’s side in touch at 0-8 to 0-6.
That though was as good as it got for Mayo. When the sides traded a brace of points each on the resumption this merely proved the precursor to a sustained spell of Kerry dominance that saw them plunder six points between the 42nd and 50th minutes to streak clear at 0-16 to 0-8.
Even when O’Connor torqued in from the right to blaze in Mayo’s goal in the 51st minute, Cooper applied the coup de grace to his own five-star performance by thundering an unstoppable shot into the Mayo net two minutes later.
Kerry then summoned all their craft, composure and control to close out the game and in the process send out the clear message that a sixth All-Ireland crown since 2000 is well within their gambit.
Kerry: B Kealy; K Young, M O Se, T O’Sullivan; T O Se (0-1), E Brosnan (0-1), A O’Mahoney; B Sheehan (0-3, 0-1 free), A Maher; Darran O’Sullivan (0-1), Declan O’Sullivan, D Walsh; C Cooper (1-7, 0-4 frees), K Donaghy (0-2), K O’Leary (0-2). Subs: P Galvin (0-2) for Walsh (42 mins), J O’Donogue for Darran O’Sullivan (61), D Bohane for T O Se (65), S Scanlon (0-1) for Sheehan (67), BJ Keane for Declan O’Sullivan (71).
Mayo: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; R Feeney, D Vaughan (0-3), T Mortimer; A O’Shea, S O’Shea; K McLoughlin, A Dillon, A Moran (0-2); E Varley (0-2, 0-1 free), A Freeman, C O’Connor (1-3, free). Subs: L Keegan (0-1) for Feeney (47 mins), R McGarrity for S O’Shea (47), A Campbell for Freeman (51), J Doherty for Varley (57).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).