Tasty fare served at HQ as Mayo flavour a Croke classic
Consider how circumstances must have felt to Mayo hearts in Croke Park at half-time. Four points down to Kerry, they only managed one point in the last 20 minutes of the opening half. Then, the man most likely to lead a comeback – scorer of that point, Lee Keegan – got on a ball and was wrapped up by two Kerry tacklers.
He flicked out his boot at Johnny Buckley and David Coldrick might have been justified in awarding a yellow card, but instead shocked the stadium by bringing out red. A genuine game-changer and annual challenger for Player of The Year, dismissed on 33 minutes.
All six Kerry forwards had scored, along with a midfielder and a defender. They were cooking, Mayo were in serious bother.
But the Connacht men produced a third quarter that yielded 1-8, the final score coming when Peter Crowley barrelled into the back of Donal Vaughan as he was about to pull the trigger for a shot on goal, the blatant penalty tucked away by Cillian O'Connor.
That passage was described by Mayo manager as: "Probably as good as any team has played. Fellas just stood up. It was exhilarating to watch to be honest."
It left Mayo ahead by a goal and when O'Connor tagged on the next two scores it looked like they had imposed their will sufficiently on Kerry.
Big games however, tend to be influenced by big personalities. For a couple of years now, Kieran Donaghy's football career has been almost the least interesting thing about him. When he came on for Anthony Maher in the second half it seemed like Kerry were weakening themselves.
When Barry Moran had a ball along the sideline and three Mayo jerseys seemed poised to pounce, the game seemed, as they say, up.
Moran got a looping kick away in time, Donaghy had drifted to the edge of the square and fielded above Ger Cafferkey, who by this stage was suffering with cramping calves. A quick handpass to James O'Donoghue, who stitched it into a tiny sliver of the goals, and suddenly it was all different. Three minutes remained, with a further three to be announced as injury time.
Mayo's Tom Cunniffe produced a poor effort that sailed wide before substitute and Kerry vice-captain Kieran O'Leary levelled matters. There was barely time for O'Donoghue to kick a wide that struck an upright, and Bryan Sheehan to unleash a 60-metre free that dropped just short into the hands of Seamus O'Shea before Coldrick brought an end to this instalment of drama.
It goes to show that you can hang around Croke Park for a few months and out of nowhere, a fantastic game of football can break out that restores all faith.
Only the replay will be on unfamiliar territory. The GAA have already earmarked this Saturday for an American Football college game between UFC Knights and Penn State in Croke Park, so this replay will be moved to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, with a 5pm throw-in time.
Considering the Gaelic Grounds holds a maximum 46,000, it is significantly less than the number that attended this game. Given its more convenient location and the desirability of attending a replay of this magnitude, it looks like an unfortunate situation.
Mayo county board will be lodging an appeal, but success would seem unlikely as appeals are not normally heard on fixtures.
Manager James Horan also revealed that Mayo would appeal the red card awarded to Keegan.
He said: "It was like a shrug to shake him off more than a kicking action I would say. I'm not blaming the referee. You can see how it would be seen. But to me, if we're getting straight red cards for that, the game is going down ... "
Two All-Ireland semi-finals next weekend. My, we are spoiled.
MAYO: R Hennelly; K Higgins, G Cafferkey, T Cunniffe; L Keegan 0-1, D Vaughan, C Boyle 0-1; J Gibbons, S O'Shea; K McLoughlin, A O'Shea, J Doherty 0-1; C O'Connor 1-8 (1-0 Pen, 5f), A Freeman, A Dillon 0-3. Subs: T Parsons for Gibbons (half-time), A Moran 0-2, for Freeman (47m), M Conroy for J Doherty (52m), M Sweeney for Dillon (62m), K Keane for Cafferkey (69m)
Yellow cards: 0
Black cards: 0
Red cards: Keegan (33m)
KERRY: B Kelly; P Murphy 0-1, A O'Mahony, S Enright; P Crowley 0-1, M ÓSé, F Fitzgerald 0-1; A Maher, D Moran 0-2; M Geaney 0-1, J Buckley 0-1, D Walsh 0-2; S O'Brien 0-1, P Geaney 0-1, 1f, J O'Donoghue 1-3. Subs: Declan O'Sullivan for O'Brien (20m), B Sheehan 0-1, 1f, for M Geaney (42m), K Young for O'Mahony (51m), K Donaghy for Maher (58m), BJ Keane for Buckley (62m), K O'Leary 0-1, for Walsh (66m),
Yellow cards: D O'Sullivan (36m), Crowley (57m)
Black cards: 0
Red cards: 0
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)