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Kerry's hunger is key as epic effort against Mayo books final berth

Kerry 3-16 - Mayo 3-13

Tangled up: Tempers flare between Kerry and Mayo players in Saturday’s epic semi-final replay
Tangled up: Tempers flare between Kerry and Mayo players in Saturday’s epic semi-final replay

By Daragh Small

An era has ended for Mayo football but another one may be about to begin for Kerry after this gripping All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay at a packed Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.

Mayo not only need to deal with another big day disappointment but are now also on the hunt for a new manager as they continue their bid to end an All-Ireland famine which has lasted since 1952.

James Horan's stepping down brings to an end four years in charge having taken Mayo to successive All-Ireland finals where they lost to Donegal in 2012 and Dublin last year.

"I am immensely proud of the team and the players, the character and the effort and commitment they showed. We came up short. We are very disappointed," he said.

Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice said: "There's a massive desire in the group, a lot of those lads have no All-Ireland medal. Our experienced lads have a couple all right but a lot of the younger guys don't have a medal at any grade.

"There's massive hunger in the group, there's massive togetherness, there is great spirit there," he said.

After Cillian O'Connor had given Mayo the lead from a free, and Paul Geaney and James O'Donoghue had put Kerry in the lead, the game burst into life.

Shane Enright dragged O'Connor to the floor and he made no mistake with the penalty, but he also added a further 1-2 as Mayo were rampant.

Geaney hit back with a point for Kerry before Kieran Donaghy goaled to bring them right back into it. The sides went in at 2-5 to 1-5 at half-time.

Kerry captain Fionn Fitzgerald got a black card for a trip on Andy Moran but when O'Donoghue hit Kerry's first point of the half, the signs were ominous for Mayo.

And so it proved as Kerry won a penalty when O'Donoghue was hauled down by Colm Boyle and O'Donoghue hit the net. Further points from O'Donoghue and Marc O'Se gave Kerry a two-point lead at 2-8 to 2-6 in the 50th minute before Andy Moran finally stopped the rot.

A high ball in from O'Connor evaded the advances of Barry Kelly in the Kerry goal and Moran palmed into the empty net. A further point from him and one from O'Connor gave Mayo a commanding lead before O'Donoghue hit back with 1-2.

Mayo showed heart for the fight and Donal Vaughan drew them level forcing the game to extra-time with the team's deadlocked at 3-11 to 3-11. O'Connor and Kevin McLoughlin struck early blows for Mayo in extra-time but that was as close as they got to a win.

Barry John Keane brought the sides level with two frees and they went in at 3-13 to 3-13 at half-time in extra-time. Jonathan Lynne hit over two vital score's just after the break before Geaney sealed it with the final point of the evening to send them into the All-Ireland final.

Kerry: B Kelly; P Murphy, A O'Mahony, S Enright; K Young (0-1), P Crowley, F Fitzgerald; A Maher, D Moran; M Geaney, J Buckley, D Walsh; K Donaghy (1-0), P Geaney (0-4, 0-3f), J O'Donoghue (2-6, 2-0 pen, 0-2f). Subs: M O'Se (0-1) for Enright (22mins), Barry J Keane (0-2f) for P Geaney (42mins), P Kilkenny for Fitzgerald (Black) (42mins), D O'Sullivan for Buckley (55mins), K O'Leary for M Geaney (61mins), J Lynne (0-2) for D Walsh (70mins), B Sheahan for O'Mahony (83mins).

Mayo: R Hennelly; T Cunniffe, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, C Boyle, D Vaughan (0-1); B Moran, S O'Shea; K McLoughlin (0-1), A O'Shea, J Doherty (0-3); C O'Connor (2-5, 1-0 pen, 0-3f), A Moran (1-1), A Dillon. Subs: T Parsons for B Moran h-t, A Freeman (0-1f) for A O'Shea (Blood) h-t, M Conroy (0-1) for O'Connor (Blood) h-t, Conroy for Dillon (57 mins), K Keane for Cafferkey (68mins), R Feeney for A O'Shea (70mins), Freeman for A Moran (70mins), B Harrison for Vaughan (79mins), C Barrett for Boyle (83mins).

Yellow cards: Kerry: S Enright (6), D Walsh (32), M O'Se (35) P Crowley (65) K Donaghy (93); Mayo – C O'Connor (6), D Vaughan (32), A Freeman (35).

Black cards: Kerry: F Fitzgerald (39).

Red cards: Mayo: C O'Connor (95).

Referee: CReilly (Meath).

Attendance: 36,256.

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