Mayo got their hands on the Allianz FL Division 1 silverware for the first time in 18 years courtesy of a fully deserved 3-11 to 2-10 success over Kerry in a pulsating final encounter at Croke Park today.
Second-half goals from Matthew Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor and Ciaran Treacy were instrumental as James Horan’s men overturned a four-point half-time deficit while goalkeeper Rob Hennelly came to their rescue in stoppage time when pulling off an acrobatic point blank save to deny David Clifford just before Treacy’s goal clinched the win.
Backed by a breeze shooting into the Davin Stand end, first-half goals from Gavin Crowley and Stephen O’Brien propelled the Kingdom into a 2-3 to 0-5 interval lead.
Mayo enjoyed the better of the early exchanges but the pendulum swung in Kerry’s favour after Crowley netted the game’s opening goal in the 13th minute following good work by David Clifford.
That left the scoreboard reading 1-1 to 0-3 in favour of the Kingdom and O’Brien then took his goal chance with aplomb in the 25th minute to leave the scoreboard reading 2-3 to 0-4.
Mayo had their goal chances too, most notably Donal Vaughan in the 7th minute but Kerry netminder Shane Ryan was equal to the task and it was advantage to Kerry at the break.
Horan’s charges issued a statement of intent at the start of the second-half with unanswered points from James Carr and Darren Coen.
Indeed, Carr had a chance for a goal but a combination of Peter Crowley and Ryan kept his effort out before Coen picked up the rebound and settled for a point.
Midfielder Ruane showed his forward colleagues how to do it when expertly finishing to the back of the Kerry net in the 49th minute to narrow the deficit to the bare minimum and the stage was set for a grandstand finish.
It’s fair to say that both teams didn’t disappoint.
Mayo captain Diarmuid O'Connor lifts the trophy. ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne.
Claims for a Mayo penalty were waved away by referee Fergal Kelly - who judged that a challenge by Peter Crowley on Carr was a legal one - in the 55th minute but the Connacht outfit restored parity a minute later when Jason Doherty sent over a straight forward free in front of the posts.
The momentum was very much with Mayo at this stage and they took over in pole position (1-11 to 2-7) in the 57th minute when captain O’Connor landed a long range point with the outside of his boot.
Their lead was short-lived, however, as Jack Barry got Kerry back on level terms in the 60th minute.
The decisive score arrived with five minutes of normal time remaining when O’Connor connected with Paddy Durcan’s high delivery to divert the ball into the back of the Kerry net.
There was drama aplenty in the closing stages as Aidan O’Shea was issued with his marching orders on the stroke of full-time after picking up a second yellow card and Mayo’s success starved supporters had to endure some nervous moments.
None more so than Hennelly’s brilliant save from Clifford and the celebrations began in earnest when Treacy put the outcome beyond any doubt moments later.
Mayo - R Hennelly; C Barrett, B Harrison, K Higgins; P Durcan (0-1), L Keegan, D Vaughan; M Ruane (1-1), A O’Shea; F Boland (0-2), J Doherty (0-2, 1f), D O'Connor (1-2); K McLoughlin, D Coen (0-1), J Carr (0-2, 1f). Subs: C Boyle for D Vaughan, A Moran for D Coen, E Regan for J Carr, C Treacy (1-0) for J Doherty.
Kerry - S Ryan; P Crowley, J Sherwood, G O’Sullivan; G Crowley (1-1), P Murphy, T O’Sullivan; J Barry (0-1), D O’Connor; D Moynihan, S O’Shea (0-5f), S O’Brien (1-0); D Clifford (0-2), T Walsh, K McCarthy. Subs: J O’Donoghue for D Moynihan, J Foley for J Sherwood, M Griffin for K McCarthy, P Geaney (0-1) for T Walsh, G O’Brien for G Crowley.
Referee - F Kelly.Tweet