They’ve met in the championship on 25 occasions.
Some classic Kerry v Mayo clashes to remember
BY SHANE STAPLETON
They’ve met in the championship on 25 occasions. Mayo have landed just four knockouts blows, we’ve seen a split decision on three occasions, while Kerry have 18 times been the victors. Clearly, history is not on the side of the Connacht men, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some classic encounters. Mayo have never beaten Kerry in an All-Ireland final, losing on four occasions: 1932, 1997, 2004 and 2006. In 2017, it’s a final four clash to add to the memories.
1996 All-Ireland Semi-Final - Mayo 2-13. Kerry 1-10
Kerry had not won an All-Ireland title in ten years but, as ever, expectations were incredibly high. Legend has it they even got fitted for suits before the game. This was during the era of the famous ‘Mayo, Maaaaayo, Sam Maguire’s coming home to Mayooooo’ tune, and Kingdom folk telling radio stations that Mayo can win song competitions and they’ll stick to winning Sam Maguire. Maurice Fitzgerald kept the Kingdom in check early on but then a James Nallen breakaway goal gave Mayo their break, though straight away a long ball in from centre-back Sean Burke went into the net to cancel it out. Still, Maurice Sheridan and John Casey were on fire, before a bizarre long-range goal from James Horan ended the debate. It was Mayo’s first championship win over Munster opposition for 45 years. In the final replay, Meath would beat the red and green, with the brawl still dominating the discussion 21 years on.
1997 All-Ireland Final - Mayo 1-7, Kerry 0-13
In 1995, Kerry would win an All-Ireland Under-21 title that they hoped would finally help the senior side go on to bridge the Sam Maguire gap which stretched back to 1986. In Mayo, they had slipped down to Division 3 of the league that same year so optimism was in short supply. And yet, the Connacht side would make September in ’96 and again in ’97 — thanks in part to the Under-21s who had been beaten by the Kingdom in that Under-21 decider. This was Paidi O Se’s second season in charge and he had the panel training all the way from October until September, for what was their first All-Ireland final in 11 years. Darragh O Se would lord it, Seamus Moynihan would boss it, while Maurice Fitzgerald sprinkled the posts with stardust. Ciaran McDonald cracked a penalty past Declan O’Keeffe but a sideline score from Fitzgerald sealed the win.
2014 All-Ireland Semi-Final, Kerry 1-16 Mayo 1-16
Who could forget it? Without this brilliant clash, there would’ve been no drama in Limerick in the replay. Lee Keegan was sent off for swiping a leg out at Johnny Buckley on 33 minutes but still 14-man Mayo had themselves in a winning position. Kerry reeled them back in though, thanks largely to the impact of substitute Kieran Donaghy. He fielded a high ball late on and fed James O’Donoghue, who would slot the ball to the net. Then Kieran O’Leary slammed over a stoppage-time equaliser to force a replay. It was a game of huge intensity: 164 contact tackles, 20 turnovers, 41 contested ground balls, 30 contested clean catches, not to mention 26 blocks and interceptions.
2014 All-Ireland Semi-Final Replay, Kerry 3-16 Mayo 3-13 (aet)
The game was moved to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick because HQ was unavailable due to the Croke Park Classic, which saw Penn State take on UCF in a college American football game. Once all that nonsense had died down, the game itself burst into life. What didn’t it have? Very little. Before a ball was kicked, Lee Keegan was cleared to play on a technicality. Once it did, there were some outstanding personal duels, most notably Keith Higgins v James O’Donoghue. It was a game where the sides took turns in holding superiority, of controversial decisions, included the dropping of Marc O Se who was quickly brought on, where heads were banged together, and when Mick the pitch invader was being pulled back by his daughter. Mayo will forever be angry with Cormac Reilly who should’ve sent off Kerry defender Shane Enright for yellow and black card offences, while a couple of soft frees gave the Kingdom two points in first-half extra time. Cillian O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea clashed heads and that certainly cost James Horan’s side, but the class of David Moran was the greatest highlight of all. Not to mention 2-6 from O’Donoghue, who would win Footballer of the Year.