Joe Brolly

Joe Brolly: Mayo don’t know what’s coming

ON Sunday, the day after Tyrone had overpowered Kerry physically and mentally in Croke Park, the Mayo captain did a centre page spread in the Sunday World magazine. He was pictured running out of the sea onto a sandy beach wearing only skimpy beach shorts, curiously holding a mobile phone in his right hand.

He talked about his Kerry girlfriend having to wear red and green in the final, not green and gold, and not too subtly promoted a smartphone repair company (“They came to his rescue when his lifeline to his 112,000 social media followers went for a dip”). It could have been straight out of the pages of Love Island.

We will be waiting a while for Tyrone captain Padraig Hampsey to invite the readers of Hello Magazine into his Coalisland home, modelling Egyptian cotton pyjamas and showing us his heart-shaped swimming pool.


Tyrone came onto the field relaxed and chatty for the semi-final, which reminded me of their arrival onto Croke Park that day in 2003 against the favourites and reigning champions Armagh. “Look at them,” my brother Proinnsias texted me on that occasion, “look at how relaxed they are. Armagh are in deep shit.”

Two decades on, Kerry were soon in deep shit. I thought that the Logan Dooher project would take a season to return Tyrone to the courageous, adventurous football they were famed for in the noughties. Particularly with this season having been so short and disrupted. But on Saturday, the learning process was completed in just 90 minutes. I was particularly taken by Brian Dooher saying afterwards that he was disappointed in the two players who committed black card offences and that it was not something he liked to see.

He is a natural leader of men. Calm, tough, down to earth and bullshit free. The team is moulded in his image.

So, Tyrone were calm and tough, Kerry panicky and rushed. For the first 60 minutes, it was an entertaining contest between Tyrone and David Clifford. But when Clifford got injured by a hospital pass from Sean O’Shea, Kerry were done.

Trying to win an All-Ireland with a one-man team is a precarious business.

Kerry, looking like an over-eager u-21 team slightly out of their depth against the real thing, soloed into cul de sacs and hand-passed the ball away on multiple occasions and had it not been for Clifford, Tyrone would have walloped them.

As it was, the young King of Gaelic football was unmarkable, kicking eight points and singlehandedly creating the illusion that Kerry are a serious team. But as soon as he was injured (inevitably by the umpteenth awful Kerry hand-pass) that was that.

Beforehand, when Kieran Donaghy was asked for his prediction, he smiled and said “I’d be worried if it was wet and slippy.” This was a reminder that Kerry have yet to shed their complacency when it comes to Tyrone teams.

Here, they quickly discovered that Ulster teams are not Clare, and certainly not a Tyrone team backboned by Dooher steel. Owen Mulligan made me laugh when he said beforehand that “Kerry have beaten nothing only hurling counties.”

My old Derry teammate Fergal McCusker, an infallible predictor of games, told me a fortnight ago that Mayo would beat Dublin. On Wednesday last week, he texted to say “Tyrone to win. Kerry a one-man team. They have two feet in the final and have the false comfort of beating Tyrone by 16 points in the league. Tyrone have plenty of buckos in their team who don’t give a f**k. They will come out swinging and Kerry will eventually go down under the pressure.”

Paddy Power, who had Kerry at 17 on, should hire him. He is not expensive. Sponsoring the Watty Grahams GAC annual golf tournament will be enough to persuade him.

The first half ended all square, with the half-time scoreline reading Tyrone 1-5, David Clifford 0-8, but there was an air of desperation around Kerry and the mood of the contest was strongly with Tyrone.

Even though they owned Tyrone’s kick-outs throughout, Kerry continued to play amateurish football in the second half, remaining totally reliant on Clifford for scores from play.

Sean O’Shea – as always – took his frees beautifully, but he is not at the highest level of Gaelic football forwards and he is not a leader. Rather he is an artist from placed balls and given time, can kick points beautifully from play. However, he is not a top line goal-scorer, nor does he have the pace or craft to open a defence like Tyrone’s. I would take McCurry any day.

Here, O’Shea got one point from play. This came about after Clifford had sent him through on goal with a miraculous hand-pass over his shoulder while he was falling to the ground in the opposite direction. Presented with the goal chance, Sean panicked and just about drove the ball over the bar. Like his other four forward colleagues, he was nervy and anonymous, Tyrone calmly swatting them aside.

When the goal chances came for Kerry, they were spurned as a result of this panic. First, with the goal at their mercy in the 21st minute, and Morgan stranded, Paul Geaney hurriedly hand-passed the ball at Stephen O’Brien’s feet. O’Brien meanwhile, had, for some reason, stationed himself well inside the square. So when he palmed it to the empty net it was immediately disallowed.

The second botched goal chance was the final disaster, Sean O’Shea crippling Clifford in the 66th minute with a telegraphed hand-pass when a dummy and pause would have left Clifford with an easy palm-in. Compare and contrast with Tyrone’s first goal, a perfectly-timed, perfectly-weighted hand-pass by Sludden to McKenna, then a dummy to the left before making their angle on the right and passing it to the net.

Tyrone’s psychological hold over Kerry (save for Clifford) was obvious throughout. This manifested itself in the way Kerry soloed until they overcarried, hand-passed the ball away and rushed their shots.

A flavour: Killian Spillane overcarried (40). Sean O’Shea hand-passed the ball away (41). Killian Spillane was easily blocked when he took a panicky shot for goal (42). Michael Breen soloed until he stumbled and fell over causing a Tyrone free out (47). Stephen O’Brien overcarried – free out (52). Jack Barry handpassed the ball to Conn Kilpatrick (57). Paul Murphy kicks the ball over the sideline after falling mid solo (61) and so on and so forth.

Dooher and Logan’s men dominated them, even with 14 men for 20 minutes. Cathal McShane and the Son of God came on and made excellent contributions, though I was stunned when Darragh missed the goal chance, something I have never seen before. It must be the Carrickmore in him.

Both boys will be fit for the final. This Tyrone team are a tight, happy group. They love Dooher and Logan. They are tough and ruthless and full of football. Like Milwall, no one likes them, but they do not give one damn.

Mayo are in deep shit.

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