‘Obviously, we’re not as good as people thought we were’ – Jack O’Connor rues Kerry’s shock defeat
Mayo manager Kevin McStay spoke about the benefits of a six-week break from competitive football, culminating in Saturday’s 1-19 0-17 win over Kerry in the first round of the new All-Ireland series.
Kerry suffered a first defeat in Killarney since 1995, a championship record that included 35 matches.
“In the first two weeks we didn’t do a whole lot,” revealed McStay, referring to the immediate aftermath of their Connacht quarter-final loss to Roscommon in Castlebar.
“But we had to come up with some sort of a reaction. We were very disappointed with our Connacht Championship. It certainly wasn’t the way we had planned it. But we worked well, got a nice block of work in and prepared well for the trip.”
Mayo, with Aidan O’Shea effective near goal, and Ryan O’Donoghue and James Carr also picking off scores, posed serious problems for the Kerry defence and created four goal chances before Eoghan McLaughlin finally hit the net on the hour mark.
“I would just say it was strong running by our boys. I don’t think we had any specific plan to do that. We just got a lot of good footballers out on the field, who we think are tidy players, and they really wanted to perform in this championship. They felt that they slipped back a bit in the previous match and they had a bit to prove to themselves perhaps. They certainly did that.”
McStay kept captain Paddy Durcan, Stephen Coen and McLaughlin on the bench until the second half, starting two championship debutants in David McBrien and Sam Callinan.
“You have to have a big panel for what’s ahead of us,” McStay explained. “This is only the first step in a group. You have to build out your panel. We spent six months building out our panel, as every other team did as well.”
Jack O’Connor tasted his first championship loss to Mayo in six matches stretching back to the 2004 All-Ireland final.
“We just seemed to get no momentum in the game,” he said. “Mayo’s long kick-outs gave us trouble, particularly in the first half. Every time they won a long kick-out they appeared be in on us. Even when we tried to press the kick-out, they won the long kick-out, so that is something we obviously have to revisit.
“We have to look at the way we set up tactically as well, we obviously conceded too much and it appeared as if we did not put enough heat on their middle third of the pitch to slow them down.
"They are a very athletic team and powerful running team and I thought we hung out our full-back line a bit and we are going to have to look at that. I think we have to take as much responsibility as the players because we obviously did not get it right either.”
Having scored five goals in the Munster final, Kerry couldn’t find the net once, despite David Clifford’s three attempts in a frantic five-minute spell in the second half.
“Obviously, we’re not as good as people thought we were after the Clare game,” said O’Connor. “You can only play what’s in front of you. But the big thing for us is we need to learn from today. I’ve been involved with Kerry teams before that’ve been beaten by more than this and came back and finished the year successfully.
“I was involved when we were beaten by Cork by eight points up in Páirc Uí Chaoimh (in 2009) and came back and won the All-Ireland after. We need to learn from this. We need to use this experience to pick our team the way we need to pick it and maybe set up different tactically.”
Kerry were sloppy in possession, having cruised through Munster to win an 84th provincial title.
“You look lacklustre then when you give the ball away because it demoralises you,” said O’Connor. “It’s like we were nervy or something, I’m not sure what the reason was. We gave away some awful stupid turnovers. And they’re a killer against a running team like Mayo.”