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12th Mar 2022

Kerry win but Ryan O’Donoghue may be the man to take the torch off Cillian O’Connor after all

Lee Costello

Kerry 1-12 Mayo 0-14

Lee Keegan’s outside of the boot attempt to draw the game right at the death just inched wide, and Kerry managed to sneak over the line in a pulsating game.

The Kingdom started the first half in ferocious form, and a Tony Brosnan goal looked set to make it a night for Mayo to forget, as the game threatened to pass them by from them early on.

However, despite the slippy surface, one man stood his ground firmly in the face of adversity, and that was Ryan O’Donoghue, who kicked six brilliant points to keep his side’s hopes alive.

Diarmuid O’Connor was his usual brilliant self, not least for performing a Ronaldo-inspired step over in the middle of the match, and Aidan O’Shea was impressive in his first start of the year, but O’Donoghue still managed to seal the Man of The Match award.

More impressively was the fact he pipped David Clifford to it, who, despite two wides in sucession in the first half, quickly laced up his shooting boots and was the focal point of Kerry’s attack.

On two separate occasions, with the wind blowing against him and the rain teeming down, O’Donoghue equalised from the dead ball position at difficult angles.

Last year when it was confirmed that Cillian O’Connor would miss the whole of the 2021 season, Mayo fans almost mourned the fact that they would lose his laser eye precision from the set piece.

The young Belmullet man stood up and had a great season in front of the posts, but it couldn’t be denied that the Connacht champions were looking at their watches, counting down the days until O’Connor makes his return.

The Ballintubber shooter is the all-time top scorer in championship history, so to say he’s currently left big shoes to fill would be an understatement.

Nonetheless, with steely nerves, calculated finishes and aggressive forward play off the ball, it has been proven that James Horan may already have unearthed the perfect replacement of Mayo’s talisman in the shape of Ryan O’Donoghue.

O’Connor is likely to return this season, and Mayo fans’ mouths will be watering at the prospect of having both of these unflappable forwards at their disposal, but when the time does come in which they can longer rely on Mr Reliable, they can rely on Ryan instead.

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