The light of Colm Cooper shone as bright as ever in Tralee on Sunday as he knocked over eight points in Kerry’s 0-13 to 0-11 triumph over Mayo.
Cooper was at his absolute best as he put the Mayo defences to tangles, constantly chipping in with points at key times to keep Kerry in front. Mayo missed a number of excellent goal chances but they never managed to contain Cooper for long enough to get into the lead.
There was a briskness to the opening exchanges in what was an outstanding day for football. Alan Dillon missed a superb chance to net for Mayo after a swerving move through the Kerry defence, typical of the kind of vibrant build-up play on evidence for much of the game.
Kerry though, were able to put their chances away and it would prove the ultimate difference. After 18 minutes , Mayo had yet to score and Kerry had three on the board, the first an outstanding effort from Kieran Donaghy, the other two gilded by Gooch. Ronan McGarrity and Conor Mortimer eventually started the Westerners’ scoring but there was no stopping Cooper and another superb brace of his restored the three-point advantage.
Both sides then spurned excellent chances for goals, Austin O’Malley denied by a fine Diarmuid Murphy save and Donaghy smashing wide when he should have buried it. Kerry extended their lead to four points at the half-time interval through a composed score from midfielder Michéal Quirke but it was all about Cooper in the first half as he contributed six of Kerry’s eight points by half-time.
Mayo started the second half well and points from Andy Moran, Dillon and O’Malley got them within one of Kerry. Still there was Gooch and two more points from him, as well as one from Darren O’Sullivan restored a comfy Kerry buffer.
O’Malley got Mayo within three of Kerry again with a decent effort from distance but then O’Sullivan gave more evidence of his burgeoning prospects as a Kerry championship starter with a monumental score from way out.
There was battle to Mayo though and giving up was never a prospect. Aidan Kilcoyne and Moran pointed straight after O’Sullivan’s majesty and the final ten minutes were tight and cagey.
Kerry were dealt a blow when Marc Ó Sé was helped off with what looked like a serious injury and Mayo could have added salt when Mortimer wasted another terrific goal chance, seeing it saved and being cleared. Kerry look sharp considering the clocks still haven’t gone back.