Colm Cooper’s class shone through as Kerry survived the Mayo challenge to book an All-Ireland football final date in September.
The striker commonly known as The Gooch scored a second-half goal and tormented the Westerners as the Kingdom scored a 1-20 to 1-11 win in the Croke Park semi-final.
Kerry boss Jack O’Connor paid tribute to Cooper afterwards and acknowledged that Mayo had given his side a real game.
O’Connor told RTÉ Radio: “It was a seriously tough match. We were tackling as if our lives depended on it. We felt coming into the game it would be a huge challenge and we got it for the most part.
“We pulled away with five or six points at the end but that game was in the melting pot for long stages.
“Mayo put a ferocious amount into the first-half and worked very hard. It was always going to be hard to sustain that. They had a reputation as being a second-half team. If they kept that pace up in the second half they would be some team.
“I thought, especially at the start of the second-half, that we were a bit fresher than them. We got a few scores and Gooch’s goal gave us a cushion and a bit of breathing space.”
Dublin or Donegal are next up for Kerry. O’Connor added: “You never get used to this position. It is a great one to look forward to. It is what we set to do at the start of the year. We wanted to come here in September and contest an All-Ireland final.
“It will be a great month and a very enjoyable month. Players don’t mind going training when it is for an All-Ireland final.”
Mayo boss James Horan told RTE that his team had contributed to their own downfall.
“We were competitive for a while in the game but we made too many mistakes during it and let Kerry back into it and gave them some easy scoring opportunities,” said Horan.
“Overall we tried hard and we kept plugging away even though Kerry were slightly over-powering us. That is a very pleasing thing I suppose.
“Kerry started very well in the second half and just got on top in the middle of the field and won an awful lot of breaking ball. They got the momentum from there and got a couple of scores that we could have done better on.
“It was particularly the goal and the timing of the goal because that was a real killer after we had scored ours and we were coming back into the game. That’s the way it goes. They have very clinical forwards and they were a lot more clinical than us today.
“We had some opportunities towards the end and we could have made it very interesting game. But overall the better team won, we just have to take it on the chin and learn from it.
“You can’t make mistakes against these guys. You can’t drop the ball into the goalies hands, you can’t give away soft kicks passes. We did too much of that today. That’s what killed us in the end.”