O'Sullivan, Maher return as Kingdom fight the drop
DECLAN O'Sullivan and Anthony Maher return to the Kerry team for tonight's crucial clash with Down in Tralee (7.0), which could decide if the Kingdom are to be relegated to Division 2 for the first time in 12 years.
If Down and Mayo win, it would leave Kerry four points adrift at the bottom of the table with two rounds remaining.
And with Kerry's scoring difference currently standing at a massive -27 points, a fifth consecutive defeat would worsen the situation, leaving it all but impossible to survive, even if they beat Cork and Tyrone in the last two games.
The return of O'Sullivan (right full-forward) and Maher (midfield), plus the inclusion of Paul Galvin in the subs, will increase Kerry's prospects of avoiding a fifth successive defeat after scoring the meagre total of 1-28 in their first four games. Fionn Fitzgerald (Dr Crokes) replaces the suspended Tomas O Se at right half-back, but Kerry are still without Colm Cooper and Bryan Sheehan.
There is clearly no great faith in their ability to escape from their current predicament, however, as they are priced at 1/3 favourites to make the drop.
While the threat of relegation hangs over Kerry, Dublin are in the happy position of knowing that a win over Tyrone in Croke Park tonight (7.0) would book a semi-final place with two rounds remaining. Four straight wins and an impressive scoring difference of +33 points leave Dublin in a very comfortable position as new manager, Jim Gavin pursues a first league title for 20 years.
Tyrone and Kildare, who play Mayo in Castlebar, have each won three of four games and are well in contention for a semi-final place. Defending league champions, Cork and reigning All-Ireland champions Donegal – who meet in Pairc Ui Rinn – are also in the mix after winning two of four games.
Tyrone, however, have been dealt a major blow ahead of tonight's clash with the Dubs with the news that Kyle Coney faces another lengthy spell on the sidelines.
The Ardboe attacker had been selected at corner-forward to face the unbeaten league leaders, but at a training session on Thursday evening he was involved in an accidental collision with team-mate Conor Gormley and injured his AC joint.
It's expected to keep him on the sidelines for between eight and 12 weeks and leaves him a serious doubt for the Ulster championship opener against Donegal on May 26.
The focus tomorrow switches to the club scene, where first-time All-Ireland senior hurling and football champions will be crowned at Croke Park.
St Thomas' (Galway) will be bidding to become the seventh Galway club to win the hurling crown when they take on Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly) at 2.0, while St Brigid's will be attempting to become the first Roscommon club to win the football title when they play Ballymun Kickhams (Dublin) at 3.45.
Kerry (SF v Down) – B Kealy; M O Se, A O'Mahony, S Enright; F Fitzgerald, K Young, B Maguire; A Maher, E Brosnan (capt); J Lyne, D Walsh, J Buckley; Declan O'Sullivan, K Donaghy, Darran O'Sullivan.