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Downtrodden Kingdom to consign 1960s to history

KERRY v DOWN

Croke Park, Today, 2.0, Live RTÉ 2 & BBC2

THE emergence of these two old sparring partners alongside one another from the draw yielded a hefty blast of nostalgia during the week but for the purposes of analysing today's match, let's get all the clichés out of the way first.

Down never fear anyone. They're the one team from Ulster who, from nowhere, can mount an All-Ireland bid.

They'll relish coming to Croke Park. And Kerry have never beaten them in HQ. Far from the dogged, ugly Ulster-style of play, the Mournemen play open, 'pure' football.

Now for the Kingdom waffle.

They are the only remaining proponents of the true style of catch and kick football, the last bastion of the beautiful game.

They go 15 on 15 -- always.

The thought of a 'blanket defence' would have the great dead Kingdom gaels turning like chickens on a spit in their resting places.

Rubbish.

Yes, Kerry are the ultimate modern football team but they handpass the ball and kick it less than the other All-Ireland contenders.

They are arguably the most physical team in Ireland and, when the needs be, they can clog the defensive arteries as well as anyone.

Down's re-emergence as a force this year has as much to do with James McCartan's embracing of the work ethic which is now so necessary in football as much as the current wave of talented underage players.



Relevant

And their history won't play any part here.

For all the guff about their brilliant record in Croke Park in the middle of the last century, a much more relevant stat is that their last two appearances in HQ have resulted in defeats by Armagh and Wexford.

They have injury doubts over Damien Rafferty (the man most likely to try and stop Colm Cooper) and their inspirational leader, Benny Coulter, though both have been named to start.

Kerry must make do without Paul Galvin and Tomás Ó Sé.

However, if Aidan O'Mahony, Darran O'Sullivan and Donncha Walsh were to have good games today, wouldn't Jack O'Connor have a healthy little selection dilemma ahead of an All-Ireland semi-final?

Kerry have too much class, experience and guile to mess up here.

Kerry: B Kealy; M ó Sé, T Griffin, T O'Sullivan; A O'Mahony, M McCarthy, K Young; S Scanlon, M Quirke; Darran O'Sullivan, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh; C Cooper, K Donaghy, B Sheehan.

Down: B McVeigh; D McCartan, D Gordon, D Rafferty; D Rooney, J Colgan, C Garvey; A Rogers, K King; D Hughes, M Poland, P McComiskey; B Coulter, J Clarke, M Clarke.

ODDS: Kerry 2/7, Draw 9/1, Down 7/2.

VERDICT: Kerry


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