Champions have the quality to overcome

North Kerry SFC Semi-Final (replay): Ballydonoghue v Ballyduff, Sunday December 2, Páirc na Féile, Brosna, 2pm

Jack O’Sullivan, Ballyduff on the attack despite the close attention of Darragh Sheehy,
Ballydonoghue during the North Kerry Championship semi-final played in Ballybunion on Sunday
Jack O’Sullivan, Ballyduff on the attack despite the close attention of Darragh Sheehy, Ballydonoghue during the North Kerry Championship semi-final played in Ballybunion on Sunday

Damian Stack

Did they miss their chance? That's the question you always ask of the underdog after they draw a match. It's the fear that will lurk in the back of Ballyduff minds all week as they prepare for the replay in Brosna town.

Ballydonoghue will be the happier side after last Sunday in Ballybunion. They're the side who hauled their way back into this year's championship when, with the game into injury time, it looked as though they were about to depart the stage, their three in-a-row dreams in tatters.

That said Ballyduff can take huge positives out of the game. They were more than a match for their rivals and neighbours on the far side of the Cashen. After last year's final that wasn't necessarily a given.

Ballydonoghue are still probably the classier outfit, the side with more football, but Ballyduff have shown a capacity to get under their skin, an ability to poke and prod and hang on in there when the champs looked set fair to pull away.

Ballyduff's greatest strength in the drawn match was probably their midfield. Paud Costelloe and Jack O'Sullivan looked to have the better of Martin O'Mahony and Brian Ó Seanacháin after the initial exchanges.

Ó Seanacháin's departure through injury at half-time - a hamstring injury - might explain why he was a little subdued compared to his usual energetic and effective self, but Costelloe and O'Sullivan have real quality about them.

It wasn't until Eamon Walsh moved back from this corner-forward bolt hold to midfield that Ballydonoghue really got to grips with Ballyduff in the middle third of the pitch and Walsh was such an effective presence that he was worthy of the man of the match award by the end of it. Should Ó Seanacháin fail to recover fully in time for next weekend we can expect Walsh to start in midfield.

Another in-game switch we might see replicated this weekend is that Ballyduff might opt to start Aidan Boyle. The aerial threat he brought to bear on proceedings certainly shook things up. It's equally likely that John Paul Leahy will want to keep Boyle in reserve until needs must again.

Still our suspicion is that Ballydonoghue have the greater potential for improvement and that should prove the difference between the sides this weekend. If Ballydonoghue get the first goal - as they very nearly did last weekend - they have enough about them to pull away. Of course, Ballyduff have a chance. It'll probably be close again, but we'll stick with the champs.

Verdict: Ballydonoghue

Kerryman

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