Thursday 26 April 2018

Eamonn Sweeney: Kerry look too strong for young Tribesmen

Star forward David Clifford. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Star forward David Clifford. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Eamonn Sweeney

It's hardly surprising that three in a rows are so scarce in the All-Ireland minor football championship. The better teams tend to be stocked with players in their final year and a successful manager often finds himself forced to entirely rebuild the side for the next campaign.

So when Kerry take on Galway today they'll be trying to emulate a feat achieved by just three teams in championship history: Kerry in 1933, Dublin in 1956 and Cork in 1969. Cork completed their hat-trick with a 2-7 to 0-11 win over Derry in the final and their team included Con Hartnett, John Coleman and Declan Barron, who would all win All-Ireland senior medals four years later as well as Martin Doherty, full-back on the county's three in a row (1976-1978) senior hurling side.

Having beaten Derry by 11 points in the quarter-final and Kildare by 22 points in the semi, Kerry are hot favourites to complete the hat-trick. Star forward David Clifford scored 0-11 from play in those two games while Sean O'Shea and David Shaw scored 1-8 each from play so it looks like a tough afternoon in store for the Galway defence

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This day last year David Moran entered the All-Ireland final as bookies' favourite to win the Footballer of the Year award, only to be utterly destroyed at midfield by the previously unheralded Brian Fenton. Twelve months later it's Fenton (3/1) who's in pole position with team-mates Ciaran Kilkenny (4/1), Diarmuid Connolly (11/2) and Kevin McManamon (13/2) close behind him. Mayo's leading contender is Aidan O'Shea (15/2) with Lee Keegan and Keith Higgins dark horses at 12/1.

My own feeling is that if Connolly puts up any kind of a show today and Dublin win, he'll get it. Voters are suckers for a redemption narrative, which is how Paul Galvin got the nod over Tomás ó Sé in 2009. McManamon, my choice at the moment, will get a crack at the Mayo full-back line, which makes him the most tempting bet.

Philly McMahon is 28/1 for first goal by the way. He probably won't get it but you can bet he's planning to charge up there early on and have a pot like he did against Kerry.

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When Cork and Down met in the 2010 All-Ireland final, having both been beaten in the earlier rounds, it seemed like the logical conclusion to an era where second-chance sides seemed to have an advantage in the latter stages of the championship. In 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 the eventual champions had come through the back door and the meeting of the Rebels and the Mourne men apparently proved that going unbeaten through the provincial campaign was a positive disadvantage.

However, that final six years ago proved to be the end of an era. Because Mayo's appearance in today's decider means they're the first side to make it from the back door to the final since 2010. It's interesting to see that for the past half-dozen years the closing stages of the championship have played out exactly as they would have under the old system.

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