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Hopeful signs for Kerry in match to stir the blood

Last night a stirring and very physical encounter at Croke Park under its magnificent lights confounded those who say that the National League doesn't matter.

For once, in the rivalrus contests between two these teams over the years, Kerry were out-muscled by Dublin. This match was played at Championship pace and was the best League match I have seen for quite a few years.

It is far too early in the year to speculate what it augurs for the championships, but I must say I've found some things to be optimistic about in the Kerry performance. But the important thing was that this was a great competitive match and that both teams gave as good as they got and were determined in their resolve to win.

Perhaps a draw would have been a fairer result, but one can't begrudge Dublin either. One of Kerry's mistakes was to play the ball into Kieran Donaghy, particularly in the first half, and when they began to move it around a bit more in the second half they got better results.

The Donaghy factor is one that should be used intelligently and with flexibility. If the opposition feels that Kerry have a one-shot locker, they will find ways of neutralising the Austin Stacks' man. On a more positive note for Kerry, I believe they have found a good midfield combination in David Moran and Bryan Sheehan.

I think they should persist with this pairing in the centre of the park. And I'd like to impart a little bit of advice for Kerry goallie Brendan Kealy: he should kick the ball out at length more often rather than try to find his man. All in all, a heartening night of football and my congratulations to the Dubs. We'll be seeing them again later in the year!

After two rounds of National League matches the contenders for the Division 1 title have become apparent and so have the contenders for relegation.

Both Mayo and Galway are struggling at the bottom of the table and today's game will give them a chance to salvage their campaigns. But it's also an important match from the point of view of the managers. Both Tomás ó Flatharta and James Horan are new in their jobs and a win in a local derby would put them on a firmer footing.

After watching Mayo and Kerry last weekend, I'd have to fancy Mayo for this one. However, they have a lot to do if they want to reach the bar that's been set by the likes of Kerry, Cork and Tyrone.

Mayo's backs were impressive last weekend. They limited the effectiveness of Kieran Donaghy and Colm Cooper and I haven't seen many do such a job on them.

I also took notice of Aidan O'Shea. He was a great minor and very good kicker of the ball but he needs to harden himself up. He looked like a fella who was carrying a good bit of weight. Horan is new in the job but the players are reacting well to him, and Aidan Kilcoyne and Ronan McGarrity, two key members of the panel, really look like they are playing with a new-found vigour.

Horan is one of the lucky ones as it's not easy for managers when they take over a new team as Tomás ó Flatharta is finding out. I've already endorsed Tomás but once again I will stress what a practical, honest and genuine person he is.

Tomás has surrounded himself with the right people. Seán óg de Paor and Martin McNamara have been very loyal to the Galway jersey for a number of years and I firmly believe that if Tomás and his backroom team are given a chance they will go the distance.

Since Conor Counihan got involved, Cork have not made a habit of losing league matches. They have acquired a new swagger since they have got the monkey off their backs and their pride will have been dented after Pat Gilroy's men turned them over. I think they will bounce back today.

Sunday Indo Sport