Monday 19 August 2019

Kerry can edge battle of contenders

David Moran. Photo: Sportsfile
David Moran. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Jim Gavin will be keeping a very close eye on Donegal v Kerry, as there are plenty of reasons to believe that either, or both, pose the biggest threat to Dublin's five-in-a-row bid.

Winning All-Irelands is embedded deep in Kerry's DNA and there's an additional incentive this year in that they feel they have a responsibility to the Kingdom's heritage to prevent Dublin becoming the first county to land the five-timer.

Donegal have built impressively throughout this year, winning promotion to Division 1, winning Ulster relatively easily and scoring 2-19 when beating Meath by nine points last Sunday.

That win wasn't as straightforward as the final scoreline suggests as they were a point behind at the three-quarter mark before sorting out their problems and powering to victory.

Their subs made a major impact, which will have pleased Declan Bonner who has assembled a strong squad which gives him real flexibility in his selections.

And with Michael Murphy, Paddy McBrearty, Jamie Brennan and Ryan McHugh providing strong leadership, Donegal are understandably excited by the prospect of what lies ahead.

Their Kerry counterparts are equally optimistic, although they continue to have concerns about how the defence will fare against really potent attackers.

Tomorrow will provide some answers as Donegal have a formidable front line that scored an average of almost 24 points against Tyrone, Cavan and Meath.

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Meanwhile, Kerry conceded 3-10 against Cork, a giveaway that raised major concerns about the defence's capacity to cope at the highest level.

They were far more secure last Sunday, so tomorrow will tell whether that was down to Mayo's inertia or a new-found solidity. It needs to be the latter if Kerry are to have a realistic chance of winning the All-Ireland.

David Moran's towering performance at midfield last Sunday was very encouraging for Kerry, who need him at his best if they are to provide enough possession to give David Clifford and Co a chance to unpick opposition defences.

Ultimately, that's where Kerry's best chance of winning the All-Ireland rests.

The Donegal defence has had some unsteady times not least against Cavan, who scored 2-16. And while Meath faded on the home stretch last Sunday, they had caused problems up to then.

That's why tomorrow's game is so intriguing. Returning to Croke Park is a reminder of how the stakes are being raised, leaving no room for error. The losers will still be in with a good chance of reaching the semi-finals, but the psychological dimension of defeat would be damaging.

It's likely that Donegal will be the squad that will have to cope with that.

Irish Independent

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