Saturday 25 November 2017

Scintillating Kingdom to keep their crown

All-Ireland MFC final: Galway v Kerry, Croke Park 1.15

David Clifford: great individual display. Photo: Sportsfile
David Clifford: great individual display. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

When Jack O'Connor stepped up to the under 21 manager's role after back-to-back minor titles, Kerry were expected to encounter turbulence in their three-in-a-row bid, but instead they've oozed class throughout a scintillating campaign.

The Kingdom conveyor belt is in overdrive with St Brendan's Killarney claiming the Hogan Cup earlier this year and Peter Keane's side have dealt admirably with the burden of expectation.

No more so than in their 22-point semi-final mauling of Leinster champions Kildare as they hit some audacious scores which made Kerry hearts skip a beat at the prospect of these prodigious talents making a splash at senior level.

David Clifford, man-of-the-match for the Sem in their Hogan Cup success, hit six from play in one of the great individual displays at minor level while skipper Seán O'Shea and Diarmuid O'Connor also excelled.

Contrastingly, Galway's performances haven't been spectacular but they display an ability to get the job done with the minimum of fuss and Kerry boss Keane is well aware of today's threat.

"I don't buy into this tag that we are raging hot favourites. Galway beat the team I considered favourites for the All-Ireland, Donegal, in the semi-final. That gives you an idea of just how good they are," he said.

"Galway are a very good side defensively, get numbers back behind the ball and are very workmanlike in what they do. We certainly aren't expecting a shoot-out with them."

The Connacht champions, chasing their seventh All-Ireland minor crown and a first since 2007, come to Croke Park somewhat under the radar with a side built on defensive solidity.

Stephen Joyce's side are well-drilled and have coped with every challenge thrown at them so far with Cormac Haslam an outstanding goalkeeping prospect while Sean Mulkerrin, a former All-Ireland Talent Show winner, has been rock-solid at full back.

In attack the ability of Robert Finnerty, son of Mayo great Anthony, and exciting captain Dessie Conneely carry a major threat but Kerry are the team to beat and should prevail in an intriguing decider.

Galway: C Haslam; L Boyle, S Mulkerrin, E McFadden; A Quirke, E McDonagh, F Garvey; C D'Arcy, J Maher; F O Laoi, E Murphy, R Forde; R Finnerty, S Raftery, D Conneely.

Kerry: B Courtney; D Naughten, N Collins, G O'Sullivan; M Potts, D O'Brien, M Foley; M Breen, M Ryan; D Moynihan, S O'Shea, D O'Connor; D Clifford, D Shaw, B Friel.

Verdict: Kerry

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