Monday 19 August 2019

Ciaran Whelan: Kerry will improve hugely from Donegal draw - while Bonner's side should have too much for Mayo

Donegal manager Declan Bonner, left, and Kerry manager Peter Keane shake hands following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 1 Phase 2 match between Kerry and Donegal at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Donegal manager Declan Bonner, left, and Kerry manager Peter Keane shake hands following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 1 Phase 2 match between Kerry and Donegal at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Tony Considine

The Super 8s have been a bit of a damp squib for Dublin so far with easy victories over Cork and Roscommon already securing their All-Ireland semi-final spot.

A points difference of 31 across the two games has led to a staid Croke Park atmosphere with Saturday’s second half being played out in near silence as the scores were racked up against the Connacht champions.

While Tyrone in Omagh next week may present a challenge, the fact remains that it’s now a dead rubber with the next real action for both side being the semi-final.

But it has been a different case in Group 1, where three teams remain in contention and where the game of the season so far was played out in Sunday’s draw between Kerry and Donegal. And while a Mayo win next week in McHale Park will see Donegal exit, Dublin legend and Herald columnist Ciaran Whelan believes yesterday’s game could prove to be a huge step on the way to the making of this Kerry team.

"Yesterday was a huge game for Kerry in the context of their young players," Whelan said, speaking to The Throw-in, Independent.ie’s GAA podcast in association with Bord Gais Energy.

"They came up for the National League final and looked inferior to Mayo. They were probably spooked by the Croke Park experience. You have to give young players breaking into the team about 12 months to adapt and become comfortable with the environment.

"I think we have to celebrate yesterday’s match because it was a brilliant, brilliant game, game of the year by a long shot, man to man football where everybody had to win their personal battles. And overall the experience that Kerry can take from playing a game like yesterday’s, in terms of those young players having that experience in Croke Park, will do nothing but improve them.

"For the likes of Gavin White, Tom O’Sullivan, David Clifford and Sean O’Shea to come up and perform in that environment will certainly help them. Sean O’Shea is getting used to attention off the ball. Clifford and himself and going to be targeted by any team they play against so it’s a great learning curve.

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"It’s very positive from a Kerry perspective and from a Dublin perspective, they’ll be looking back and saying, ‘Listen, these guys are coming’.They’re winning minor All-Ireland’s for fun and they’re on an upward curve."

Whelan also saw encouraging signs for Donegal, who he expects to join Dublin, Tyrone and Kerry, who would need to see an extremely unlikely set of results to miss out, in the semi-finals.

"You also have to look at it from a Donegal perspective. Donegal have lost three of their defence and you thought they might struggle to hold that Kerry forward line," the two-time All-Star added.

"They didn’t in the sense I thought they would. Hugh McFadden played as a sweeper but they abandoned that in the second half.

"They had some powerhouse performances and have to be pleased with that. Michael Murphy scoring 1-7, Ryan McHugh was brilliant. Paddy McBrearty very dangerous coming in on the loop. Michael Langan kicked two great scores as well.

"They’re a team that has improved no end. I think it’s a great thing for the Championship to have two teams coming to tackle the Dubs and it whets the appetite for the rest of the year."

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