Wednesday 21 February 2018

Walsh return a boost for Kingdom

Fitzmaurice makes one change as Mayo stick with same side

Walsh, who missed the drawn game due to injury, is named at left half-forward in place instead of Michael Geane Photo: Sportsfile
Walsh, who missed the drawn game due to injury, is named at left half-forward in place instead of Michael Geane Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Kerry have opted for experience rather than youth to energise their efforts in today's All-Ireland semi-final replay with Mayo as 33-year-old Donnchadh Walsh returns to the attack in the only change from last Sunday's starting team.

Mayo have announced the same starting team but whether pre-match changes will be made remains to be seen.

That also applies to Kerry where Walsh, who missed the drawn game due to injury, is named at left half-forward in place instead of Michael Geaney, who was replaced by Jack Savage in the 22nd minute last Sunday, and was a doubt for today's game with a stomach muscle injury.

Full-back Mark Griffin and midfielder Anthony Maher, both of whom were taken off at half-time, retain their places, with replacements Jonathan Lyne and Jack Barry returning to the subs.

Johnny Buckley and James O'Donoghue, who were replaced by Darran O'Sullivan and Barry John Keane respectively in the final quarter, also hold their places.

Assuming that the named 15 actually line out, manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice has gone for a conservative approach, presumably in the hope that many of his first-choices under-performed last Sunday and will do better this time.

Barry, Keane and O'Sullivan did well as subs, but Fitzmaurice obviously believes that his original line-up have a point to prove and deserve another chance.

Walsh was badly missed in the drawn game. His high work-rate in the middle third has made him an invaluable component in the team for several years, an area where Mayo thrived for long periods.

Interestingly, Kerry have made no changes in a defence which struggled badly, especially in the first half, against a productive Mayo attack where Andy Moran delivered one of his best performances.

Clearly, Fitzmaurice is convinced that addressing the various problems on the training ground this week will be enough to restore stability to his defence.

Stephen Rochford has given no clue as to whether he intends to persist with Aidan O'Shea at full-back.

O'Shea is named at centre-forward - just as he was last week - before being switched to full-back to mark Kieran Donaghy.

It was a big call, made all the more controversial when Donaghy played a major part in creating many of Kerry's scores.

It won't be known until throw-in today whether Rochford plans to continue with the O'Shea experiment.

Opinion - inside and outside Mayo - is divided on the issue, with many believing that Mayo should trust an established defender to mark Donaghy and restore O'Shea to a more familiar role, operating between attack and midfield.

There will also be some surprise over the omission of Paddy Durcan - assuming of course that it turns out to be the case - from the starting line-up.

He did very well after coming in as a sub for Colm Boyle last Sunday, crowning a fine contribution by kicking the equalising point late on.

Corner-back Keith Higgins will mark a special occasion as this will be his 140th appearance (championship and league) in a 12-year career.

A crowd of around 55,000 is expected for today's game (3.0) while tomorrow's Dublin-Tyrone semi-final (4.0) will be an 82,000 sell-out.

Irish Independent

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