It’s a fixture that so often produces drama, so often produces classics and so often produces big scorelines. This weekend’s Allianz Football League Division 1 Final between Kerry and Mayo is sure to be a cracker.
The two form teams in the country going head to head in HQ in a game that one would expect is played without sweepers and blankets and left to 15 taking on 15 to see who comes victorious.
Kerry have been the best team in the country in 2019 and their results attest to that. They have won six of the seven games so far and looked comfortable in most. Different players have stood up at different times and most of them new to the scene.
They were held against Galway and it took a late score from Tomas O’Se to get them over the line. Against Dublin in Tralee it was another youngster in Dara Moynihan who led the Kerry charge as they toppled the All-Ireland champions in a game that will no doubt go down as one of the games of the season.
Sean O’Shea has been consistently good for the Kingdom all season long. He has been deadly accurate from placed kicks and his ability to open up the play and set people free is a joy to watch. At just 20 years of age, we may be watching the development of one of the greats of the game.
The return of David Clifford before the league final will come as a huge boost to the Kingdom. The Fossa man returned to the side against Roscommon last week kicking seven points for the Munster side and no doubt he will be used this coming weekend as Peter Keane’s men go in search of glory.
The one area where Kerry seem to have struggled this season is their ability to get goals. Across seven league games, they only managed to score three with two of those coming last week against the Rossies and their goal against Dublin basically coming off the scraps.
It is a legitimate concern going into the summer.
Mayo have kept us guessing from day one in 2019. They stormed to victory in their opening three rounds before falling to Dublin and Galway in back-to-back mid-season games that had the majority thinking they were done for in terms of league final qualification.
When the chips were down they bounced back by defeating tomorrow’s opponents, Kerry followed by a final day win over Monaghan to qualify for the Allianz League showpiece event,
For Mayo it has also been a case of young lads standing up and making a statement. Fionn McDonagh has been one of the finds of the league so far with his performances a real throwback to the days of classic wing-forward play injury has hampered Ciaran Treacy on the other wing but there’s no doubt he’s one for the future.
Arguably Mayo’s best player this season has been Breaffy’s Matthew Ruane at midfield who has been a revelation all season long and has forged a great partnership with club mate, Aidan O’Shea in the middle of the park.
O’Shea has had a very impressive league campaign at midfield and has been a real driving force in getting Mayo to where they are.
When all is said and done on Sunday, Kerry should have just enough to justify their early season form and should prevail in this game, but just!
The real winner in this league final will be the introduction of fresh young talent that will no doubt be a staple of Gaelic football for years to come.
Verdict: Kerry 0-18 Mayo 1-14
Allianz Football League Division 1 Final: Kerry v Mayo, Croke Park, Sunday 31st March, 4pm.