What: All Ireland Championship Football Quarter Finals – Phase 1 (Group 1)
Who: Kerry v Galway
Where: Croke Park, Dublin
When: Sunday, July 15th at 4pm
Odds: Kerry 4/11 Draw 8/1 Galway 3/1
Most of the talk regarding these two teams has been around its scheduling. Throw in between Kerry and Galway at Croke Park coincides exactly with the World Cup final and, as a result, attendance at Sunday’s game will likely be lower than usual.
But it could well provide far more drama than France v Croatia.
After all, this is a meeting of two provincial winners.
Earlier in the season, Galway produced a shock when the defeated Kerry by a goal in Austin Stack Park. It was a high-quality spectacle with some distinguished scores taken by both sides.
And you can expect more of the same at headquarters on Sunday. Over the past three or four seasons, Galway have made huge strides to announce themselves as Division 1 contenders and repeat Connacht champions.
But despite their significant improvement, there is still a sense that they are just below the standard of Kerry and Dublin. Sunday’s fixture should go a long way towards telling us what Kevin Walsh’s troops can bring to the table.
And history hasn’t been kind to Galway in this fixture. Between 2002 and 2017, these sides have met four times at the quarter-final stages and on each occasion, it has been the Munstermen who have prevailed. Then there was the famous All Ireland final replay in which Galway came up short. It was in 1953 when Galway last defeated Kerry in the Championship.
That said, Galway have looked imperious in winning their Connacht title and will arrive in confident mood. With Damien Comer and Shane Walsh they possess a potent attack.
The issue with Galway, however, is the system. Kevin Walsh has backed a defend first policy that occasionally sees Galway’s best forwards in their own half of the pitch. Their build-up can be slow and ponderous and you feel it doesn’t make full use of the attacking quality at their disposal.
Kerry, on the other hand, have the sort of forward line that would give opposition managers nightmares. As well as Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue, Kerry have added minor stars Sean O’Shea and David Clifford. Both of them have handled the step up to senior level with aplomb and could be about to leave their mark on the 2018 Championship.
Galway may well be a far stronger defensive side than the Kingdom have met in the Championship to date, but with the attacking quality in their side, they have to be confident of beating any defence.
On top of that the platform that those forwards get from the industrious brilliance of midfield duo Jack Barry and David Moran will be a significant factor. Dublin are perhaps the only other county in the land with midfielders as dominant as these.
Galway should be confident enough to go and have a cut out of Kerry in Croke Park on Sunday, knowing that even defeat is not the end of their Championship hopes. But regardless of what system they deploy, the clever money has got to be on Kerry.
Prediction: Kerry by 3+ points