The first two All-Ireland Football Quarter-Finals will take place in Croke Park this weekend. Both games are Munster versus Connacht affairs, with Kerry and Galway taking part in the curtain raiser at 2pm on Sunday.
It is the beginning of the business end of the football championship and the public will be hoping for a spark to light up a disappointing campaign thus far. All roads lead to Croke Park from here until September as we wait to see who will lift Sam Maguire.
Kerry v Galway
Was the Munster final a true reflection of where Kerry are really at? It is a hard question to answer. Kerry were good that day but Cork failed to put up any fight. Kerry made Cork look bad but it is easy to forget that Kerry struggled to beat Clare in the first championship game.
People feared the worst for Kerry following the exodus from the panel over the winter. Paul Galvin and Tomás Ó’Sé retired and then Colm Cooper was struck with the fashionable ACL tear, better known as the cruciate knee ligament injury. That was Kerry facing a summer without three of their most influential players over the last few years.
A lot of people expected them to lose significantly to Cork in the Munster final, but the complete opposite transpired. Kerry won by twelve points and played some very good free-flowing football. Some the elder statesmen like Marc Ó’Sé and Declan O’Sulivan showed that they still have something to offer while James O’Donoghue was sensational.
Their defence received little or no test against Cork and it will be interesting to see if Galway can test the defence out in the wide open spaces of Croke Park. So Kerry look to be in a good place, but they will be receive much sterner tests if they manage to move forward.
Take away the Connacht final and Galway have had a good season so far. Galway football has been a sinking ship for a number of years but they have won under-21 All-Ireland’s in recent times and some of these players seem to coming to fruition.
Names like Fiontán Ó’Curraoin, Danny Cummins and Shane Walsh are newer additions while Paul Conroy finally seems to have himself fit and playing well. Traditionally Galway and Kerry have good games and the quarter-final could prove to be similar.
It seems like this Kerry’s game to lose. They have the better and more experienced team on paper and in James O’Donoghue, they have the country’s best inside forward. They also have a good record against the Tribesmen. So the tip is for the Kingdom to move onto yet another All-Ireland semi-final.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.
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