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5 reasons to be cheerful ahead of the Mayo game (and 5 more to be fearful)

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by Adam Moynihan

It appears as though the four-week layoff has done little to dent the confidence of the green and gold faithful. An informal poll carried out on Twitter revealed that 88.9% of my followers are expecting Kerry to beat Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Over half of the 323 respondents think the margin of victory will be four points or more.

The team’s league form was certainly encouraging and they did all that was asked of them in Munster, so perhaps it is only natural that fans are anticipating another victory and safe passage to a semi-final against Dublin.

There must be some niggling doubts, however, even if they appear to be buried deep in the back of supporters’ minds at this particular moment in time.

Here are some reasons to be optimistic, followed by some factors that should make us wary of what might come to pass on Jones’ Road on Sunday afternoon.

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

1. Form. Taking into account league and championship (and pre-season too if you want to go back that far) Kerry have been the best and most consistent team in Ireland so far this year. They won three out of three in the McGrath Cup, six out of eight in the league and two out of two in Munster, all while playing a decent brand of football. The only game they lost was irrelevant from their perspective – and it came against the All-Ireland champions who were fighting for their Division 1 status.

Crucially, key players like Gavin White, Paudie Clifford, Seán O’Shea and David Clifford have all been moving well. In the forwards, Stephen O'Brien and Paul Geaney are also back at it, and Adrian Spillane has given the team an edge. When it comes to each side's forward divisions, there's no denying that Kerry hold most of the aces.

2. The League Final. Kerry’s last meeting against this opponent was a totally one-sided demolition job. Jack O’Connor’s side defeated Mayo by 3-19 to 0-13 in April’s league final at Croke Park with Man of the Match David Clifford scoring 1-6 (1-5 from play). In March, Kerry also beat Mayo in the league in Tralee (1-12 to 0-14).

3. The Defence. After being the butt of the joke for a number of years, Kerry’s defence seems to have made significant improvements in 2022. Jason Foley has been excellent at full back while Tadhg Morley has made the No. 6 jersey his own. Add to that the speed and guile of Tom O’Sullivan, Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Gavin White and Graham O’Sullivan and you have a pretty settled and assured back six. Goalkeeper Shane Ryan has also impressed of late.

4. The Jack Factor. Jack O’Connor has ticked all the right boxes so far in his third spell as Kerry manager; you would be hard-pressed to find very many sticks to beat him with at this juncture. Up to this point, it appears as though the players have responded very well to his reappointment. The shrewd Dromid man has them playing with confidence.

5. Cliffy is Back. This one speaks for itself.

REASONS TO BE FEARFUL

1. The Layoff. The last thing any intercounty squad wants is a month of inactivity in the middle of the season but that’s exactly what Kerry have had to deal with. It’s farcical really, and there’s absolutely no question that it puts them at a disadvantage heading into this match. Mayo have played two challenging games in recent weeks while Kerry have been left playing amongst themselves.

2. Kerry are Untested. As commanding as Kerry were in Munster, the games were virtually meaningless. If the competition was properly run, they wouldn’t be playing against the likes of Cork or Limerick at all, such is the gulf in talent that currently exists between the teams. Ulster folk can quibble all they want about Kerry’s easy route to the All-Ireland series but the reality is that there’s no substitute for tough, testing championship action. Kerry have sampled none of that in 2022.

3. Croke Park Record. Croke Park is traditionally considered a home away from home for the Kerry footballers but their recent record at HQ leaves plenty to be desired. They have won just twice in their last 10 visits to the capital and their last championship result there – the 2021 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tyrone – really stung.

4. Full-Strength Mayo. When you compare Mayo’s starting 15 in the league final to the starting 15 that is likely to take to the field this weekend, you quickly realise how unwise it is to read too much into the last meeting between the teams. James Horan should more or less have a full deck to play with this time and having Oisín Mullin and Paddy Durcan back in the fold is sure to give the match a different complexion.

5. Clifford Under Wraps. In April, Mayo left Pádraig O’Hora completely isolated on David Clifford. The results, from their point of view, were disastrous. With that in mind, James Horan will surely set his defence up differently in an attempt to curtail Clifford’s influence on the game. O'Hora could be entrusted with the task again but whoever gets the nod, we can expect helpers to rush in and suffocate the explosive full forward from the off. If Mayo are successful in this endeavour, it will give them a huge lift - it might even propel them to another famous win.

VERDICT: Complacency on Kerry’s part will be fatal but with a new manager on board and with the chastening defeats of the past two seasons still fresh in their minds, it’s hard to see that being a factor. Mayo could well hit them hard early on but if Kerry are at full strength, they should win this game by 3-5 points.

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Ladies’ Semi-Final Preview: Armagh stand between Kerry and a third shot at glory

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LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final

Kerry v Armagh

Saturday 7.15pm

O’Connor Park, Tullamore

Live on TG4

The Kerry ladies are just 60 minutes away from their third All-Ireland final in a row but they will have to bring their ‘A’ game to overcome the challenge of Armagh at O’Connor Park in Offaly later today.

The Kingdom have been installed as competition favourites after beating Meath (and after champions Dublin lost to Galway) in the quarters and they should be in confident form following that victory over the Royals in Tralee a fortnight ago.

However, they are unlikely to have it all their own way against an Armagh side who have beaten them twice already this season, in the league in March and then in the league final in Croke Park in April.

Losing star player Aimee Mackin to an ACL injury in the Ulster final came as a tremendous blow to the Orchard County. Mackin scored 2-6 (2-5 from play) and 1-4 (1-2) from play in the two games against Kerry this year so her teammates will have to make up the difference in her absence.

Kerry, meanwhile, have been buoyed by the return from an ACL injury of Síofra O’Shea, who scored 0-3 off the bench against Meath. The skilful trio of Danielle O’Leary (1-28, 3f), Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (2-15, 9f) and Emma Dineen (4-5) have accounted for the bulk of the team’s scores this season with Hannah O’Donoghue and team captain Niamh Carmody also capable of finding the target.

Managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long will be hoping that this attacking threat coupled with the teak tough defending of Eilís Lynch, Deirdre Kearney and Aishling O’Connell will be enough to see them over the line. With the dependable Ciara Butler between the sticks, Kerry have kept three clean sheets in their last four games which is a record they would love to improve upon today.

Armagh, who haven’t played in a senior ladies’ football All-Ireland final since 2006, arrive at the semi-final stage on the back of wins over Meath and Mayo. Eve Lavery is their top scorer to date with 0-11 (7f) to her name. Blaithin Mackin, younger sister of Aimee, has chipped in with 1-5.

Kerry v Armagh will be preceded at O’Connor Park by the other All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Cork. The Rebels last made the final in 2020 while The Tribeswomen are aiming to reach their first decider since 2019. Both counties lost to Dublin in those respective finals.

Galway v Cork starts at 5pm. Both matches will be shown live on TG4.

Kerry team to play Armagh: C Butler; E Lynch, K Cronin, C Murphy; A O’Connell, D Kearney, A Dillane; M O’Connell, A Galvin; N Carmody (captain), D O’Leary, N Ní Chonchúir; H O’Donoghue, E Dineen, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.

Armagh: A Carr; G Ferguson, C McCambridge (captain), R Mulligan; C Towe, L McConville, D Coleman; N Coleman, C O’Hanlon; E Druse, A McCoy, B Mackin; E Lavery, N Henderson, K Mallon.

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Jordan Lee vows to bounce back as injury ends 2024 Paralympic dream

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Killarney high jumper Jordan Lee is determined to bounce back stronger than ever after announcing his withdrawal from the Paralympic Selection Process due to injury.

The Killarney Valley AC athlete, who represented Ireland at the Tokyo Games in 2021, was hoping to wear the green singlet again in Paris in August/September but he was forced to pull out “due to an injury that had developed over the past couple of weeks”.

“[To say that I’m] absolutely gutted is an understatement considering the season that we’ve just had and being ranked number 6 in the world rankings on the lead-up,” Lee said via Instagram.

“This is sport at the highest level and unfortunately this is an injury that couldn’t turn right in time for Paris which is only a few weeks away.”

The local lad went on to thank Killarney Valley and his coaches Tomás Griffin, Alan Delaney and Shane O’Rourke for their support, as well as his sponsors PTSB, Puma, Toyota, Kellihers Garage and Output Sports.

“To my family and my friends, I’ve always repped that Irish vest with the utmost pride, not just representing myself and my beautiful country, but my amazing family and friends that I have too. I love ye all.

“Wishing my teammates within Paralympics Ireland all the very best in Paris.

“Roll on 2025 for the Europeans. I’ll be back better and ready for vengeance. Believe that.”

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