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SHOWTIME: Kerry and Dublin ready to rock Croke Park

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by Adam Moynihan

All-Ireland Football Final

Kerry v Dublin

Sunday at 3.30pm

Croke Park

(Live on RTÉ 2 from 2.30pm)

Some of the most famous rock musicians in the world have played in Croke Park. U2, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones, to name but a few.

This week, hundreds of thousands of people queued online for hours on end, trying (and in most cases failing) to get tickets for Coldplay’s upcoming gigs at GAA headquarters.

Hosting concerts is a major source of income for the Association and it’s wonderful to see these global superstars performing in our nation’s most iconic stadium. But with all due respect to Bono and the Boss and Jagger and Chris Martin, none of them will ever rock Croke Park like Dublin and Kerry do.

The deafening noise at 3.29pm on Sunday beats all their biggest hits. That jumbled up chorus of 'Come on Kerry!' and 'Come on Dublin!' between Amhrán na bhFiann and throw-in is sweeter than Sweetest Thing, more glorious than Glory Days, more satisfying than Satisfaction, and more paradisiacal than Paradise.

The game’s greatest rivals on the main stage in the All-Ireland final. Music to our ears.

BACK TOGETHER

If you’ll bear with the musical metaphors for just a little longer, Dublin really got the band back together for 2023. Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion, all preposterously decorated players, returned to the panel after some time away. To paraphrase Kerry manager Jack O’Connor, they didn’t come back to make up the numbers.

After coming up short in 2021 and 2022, the Dubs are hungry for another All-Ireland. It would be a flamboyant exclamation point at end of some of their careers, most notably for Cluxton, James McCarthy and Mick Fitzsimons, all of whom are seeking a record-breaking ninth Celtic Cross.

For others, like Con O’Callaghan and Brian Fenton, it would be a communiqué to the rest of the country that they haven’t gone away, and that they’re not going anywhere any time soon.

ARC

Kerry, meanwhile, are at a very different point on their developmental arc. Having secured what was, for the vast majority of the panel, a first All-Ireland last year, they are now hoping to show us they are no one-hit wonders.

In David Clifford they have the sport’s undisputed superstar, a young man who has been in impressive form since around 2004. He was born in 1999.

If Kerry do manage to beat Dublin and go back-to-back, he will go back-to-back with Footballer of the Year awards, there is zero doubt about that.

Jack O’Connor has made one change to his starting line-up ahead of Sunday’s final. Stephen O’Brien played a starring role when he was introduced after half-time in the semi-final win over Derry, and he has been rewarded with the No. 12 jersey. He replaces Adrian Spillane, who drops to the bench.

As for the replacements, Tony Brosnan has sadly been ruled out due to the recurrence of a respiratory issue, but the return of Killian Spillane (ankle) is a boost. The Templenoe sharpshooter scored a goal against Dublin in the drawn 2019 final. Remarkably, Cluxton hasn’t conceded a goal in the championship since.

Listry and East Kerry midfielder Ronan Buckley has also been inserted into the 26.

KERRY TEAM

1. Shane Ryan

2. Graham O’Sullivan

3. Jason Foley

4. Tom O’Sullivan

5. Paul Murphy

6. Tadhg Morley

7. Gavin White

8. Diarmuid O’Connor

9. Jack Barry

10. Dara Moynihan

11. Seánie O’Shea

12. Stephen O’Brien

13. Paudie Clifford

14. David Clifford (captain)

15. Paul Geaney

Subs: Shane Murphy, Adrian Spillane, Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Mike Breen, Barry Dan O’Sullivan, Ruairí Murphy, Micheál Burns, Killian Spillane, Dylan Casey, Donal O’Sullivan, Ronan Buckley.

Several high-profile pundits reckon Dublin boss Dessie Farrell should recall talismanic half forward Ciarán Kilkenny to the first 15 but the Castleknock man will start on the bench (that’s if the the official team released on Friday morning is to be believed).

Joining Kilkenny amongst the substitutes is Seán Bugler, who missed the semi-final with a calf injury.

The personnel in Farrell’s starting line-up remain unchanged.

DUBLIN TEAM

1. Stephen Cluxton

2. Eoin Murchan

3. Michael Fitzsimons

4. David Byrne

5. James McCarthy (captain)

6. John Small

7. Lee Gannon

8. Brian Fenton

9. Brian Howard

10. Paddy Small

11. Paul Mannion

12. Niall Scully

13. Cormac Costello

14. Con O’Callaghan

15. Colm Basquel

Subs: Evan Comerford, Seán Bugler, Ciarán Kilkenny, Tom Lahiff, Seán McMahon, Jack McCaffrey, Ross McGarry, Cian Murphy, Daire Newcombe, Lorcan O’Dell, Dean Rock.

VERDICT

Dublin will provide Kerry with their toughest test to date and their strength in depth is a definite advantage.

However, Kerry have developed a knack of getting over the line in close games and in David Clifford they have a certified match-winner.

Kerry to prevail by a point, or maybe two.

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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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