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Saturday 3 December 2016

Fitzmaurice coy on Dubs as Kingdom shine

O'Donnell rues 'stage fright' at Croke Park for the Rossies

Donnchadh Walsh celebrates his goal against Roscommon in their Allianz NFL semi-final. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Walsh celebrates his goal against Roscommon in their Allianz NFL semi-final. Photo: Sportsfile

Éamonn FItzmaurice wouldn't bite.

The ball was being thrown in for yesterday's second semi-final, Dublin's win over Donegal, when the Kerry manager was asked nearby whether there was any downside to the league final pairing everybody else wanted.

* pause *

* smirk *

"We'll see how the second games goes first...."

The second game went much like the first; with a big win for the participant 2015 All-Ireland finalist, meaning we have what will be the most eagerly-awaited league in some time - Kerry's first since 2009 and a first Dublin/Kerry decider since 1987.

Fitzmaurice went on to suggest that the claiming of "national silverware" would be a "significant" development for his team.

Serious

But Dublin occupy a very prominent part in the Kerry football psyche right now and their April 24 date could, in all likelihood, be the last serious test either get until an expected meeting in this year's All-Ireland semi-final.

"It's great to be back in a National League final," he shrugged.

"We haven't been there in seven years. We get another game against Division One opposition which will be good for us as well so, yeah, it's good to be back in the final."

Kerry were hugely impressive yesterday, a recurring theme since their usual early-season slumber was rudely interrupted by both Dublin and Roscommon. The disparity in Kerry's excursions then and yesterday couldn't be more obvious.

They banged in three goals in the first half, each a work of some considerable craft, and had it wrapped up neatly in the form of a 10-point lead at half-time.

Darran O'Sullivan, enjoying his freest run of good health in some time, was torturer-in-chief yesterday, kicking 1-4 from play and always looking menacing.

Kerry defended in big numbers but they moved the ball with purpose, too, with the likes of Kieran Donaghy, Colm Cooper rotating breezily between the lines and influencing all aspects of their approach play.

The Paul Murphy-at-centre-forward experiment is working a treat.

And against one of Ireland's most prolific attacks, they kept the score to just 14 points and offered up precisely no clear goal chances.

"I thought maybe we were a little bit in awe of them," Roscommon's co-manager, Fergal O'Donnell, admitted.

"I think we may have got a bit of stage fright out there.

"I wouldn't say the whole team, just a few fellas were a little bit off their game time.

"Sometimes you learn from your defeats and from being up here but I suppose it's a recurring theme," he added.

"We know we're not in the top four teams in the country. You look at the likes of Tyrone coming up, they'd be miles ahead of us and we know that.

"There's lots of teams that aren't there (in Division 1). But at the same time," O'Donnell added soberly, "an All-Ireland is a long way away."

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