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Tuesday 19 September 2017

Kerry prove they are still a huge threat

Kingdom serve warning while Royals and Mayo will need huge improvement

Paul Geaney (left) of Kerry celebrates with team-mate Kieran Donaghy after scoring a goal during the Munster SFC final against Cork at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney yesterday. Pic: Sportsfile
Paul Geaney (left) of Kerry celebrates with team-mate Kieran Donaghy after scoring a goal during the Munster SFC final against Cork at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney yesterday. Pic: Sportsfile

The championship tightened up over the weekend with some very closely contested games but ultimately there were no real surprises and all the favourites made it safely through into the next phase of the competition.

It was a weekend that made light of the argument that there should be a two-tier or indeed a top-eight format as teams from lower divisions held their own against the big guns. Unfortunately, none could manage a shock result.

Meath got back on track in Navan with narrow victory over Sligo but victory at any stage of the championship is important and when a team gets to the point when it is pure knockout football, then any sort of a win will do.

They will, however, need to find significant improvement if they are to make it any further in the competition. I think the Meath management team will ultimately see their first year as a failure if they don't at least make it to the quarter-final stages in August.

Mayo also struggled on Saturday to get the better of a Derry team that arrived with a very clear game plan and were unlucky not to have headed back north with a huge scalp.

It was a very interesting game, played in the right spirit but in the end the experience that Mayo have at this level told and they will now quickly turn their attentions to the next game.

I don't know what to make of this Mayo team after Saturday. For most of the game they looked an average team and at times looked like they were thrown together that morning.

They lacked cohesion and the decision-making up front was poor, with too many of their forwards taking the wrong option and shooting from poor positions even though there were colleagues in better positions.

This has been their Achilles heel for many years and unless they sort this issue out I'm afraid this season will end the same as all of the others. I still think that they have the players to trouble the best but they will need to rediscover the form that got them so close to winning the All-Ireland last year.

Young players

They will be without Paddy Durkin next weekend so the job hasn't got any easier but there are some very good young players like Stephen Coen, Conor Loftus and Fergal Boland who will enjoy the wide open spaces of Croke Park, should the team get there.

Donegal and Clare were the other big winners at the weekend and slowly but surely we are getting down to the business end of the championship.

While the qualifying games were close the same can't be said about the Munster final, where Kerry completely outplayed Cork in what turned out to be a stroll in Killarney. The green and gold put in a very impressive shift and easily added the provincial title to their National League victory earlier in the year.

There is no doubt in my mind that this Kerry team are firmly focused this year and although Cork really didn't give them a proper test yesterday, the Kerry players looked in the mood to have a real shot at Sam this year.

They seem to be adopting a more positive attacking game and they certainly have the ammunition up front to cause problems for any defence.

In the opening few minutes of each half they blitzed the Cork defence and that allowed them to control the game and play on the front foot throughout. It was a clinical and ruthless performance and one that absolutely marks them down as serious title contenders.

The full-forward line in particular looked extremely capable with James O'Donoghue back to the form that saw him winning the Player of the Year award a few seasons ago. It will take some defensive performance to keep them out.

That said, the Cork defence was at sea for most of the game and really gave their markers far too much space, which wase exploited with the minimum of fuss.

In fact had Kerry taken more of their goal chances this could have been a trouncing.

There will be bigger tests for Kerry this year but there is a different look about them and you can be sure that the celebrations after yesterday's victory will be kept to a minimum.

With due respect to Cork the Kerry boys have their eyes firmly fixed on a team wearing blue jerseys, although there is still a long way to go and a few obstacles to negotiate for both teams before they meet.

But from what I have seen so far, only Tyrone seem capable of throwing a spanner in the works.

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