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Thursday 23 March 2017

Kingdom to kill off any talk of a relegation dogfight at the Hyde

Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Pic: Sportsfile
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Pic: Sportsfile

"We are looking down ­rather than up now," mused ­Eamonn Fitzmaurice after last ­Sunday's second ­consecutive defeat for a Kerry team touted for big things this spring.

In the fraught circumstances, this looks the ideal fixture for the Kingdom to prove their bouncebackability.

True, Kerry are away but then that didn't stop them winning in Donegal - and home advantage proved no advantage at all against Mayo first and then Monaghan.

The main reason why Kerry should arrest their recent mini-slump? Roscommon.

Before a ball was kicked, they looked odds-on for relegation. In fairness, their first two outings against Tyrone and Donegal may have ended in defeat but the performances weren't without merit ... whereas there was scant consolation to be gleaned from last weekend's eight-point mauling by Mayo in Castlebar.

Roscommon boss Kevin McStay. Pic: Sportsfile
Roscommon boss Kevin McStay. Pic: Sportsfile

You could cite a few individual flourishes up front, notably from Conor Devaney and Donie Smith, and you could even engage in some 'what-iffery' about the various goal chances spurned.

However, that would be to deflect from the fundamental truth: Roscommon lacked the physicality and power and athleticism to live with Mayo, but a more damning fault was their passivity. They stood off their men; they gave Cillian O'Connor & Co carte blanche to pick their passes and points.

If there's any kind of a ­Rossie response, it needs to come now. They're at home. There are more than a few hints that some of the locals are growing restive over their Mayo-dominated managerial regime; those fans need to be given something to cheer about and believe in.

Early last spring, when all seemed bright on Planet Ros, they came away from Killarney with a first-ever competitive win on Kerry soil. That kickstarted their surge up the Division 1 table.

But when the same counties resumed semi-final battle at Croke Park in April, ­Kerry cantered home. ­Roscommon's performance dip had ­already started (two matches ­earlier against Mayo) but that ­accelerated the nosedive.

The pressure on Kevin ­McStay rose another couple of notches this week following a local radio tirade from former boss Gay Sheeran and with definitive confirmation that Niall Daly has become the latest to quit his panel.

Kerry have their own problems, of an on-field nature: they fouled too often against Mayo and only tallied 1-2 from play against Monaghan. Cue a free-scoring backlash?

ODDS: Ros 7/2 Draw 17/2 Kerry 3/10

VERDICT: Kerry

ROSCOMMON v KERRY (HYDE PK, TOMORROW 2.0)

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