| 11.2°C Dublin

Classy Kerry to cruise past plucky Clare

JUST a week ago, an ageing Kerry with sky-high mileage and faltering form were supposedly in full-blown crisis. This evening, they start a championship match as 1/66 favourites to maintain their pristine qualifier-era record of always, always being there for the quarter-final draw.

Go figure. Well actually, it's quite simple. By dint of demolishing their old Tyrone nemesis, Kerry have propelled themselves right back on to the shortlist of genuine All-Ireland contenders.

The other reason for those amazingly lopsided match odds is the fact that they now face Clare, the ultimate rank outsiders for All-Ireland glory, still quoted at 1,000/1 for Sam despite their inclusion among the last 12 standing.

To Clare's credit, Micheál McDermott's men have punched well above their weight all season. They narrowly missed out on promotion from Division Four, and then bucked the Munster semi-final odds against Limerick.


Even in the final, the eventual 12-point losing margin belied the midfield excellence of Gary Brennan against Cork's man mountains and the number of times they opened up the Rebel rearguard for goal chances.

The trouble for Clare now is that they've run into a Kerry team at just the wrong time. A couple of weeks back, with so many of Jack O'Connor's veteran team leaders stuck in a rut, you might have been tempted to think the unthinkable. After all, if Westmeath should have beaten the Kingdom, why can't the Banner dream likewise?

However, last weekend marked an emphatic return to form for all those marquee Kerry forwards like Declan O'Sullivan, Paul Galvin, Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy, while their defence 'did a Tyrone' on Tyrone and midfield dominated.

The obvious danger for Kerry is that the unique circumstances of last weekend (a chance to disprove the doubters while finally slaying their Red Hand bogey men) conspired to produce a level of brilliance that they won't be able to sustain till September.

Suffice to say, that question won't be answered this evening.

ODDS: Kerry 1/66, Draw 33/1, Clare 16/1


KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O'Mahony, S Enright; T Ó Sé, E Brosnan, K Young; A Maher, B Sheehan; P Galvin, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh; J O'Donoghue, C Cooper, K Donaghy.

CLARE: J Hayes: K Harnett, B Duggan, L Healy; E Coughlan, G Kelly, J Hayes; G Brennan, G Quinlan; S Brennan, S McGrath, A Clohessy; R Donnelly, D Tubridy, M O'Shea.