herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Gooch and Star to shine for Kingdom

GALWAY v KERRY

(Pearse Stadium, Tom 2.30, deferred TG4)

SO then, have Kerry turned the corner with that belated first win, at home to Derry last Sunday? They have, to an extent at least, with the majestic form of Kieran Donaghy, the accuracy of Colm Cooper's frees and the encouraging contribution of David Moran on the '40' all suggesting there is life after Darragh, Diarmuid, Tadhg, Tommy and now (as seems increasingly likely) Mike Mac too.

For all that, Jack O'Connor must know he faces probably the greatest challenge of his two Kerry reigns, having lost one-third of his All-Ireland team.

With 'Star' and the returning 'Gooch' back in tandem last weekend, they immediately looked a more potent outfit, but there are plenty of other gaps to plug -- notably in the full-back line where Tommy Griffin struggled badly against Eoin Bradley and Tom O'Sullivan looked understandably rusty on his comeback. Still, it helps when you've a gilt-edge replacement like Marc ó Sé, who shored up the defence in the second half.

In recent years, Kerry have made a habit of putting high-flying Galway back in their box. Now, with both sides struggling on two points, they are marginally favoured to repeat the dose.

ODDS: Galway 11/8, Draw 15/2, Kerry 8/11

VERDICT: Kerry

Home the key for Derry

DERRY v MAYO

(Celtic Pk, Tonight 7.30)

JOHN O'MAHONY has delayed naming his Mayo team and he has some plausible excuses -- namely the hamstring injury shipped by Ronan McGarrity against Dublin, the requirement to find a new wing-back for the stricken Peadar Gardiner, and the fact that his U21 contingent were in action against Leitrim on Wednesday night.

Here's another possibility: that the Fine Gael TD is still pondering a motion of no confidence in the six forwards that started against Dublin. And just when you thought Mayo had banished that age-old reputation for squandermania ... they go and shoot 18 wides!

There were other problems glaringly evident against the Dubs: lack of width and a lack of direct ball being two prime examples.

Too often they tried to 'burrow' their way through a massed defence instead of spreading the play, or even having sufficient runners on the shoulder of the man in possession.

A defiant Mayo response is not beyond the bounds of possibility, especially given the equally profligate first half shooting displayed by Derry in Tralee, where Eoin Bradley tormented Tommy Griffin but should have finished with more than 1-1 to his name. But home advantage should swing it all the same.

ODDS: Derry 4/6, Draw 15/2, Mayo 6/4

VERDICT: Derry

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