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Tuesday 14 August 2018

Kerry blend key for Fitz

Munster SFC semi-final Kerry v Clare (Killarney, Tomorrow 3.30)

HOPEFUL: Former Kerry footballer Bryan Sheehan in Croke Park for the launch of SuperValu’s #BehindTheBall campaign. Pic: Inpho
HOPEFUL: Former Kerry footballer Bryan Sheehan in Croke Park for the launch of SuperValu’s #BehindTheBall campaign. Pic: Inpho

Twelve months ago, having played with the elements, Kerry found themselves level with their Clare hosts and down a man at the break.

That opening 35 minutes was not the stuff of champions-in-waiting ... and so it transpired in the long run, against Mayo, even though 14-man Kerry upped the second half ante to win by six in Ennis.

Now it's another semi-final against a team that continues to punch above its weight, as evidenced by a third-placed finish in Division 2. Clare's quarter-final win over Limerick, 1-23 to 0-14, summed up the recent gulf that has grown between once-similar neighbours.

But now another gulf must be bridged by Colm Collins: Kerry.

Intrigue

Most of the intrigue around this fixture surrounds the impact of the decorated rookies (if that's not a contradiction) who have forced their way into Éamonn Fitmaurice's thinking, with Séán O'Shea and David Clifford the attacking duo of whom most is expected.

Coming up with the correct blend of gifted youth and seen-it-all experience is still a fine balancing act, and tomorrow may well not be the day to discover if this new and evolving Kerry can make a sustained push for Sam this summer.

But the new and compressed SFC format, revolving around the 'Super 8s', should actually help Fitzmaurice to iron out the glitches.

That may sound disrespectful to Clare, whatever about a revitalised Cork as they lie in Munster final wait, but most pundits fully expect Kerry to reach the last-eight.

Bryan Sheehan retired last November but his reasons had nothing to do with a busier summer workload. "When I heard it was coming out at the time, not knowing I was going to hang up the boots, I was really looking forward to it," said Sheehan at this week's SuperValu football championship launch.

"For me I think it will really suit Kerry because they'll be able to find their feet and iron out those cracks that they have rather than landing into an All-Ireland semi-final and being found out.

"It will really benefit Kerry and it will test our squads. If you pick up injuries along the way, your squad is going to be tested. And I think that's what Kerry are going to find out - what kind of squad they have with the younger fellas and the experienced fellas. It's going to be an interesting year for Kerry."

ODDS: Kerry 1/14 Draw 16/1 Clare 9/1

VERDICT: Kerry

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