Mayo need a bounce but Kerry have all the momentum
ALLIANZ FL DIV 1 KERRY v MAYO (Tralee, Today 7.0, RTÉ2/eir 2)
Given the lack of silverware in Connacht, the perennial travails against Galway and those agonising All-Irelands against Dublin, it's fair to surmise that Stephen Rochford's finest hour as Mayo boss was the 2017 semi-final replay against Kerry.
Last year proved a season of stagnation for both counties.
This year heralded the start of a new era (for Kerry under Peter Keane) and the relaunch of another (for Mayo under James Horan). Both counties hit the spring ground running with three straight wins but, whereas Kerry have kept up that relentless pace, Mayo have crashed into a mid-league wall with two contrasting but equally dispiriting defeats to Dublin and Galway.
Cue the inevitable bout of scepticism about Horan's ability to get another twist out of his ageing leaders, and whether many (or any) of the rookies given league auditions are actually good enough to improve the collective come summer.
If circumstances had been different, Rochford would be on the touchline tonight. Instead, looking from the outside in as Donegal coach, he still believes they will make it to the 'Super 8' party in July.
"Their intensity and quality levels were quite positive in the first couple of games," Rochford points out.
"They have hit a little bit of a blip at the moment but it is only two losses and maybe there was an incident or two in the last game (against Galway) ... Colm Boyle had a ball cleared off the line, Jason (Doherty) hit a post from a free and maybe if those things had gone in then the game would have gone their way, especially playing at home and the crowd behind them.
"Division One games are won on small incidents. I don't think they are very far away. I will be very interested what the reaction is from the group and I have no doubt that it will be a big one."
Perhaps we'll see that in Tralee. After all, Mayo's last four treks to the Kingdom this decade have yielded three wins and a draw.
Given that history, home advantage may not be such an advantage at all to Kerry.
Another consideration is the fact that, while Kerry have one foot in the league final, Mayo need a result far more if they're to stay in the chase. They are also craving a backlash performance to silence some of the cynics, and maybe banish some of their own self-doubt too.
Yet you can't ignore Kerry's momentum. While Paul Murphy was brilliant against Monaghan and the prodigal Tommy Walsh soared to some of his pre-AFL heights, their 100pc start has been driven largely by the energy of Keane's young guns - and the dead-ball mastery of Seán O'Shea.
The ball is in their court ...
ODDS: Kerry 2/5 Draw 15/2 Mayo 11/4