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O'Connor wary of Northern exposure as Donegal await in quarters

BESIDES Paul Galvin's sending-off, Kerry marched into their 12th consecutive All-Ireland SFC quarter-final with consummate ease, beating Clare 2-22 to 1-6.

Aside from the record-breakers (Colm Cooper and Tomas ó Sé) and the one blip from the Kingdom's perennial bad boy, it was sometimes hard to remember that this was supposed to be a competitive contest.

Galvin saw red in the 49th minute for a high tackle on John Hayes (the two famously tangled in 2008 when referee Paddy Russell's notebook was knocked out of his hand). Two minutes earlier, the Finuge man had been booked and referee Maurice Deegan was left with no choice but to show him the line.

Jack O'Connor stood up for the Kerry star.

"I think the yellow cards were harmless enough," said O'Connor. "He just went to tackle a fella and he ducked into him and it looked high.

"But look, Paul is playing great stuff and we wanted him to keep the momentum going. Unfortunately, he got the second yellow but at that stage the game was done and dusted."

O'Connor added: "He got two yellows. Fellas are tackling, he mistimed the tackle. That's the way it looked to me."

However, in front of a decent crowd of 7,338 there were some records broken -- Tomas ó Sé made his 82nd championship appearance, surpassing his brother Darragh's record.

And Colm Cooper struck his own bit of history by topping Mikey Sheehy's all-time championship scoring record with a haul of 1-4 at the Gaelic Grounds. Sheehy notched 29 goals and 205 points in his career but Cooper brought his own tally to 19-240 to surpass that 25-year landmark.



Consolation

The consolation for Kerry and Galvin after his sending-off is that he will be available for the Donegal encounter.

Nonetheless, if Kerry are as spooked by the Ulster men as O'Connor expressed, Jim McGuinness and his men will be licking their lips in anticipation of extending the hand of friendship to GAA's most-loved/hated villain.

For nothing Donegal will have seen here will have spooked them, regardless of Kerry's imperious ability with the ball against negligible opposition.

"It's going to be a massive battle, we're well aware of that," admitted O'Connor, fresh from erasing the hurt from a decade of northern exposure to unfamiliar footballing traits, only now to be confronted by another one coming swiftly down the line.

"These Donegal fellas have pushed back the frontiers in terms of fitness and tackling and getting a great defensive system.

"It'll be a huge challenge for us to break that down. We're not expecting a pile of pretty football in Croke Park.

"We'll be doing our best to keep it as open as we can. We know what we're up against.



Challenge

"I was in Croke Park last year and it was Gaelic football as we've never seen it before. And that's a massive challenge for us as coaches and players and management to break it down.

"They've certainly moved the goalposts as far as strategy in Gaelic football is concerned.

"They put Down away fairly handily in the Ulster final. They'll be determined. They've some outstanding footballers. Michael Murphy is probably the outstanding full-forward in the game at the moment."

Kerry will adopt the familiar pose of ageing gunslingers against brash, bullying northerners.

"We'll see how the legs of some of these Kerry fellas hold up," O'Connor smiled. "A lot of fellas are saying that when we get to Croke Park that maybe it'll expose our legs. But sure we'll see about that."