The Macs Can Stick The Knife In Kerry
Donegal v Kerry
Whatever about this game being between the two best teams in Ireland, it’s surely the clash of the two best managers in Gaelic football currently.
Jim McGuinness has achieved Che Guevara status in Donegal, while Eamonn FitzMaurice’s ability to overcome adversity and negativity is admirable. Both teams overcame the odds to win their respective semi-finals, though Donegal were priced at 7/1 to bet Dublin while Kerry were 11/8 against Mayo.
McGuinness’ victory over Dublin was immense and he must take the majority of the plaudits for that result. The game-plan he drew up and worked on was centred on the wanderlust of the Dublin half-back line and the cold acceptance that goals would be needed to outshoot Dublin. He drew up the blueprint, went through it on the training ground, and his players executed it brilliantly.
Kerry’s epic replay win after extra-time saw FitzMaurice rewarded with a final place that looked improbable when they lost so many greats to retirement and injury. Tomas O’Se and Paul Galvin exited stage left, while the Gooch’s cruciate injury in the club semi-final seemed to put the tin hat on it entirely. He has re-ignited the Kingdom though, and the contribution of his fringe players in extra-time show how focussed he has his men.
That said, both had that bit of luck in the semi-finals that’s needed. Had Eoghan O’Gara executed his hand-pass to Bernard Brogan properly, Dublin would’ve scorched further clear in the first-half and the Hill would have generated an electricity that could have scorched Donegal. Kerry, when they look at the DVD, will be cognisant of the fact that the ref’s performance favoured them in the big decisions in the replay.
Interestingly, both sides celebrated the semi wins like All-Ireland finals themselves, but the break will see them readied for battle.
Head to head
The last game of note between these sides was the semi-final in 2012 that Donegal won by 1-12 to 1-10. It took a Karl Lacey point to see Donegal through after their 1-11 to 0-08 lead with five to go was cut to one thanks mainly to a Donaghy goal. In truth, Donegal were far better on the day and should have won by more.
Donegal looked to be ambling along in championship until their fantastic Dublin display. They just got by Armagh in the quarter-final.
Kerry have been solid all year though they have looked exposed when teams have run hard at them, especially at times against Galway and Mayo in the first game.
The midfield battle will be entertaining, and while Moran and Maher may have the ability to edge it here, Donegal can still win while ceding midfield.
The 5/4 about Maher and Moran outscoring MacNiallais and Gallagher is tasty looking.
Colm McFadden has struggled for form all year, but against Dublin he showed more of his 2012 form. The calmness displayed when he took his goal was top class and he also coolly played McHugh in for his first goal. Paul Murphy may be tasked with stalling the St. Michael man’s renaissance, but if McFadden fires then Donegal will have one hand on the cup.
Donegal are priced at 8/11 with Kerry at 11/8 and the draw at 15/2. Backing Donegal at 8/11 is putting major trust in their Dublin display. Can they repeat that? Were Dublin caught in the headlights of their own brilliance?
There’s no doubting FitzMaurice’s excellence. He steered Colaiste na Sceilige to Hogan Cup success this year, beating a much-fancied St. Pat’s of Maghera in the final. They were 3/1 outsiders for that game, so being underdogs will help his cause. However, it’s hard to imagine Donegal becoming complacent and the Kerry tradition will have guarded them against that.
For me, Donegal have the men to take on Kerry’s threats: Eamon McGee will not be as handy for Donaghy as Cafferkey proved, While Neil McGee can, with the aid of the other swarmers, frustrate James O’Donoghue. Kerry’s full-back line looked shaky against a Mayo side without the quality Donegal possess. Donegal -1 at evens appeals if you’re iffy about odds-on bets. The draw at 15/2 will have its supporters, especially given the glut of them in the last month in hurling and football.
In the man-of-the-match stakes, McFadden is value at 14/1 from a Donegal perspective. If you look at it by head-to-heads then Neil Gallagher is 16/1 against David Moran’s 12/1, while Eamonn McGee is 28/1 against Donaghy’s14/1. Anthony Maher at 25/1 is big.
McGuinness will have spotted the weaknesses in Kerry, and will target them. The full-back line is a likely target. With his preparation and McFadden hitting form, expect Jimmy to be circling round Croker with arms aloft again.