SFC preview: are Kerry about to end Mayo's run?
18 August 2017
Kerry's Shane Enright and Jason Doherty of Mayo during their side's Allianz FL Division 1 clash at MacHale Park, Castlebar in 2016.
Here’s our preview for Sunday’s All-Ireland senior football championship semi-final between Munster champions Kerry and Stephen Rochford’s Mayo side at Croke Park.
Sunday, August 20th
All-Ireland SFC semi-final
Kerry v Mayo, Croke Park, 3.30pm - RTE/Sky
These two cross swords in the championship for the first time since that epic battle of three years ago at the Gaelic Grounds and how neutrals would love to see them serve up a similar sort of classic on Sunday.
Kerry were victorious in Limerick after extra time that day and are fancied by the bookmakers to maintain their summer dominance over Mayo this weekend, with Stephen Rochford’s side 5/2 outsiders to keep what has been a rollercoaster championship these past few months alive.
The Westerners may have annihilated neighbours Roscommon the last day but their route to a seventh consecutive All-Ireland semi-final has been far from straightforward. They needed extra time twice in the qualifiers to defeat both Derry and Cork, came from behind to beat Clare and did likewise in order to get a second bite of the cherry against the Rossies.
Nonetheless, Rochford’s charges delivered the performance of their season last time out (even without the help of Lee Keegan) and head into Sunday’s battle looking to score a first championship victory over Munster’s kingpins since being on the exact same stage with them 21 years ago.
Since that time, Mayo have lost out on six occasions (half of them in All-Ireland finals) to Kerry in the championship and supporters from the Heather County will be yearning for some revenge this weekend, with a Sam Maguire Cup decider berth at stake.
Cillian O’Connor has fired 3-49 in his team’s seven outings to date this summer and the Ballintubber man’s contribution will no doubt be salient to their chances at HQ, but this one may just end up being won at the other end where Kieran Donaghy will undoubtedly be stationed on Mayo’s square come business time.
Keith Higgins may have been inspirational for Mayo the last day but one would imagine he won’t get the same joy going forward on countless occasions, as he, Ger Cafferkey and Brendan Harrison will have to deal with target men Donaghy, Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue in front of David Clarke’s goal.
If Mayo can win their battles for the most part in there and summon more splendid displays from Keegan and Aidan O’Shea out the field then they should be right where they want to be come Maurice Deegan’s last whistle on Sunday evening.
Kerry have had an entirely different path to their opponents, cruising to Munster title number 78 before having eight points to spare in the quarter-finals over a Galway side which dumped Rochford’s men out of Connacht back in June.
While there were some question marks over parts of the performance against the Tribesmen, Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side are still very much having a dream season to date, winning every competition they’ve been involved in and also getting a monkey off their back with regards to Dublin and their one-point win in April’s National League final.
The Kingdom will welcome the challenge of another familiar rival on Sunday, looking to achieve another familiar result against them this time of year.