Another crack at the Kingdom

Photo: Sky Sports

So, we’re at the Divisional final stage in this year’s National League and at Croke Park on Sunday we’re set to face off against Kerry for the Division One title. The match is live on TG4, throw-in is 4pm and Noel Mooney of Cavan is the ref.

This pre-game piece usually takes the same form, comprising a gallop through recent results against our upcoming opponents and finishing with a poll to see what the mood is like among supporters as we count down the days to the match. Seeing as we played Kerry just a few weeks ago, however, there’s obviously no point in doing that (though I will in a minute touch briefly on the two matches they’ve played since we met in Tralee) and the poll at the end will, because it’s a final, be slightly different too.

In case anyone is interested, the pre-game piece I did before our Round 5 meeting with Kerry a few weeks back is here.

Let’s move on by joining up the few dots between Austin Stack Park and Croke Park. After the Kingdom narrowly prevailed over us in the cold, wet and wind of Tralee, they headed north to take on the early pace-setters Armagh. We’d put a halt to the Orchard County’s gallop before the Kerry game and while they’d got back on the horse in Round 5 by beating Kildare, Kerry turned them over at the Athletic Grounds the following weekend by 1-13 to 0-13.

That meant Jack O’Connor’s side had the opportunity to relegate Tyrone, the county they dislike even more than us, in Killarney last Sunday. Despite putting out a very strong side, though, Kerry looked strangely listless in a match in which, admittedly, they had nothing to play for but pride, as their place in next Sunday’s final was already in the bag.

Tyrone had their Division One status to play for and it showed as they came out on top by a single point, 1-15 to 2-11, thus preserving their top tier status and poking the Kerry lads in the eyes into the bargain.

Because of that unexpected loss, Kerry won’t bounce into Sunday’s decider off the back of an unbeaten run of regulation games in this year’s Division One. Instead, Cranky Jack will be sending his charges out with the aim of recording a second successive win over us and, into the bargain, winning the National League title.

Jack, to be fair, knows plenty about beating us. He was whistling through his teeth on the line when Kerry eviscerated us in the 2004 and 2006 finals and he was, of course, there too when they beat us less handily in the 2005 quarter-final.

Near the end of his second term in 2011, Jack also led Kerry to an All-Ireland semi-final win over us, in what was James Horan’s first season as Mayo manager. But here’s the thing: that was the last time, in League or Championship, that the Kingdom have lowered our colours at GAA HQ.

Jack was still there in April 2012 when we claimed an improbable extra-time win in the National League semi-final. It may have only been the League but there was at least a hint of deliverance for us in that comeback victory. That was our first win over them at the venue since the 1996 All-Ireland semi-final.

This means that, since that 2011 loss, our Croke Park record against Kerry reads three wins, two draws and no losses.

Two years on from that League semi-final, in August 2014, we drew an absolutely scintillating All-Ireland semi-final against them, on a day when Lee Keegan was harshly ordered off before half-time and our fourteen men all but swept them away in the second half. They had Kieran Donaghy to thank for the draw they snatched that day and they were further in his debt, along with the hapless Cormac Reilly, for their controversial extra-time replay win in Limerick.

Back in Croker, we played out another belter in the 2017 semi-final. This time it was us – in that iconic red and black strip – who got a late, late equaliser, courtesy of Paddy Durcan, before we beat them comprehensively in the replay.

Photo: RTÉ

Two years later, in the 2019 League final, came our most recent Croke Park meeting. Like Sunday, Kerry were favourites to win that day too and two first half goals appeared to put them on the road to victory. Our second half comeback, capped with goals from Matthew Ruane, Diarmuid O’Connor and sub Ciaran Treacy, was little short of joyous and the outpouring of emotion on and off the field after we’d won was as uplifting as it was unexpected.

Photo: GAA

Seen in this light – an unbeaten run against them at Croke Park stretching back eleven years – perhaps it’s no surprise that the Kerry faithful bellowed like they’d won the All-Ireland when the final whistle sounded at Austin Stack Park a few weeks ago. A win for them over us now counts as a significant scalp and Sunday’s final will be more significant still for them if they manage to do it.

They’re fancied to win, of course they are, but this is our favourite ground, a place where, despite our appalling record in Championship finals, we’ve had so many happy days since 2011. If Kerry do get the better of us on Sunday, it’s a victory they’ll have earned.

But will they or will we instead extend this long undefeated run against them at Croke Park? As this is a final that must, even if it comes to penalties, be decided on the day, it cannot be framed in the usual win/draw/lose way. Instead, this one’s all or nothing. So, which is it to be?

Will we beat Kerry in the final?

  • Yes (67%, 723 Votes)
  • No (33%, 361 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,084

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32 thoughts on “Another crack at the Kingdom

  1. A fitting photo at the top WJ. We’re all looking forward to seeing those two bucks duke it out again.

  2. According to the Ah Ref podcast, Damien Comer has picked up a serious hamstring injury and is now a big doubt for the championship opener against us (and presumably Sunday’s League final).

  3. Mayo didn’t try to exploit the Weakness in the Kerry Halfbackline in Tralee. I wonder will it happen on Sunday ?? Or is James Horan waiting for the Championship. Dublin will be looking at that assuming both sides meet in the All Ireland Semi Final.

  4. Big loss to Galway if comer is out the same man is dogged with injury ever since he picked up a foot injury a charity soccer event a few years ago he hasn’t been fully right , but injury hasn’t been kind to us either , I no rumors arnt welcome here and rightly so but was told cillian will make a return Sunday off the bench presumably which is positive news but by local paper reports its evident that it’s not a secret if you read between the lines, we need to go hard from the start and put plenty of doubt into them put them on the back foot

  5. @Tenacious yew

    In fairness to James he did say Cillian would be back around the time of the Kerry game……

    It would be a great boost if he was in the 26 on Sunday but after such a serious injury and where he is at in his career if he`s not 100% its not worth the risk.

    We will need him during the championship so patience is needed.

  6. Comer hasn’t picked up anything serious. It was a slight strain , nothing pulled , and with his injury history he was rested last Sunday and may even be rested this Sunday but will be fine for championship. P joyce said all the above to the media last Sunday.

  7. No harm to ya tuamstar but I wouldn’t believe anything either way with Joyce , that’s no disrespect to him either but he has history of false flags .

  8. I hope Ref Noel Mooney has excellent eyesight, as I think both Mayo and Kerry are as of now planning to wear a repeat of both their similar looking Alternative Jerseys, as per the directive from HQ.. There is time to fix this problem, it’s easy just toss a coin for either one of Mayo or Kerry to wear their normal jersey… Even if both were to wear their normal jersey it might be easier to distinguish between the two. The top brass decision maker’s are not known for common sense!

  9. Wear that iconic red and black geansaí….sadly it will be a while before us Down boys will be back in Croker.

  10. I had awful trouble telling the jersey’s apart when I was down in Tralee, I kinda settled into it a bit the more the game went on.Now this is a common enough problem for me as I’m completely colour blind and it would be an issue for me at a lot of games. When other non colour blind people start noticing though then something is gone wrong somewhere! Easy solution is either Mayo or kerry wear their home kit and the other wears away.Its a completely mad notion to say ” well your home jerseys clash so you both wear your away…..even though they clash too!”

  11. For what it’s worth I’ve tweeted about this and have got a bit of traction on it – over 60 likes so far and a number of retweets. No replies from the counties or GAA itself so far.

  12. Looking forward to this,

    Hoping for a reaction after last weekends defeat.

    Due a win over Mayo in croke Park and we need that bit of confidence a win in a final gives you.

  13. Jeepers if Cillian is back we have serious fire power up front
    Cillian, Diarmuid, ROD, Doc, Carney … plus a choice of one of Orme, Carr, McDonagh, Coen etc, etc. Imagine if Tommy Conroy was fit!
    In fairness to James Horan, he has built up a serious panel.

  14. I see it reported in the Times today , that Mayo Gaa confirmed McHale park is ok for the Galway game. Don’t see anything on their Twitter account.

  15. Difficult to call but tipped the Kingdom for a few reasons. We have changed players so often that it is hard to know who we will start, there is more pressure on Kerry to win and they have a stronger forward line on paper.

    There are reasons to back Mayo and I hope that I am proven wrong, it would be a huge boost and as importantly cause uncertainty in what are normally a confident Kerry crowd especially after their defeat to Tyrone.

  16. Kerry fans I know believe they cant close out games when needed and that was before Tyrone defeat. So reliant on Clifford if hes injured they are back in the pack.

  17. @Artie Quinn, hopefully Down will eventually be back, the swagger they brought to the game is badly needed, they were well ahead of their time and produced absolutely class players and a class jersey to go with that.

    As you know well they appeared in 6 All-Ireland finals and won their first 5 and only lost the last one by a point to Cork in 2010 and I think they’d have won that day as well had Ambrose Rogers not been injured.

    Great County.

  18. Can somebody tell me why both counties cannot simply wear their normal colours ?…..That was the way we did it up to X years ago so why the need to change ?…….We play Donegal who share the green with us and Meath and Leitrim too. So what’s different about Mayo v Kerry ?

  19. @MartyK, because there is too much green, nobody wants to see that surely, spoils the viewing and the rule is if there’s a clash then both must change which is another shambles when their away jerseys clash as well.

  20. Agree fully on the jersey thing, the Tralee match was a shambles and I don’t think I’m colour blind (yet)

  21. Nothing to fear from Kerry, I make it a 50/50 game with Sean o shea out.
    Their forwards are unreal, no doubt, best attack in the country, but I suspect when it comes tobthe crunch there are 3 areas they will fall down under real scrutiny

    – the croke Park factor, their recent record there is abysmal. More conditioned teams like kerry/mayo etc can run the legs of them there.
    – they have goalkeeping issues,can’t decide on a settled goalie and the lad they had in nets v tyrone struggled badly
    – have they replaced david moran, moran has tormented us on several occasions over the years. His performance in limerick in 2014 semi was one of the greatest midfield performances I ever seen but he is past his best and injury prone. Jack barry is a much inferior replacement

    It’s a 50/50 game.

    Makes for an absolute belter of a championship, kerry/mayo and about 4 ulster teams will all fancy their chances and dublin are very much back in the pack

  22. Gavin White coming on the last day is a huge boost to Kerry. Great to see Eoghan Mcloughlin on the bench the last day, his pace is well suited to croker. Any information on Hennelly/Durcan injuries?

    Clifford is nearly unmarkable at the moment. Do we go with Mullin again or maybe try a Swanny or Keegan on him? Back in 19 Harrison done a great job but he has 3 years more experience with him now.

    I also think its imperative that we push up someone on Tadgh Morley. Hes had a free reign as a sweeper all year. Don’t let him do it again.
    Do we start Plunkett wing forward and let him sweep back in front of our full back line? Leaving them one on one could spell danger for us

  23. Kerry seem to play Adrian Spillane as a 3rd midfielder so Plunkett or Stephen Coen should be able to drop off him and sweep in front of Clifford. Horan will never play a full time sweeper, nor should he IMO.

  24. Fair enough comment Wide Ball as it will take away from our attack. Is there a way we can occupy Morley? Similar to when Rochford pushed Alan Dillon up on Tyrones spare man years ago. With Aido in the team it will probably leave Morley free.

    We have Croke players with jets in the squad Hession/Eoghan Mcloughlin etc. Would be nice to see them boys rolling off the bench to finish the game strongly.

  25. Good point Clubman51, Gavin Whites return from injury is massive for Kerry. A couple of years ago he was arguably their most important player. Not sure when Paul Murphy will be back but he’ll be another huge boost for them. Two speedsters.

  26. Are we expecting team announcement tonight or will he change it up a bit and not announce till nearer the game ?

  27. Thanks for clarification Viper but I do recall many Mayo v Kerry, Meath, Leitrim games in the past with stock colours and no issues re clashes……But I stand to be corrected if the modern science of this re colours on TV, colour blindness problems etc warrants kit swaps……That said, dark blue and black on the field isn’t exactly a solution…

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