Right, our long lay-off – for which we have Roscommon to thank – is almost over.
From this weekend onwards and for as long as we’re involved in this year’s Championship, the longest break we’ll now get between games is a fortnight and only then, as Kevin McStay pointed out to Rob on the podcast last week, if we win all our games from here on. Welcome to the Championship proper, folks.
We’re starting this second, decisive part of the summer campaign in the most difficult and highest profile manner possible. Kerry are the reigning All-Ireland champions and they’re entertaining us on Saturday at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, a venue they haven’t lost a Championship game at since 1995. The match throws in on Saturday at 3pm, Tyrone’s Seán Hurson is the ref and it’s being streamed live on GAAGO.
We’ve only played them in the Championship once before in Killarney, which was back in 2019 in the opening round of the so-called Super Eights. We lost on that sizzlingly hot day by ten points, a match in which Cillian O’Connor became the highest scoring player of all time in the Championship but where we were beaten very badly.
There were extenuating circumstances that day. We were still coming down from the high of having eliminated Galway a week before, in a qualifier match played in Limerick that was graced by that wonder goal from James Carr. We pitched up at Killarney the following weekend knowing we didn’t really have to get a result, whereas they were well aware – from bitter experience of the previous year – that they absolutely had to win their home game. And they duly did.
By coincidence, we came into that meeting four years ago as National League champions, as we’ll do once more on Saturday. Our position as top dogs from the spring campaign definitely irked them more then than it’s likely to do on this occasion, as we’d beaten them in Tralee and then we’d beaten them again in the final at Croke Park.
We gave them a sound thumping back in February this year at Castlebar but that was a very understrength Kerry team, who reportedly travelled up on the day for that Saturday night meeting. It’ll be a very different Kerry team we’ll face on Saturday.
Since that Round 3 meeting in the League, Kerry beat Armagh at home by a point, lost away to Tyrone by three points, beat Roscommon at home by three and then lost by two away to Galway. Kerry finished the campaign on six points, winning three and losing four of their Division One matches.
Winning Munster didn’t exactly tax them. All they had to do was beat Tipperary in the semi-final, which they duly did, by a margin of twenty points, and then beat Clare in the final, which they duly did as well, this time by a margin of fourteen points.
Kerry come into Saturday’s match as strong favourites, no doubt due both to their status as defending All-Ireland champions and that impressive home record. Taking them on down there is obviously a tougher proposition for us than playing them at Croke Park would be. A victory for us on Saturday would clearly be viewed as a shock result.
Is this a blow we’re capable of inflicting on the Kingdom or will it once again prove a case of Southern discomfort for us? Seeing as it’s not a do-or-die encounter, what are the chances of a draw?
As we build up towards Saturday, let’s end with a vote on how you think it might go in Killarney.
How will we do against Kerry?
- Lose (53%, 597 Votes)
- Win (36%, 412 Votes)
- Draw (11%, 120 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,129