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5 questions ahead of this weekend's Allianz Football League action

From Kerry’s relegation battle to the refereeing of ‘steps’.

The pressure's on Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Kerry this weekend.
The pressure's on Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Kerry this weekend.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Are Kerry really in a relegation battle?

ONCE AGAIN, KERRY have started a league season poorly; Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s men opening their 2014 campaign with three losses from three games. It’s a familiar situation for the Kingdom who began last year’s Allianz National Football League with four defeats before staying up.

A raft of injuries and retirements makes a similar recovery less likely this year but it would be almost impossible if they fail to beat Tyrone in Fitzgerald Stadium this Sunday.

They face a difficult task against a Tyrone team who pulled out a remarkable win over Kildare last weekend — more on that later — in what is the latest instalment of one of the great rivalries of the past decade. This is a long way from the All-Ireland finals of 2005 and 2008 but with Kerry’s Division I status on the line, it should be no less captivating.

Just how many steps are too many?

It wasn’t just the hands that were red in Conleth’s Park last weekend; referee Pádraig O’Sullivan will surely regret failing to spot the number of steps Mattie Donnelly took in the build up to Mark Donnelly’s winner:

Source: PJ Browne/YouTube

Five, even six steps you can possibly understand a referee missing but nine? Of course, giving up two goals in injury time doesn’t make it very easy to defend Kildare but their cause was hardly helped by such lax interpretation of the rules.

Is there any reason for Westmeath to hope?

Mayo, Kerry, Kildare, Tyrone. That’s the fixture list facing Westmeath as they look to salvage their Division I status. It’s a formidable task for Paul Bealin’s men and there’s a very real possibility they could finish their league campaign without a point.

Last week’s 13-point defeat at the hands of Derry hardly inspires much confidence but a win against Mayo — who have conceded 5-47 in three games — in the familiar surroundings of Cusack Park could be just the catalyst they need.

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Are Galway gone?

Alan Mulholland Alan Mulholland and Galway face an uphill task in Division II. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Losses to Meath and Donegal are explainable if you’re Alan Mullholland but a 15-point hammering by Laois is much less so. If they are to avoid the prospect of Division III football next year, they absolutely must beat Down in Tuam this weekend.

That will be easier said than done. Donal O’Hare’s 1-10 inspired his side to a 4-16 to 0-9 win over Louth last week, a result that sees Down lie second in Division II after two wins and a draw in their opening three fixtures.

Are Cavan really ‘the Black Death’ of football?

Joe Brolly thinks so. In his latest column for Gaelic Life the controversial pundit says the league’s stingiest team — just 25 points and no goals conceded — “[continue] to play the most horrible, defensive football the game has ever seen.”

As one of just four teams with a 100% record in the league, their style of play is obviously effective. However, with fellow Division III promotion contenders Sligo visiting Breffni Park this Sunday, their defensive resolve is sure to be tested again.

Calling defensive football ‘the Black Death’ might be something of an exaggeration but there’s no doubting that — in the new free-flowing-black-card-fearing era — that style of play does stand out. However, it’s also worth pointing out they have scored 2-38 in three games which is nothing to be ashamed of.

Here’s the 33 GAA league games on the inter-county agenda this weekend

Bryan Sheehan returns as Kerry make three changes to team to face Tyrone

About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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