Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan Kerry's Aidan O'Mahony in action against Clare's Niall Browne in last year's McGrath Cup final.
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Clare v Kerry - All-Ireland SFC qualifier round four match guide
20 years ago Clare football enjoyed a momentous triumph against in the Gaelic Grounds but Ewan MacKenna cannot see a repeat happening tomorrow evening.

Tomorrow, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 7pm, (Ref: Maurice Deegan, Laois)

Latest from the medics and management…It could have been Westmeath, they’d have preferred if it was Tyrone but still Clare captain Alan Clohessy insisted his side are in a good position heading into this. Good luck with that. They name the same team that started the Munster final meaning he remains at wing-forward.

Gordon Kelly, Gary Brennan and David Tubridy form the sort of spine that might cause middle-tier teams a few problems but they aren’t up against a middle-tier team. As for style, they could sit deep and hope the beating isn’t too bad but they went for it against Cork with nothing to lose and it’s the same situation here, so expect an orthodox and physical approach.

CLARE: Joe Hayes (Lissycasey); Kevin Harnett (Meelick), Barry Duggan (Cratloe), Laurence Healy (Ennistymon); Enda Coughlan (Kilmurry-Ibrickane), Gordon Kelly (St Joseph’s Milltown-Malbay), John Hayes (Kilrush Shamrocks); Gary Brennan (Clondegad), Ger Quinlan (O’Curry’s); Shane Brennan (Clondegad), Shane McGrath (Thomas Davis), Alan Clohessy (Liscannor); Rory Donnelly (Cooraclare), David Tubridy (Doonbeg), Michael O’Shea (St Senan’s Kilkee).

The calm after the storm for Kerry and the starting team’s reward for that performance against Tyrone is that they all retain their places. That’s in spite of Darran O’Sullivan’s return to full fitness but with the quarter-finals in mind, expect him to get plenty of game time, with Donnacha Walsh needing a big performance as it’s his spot that is in jeopardy. Don’t expect to see the same cynical fouling this week either as attention has been drawn to it so it’ll be stored away for when it’s really needed.

KERRY SF: Brendan Kealy (Kilcummin); Marc Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht), Aidan O’Mahony (Rathmore), Shane Enright (Tarbert); Tomás Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht), Eoin Brosnan (Dr Crokes), Killian Young (Renard);  Anthony Maher (Duagh), Bryan Sheehan (St Mary’s); Paul Galvin (Finuge), Declan O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses), Donnchadh Walsh (Cromane); James O’Donoghue (Legion), Colm Cooper (Dr Crokes),  Kieran Donaghy (Austin Stacks).

Checking  the odds…Kerry are 1/50 and even that is probably worth the mortgage. The handicap stands at nine points. But if you are anti-charity and want to lighten your wallet, Clare are 14-1.

Clues from the form guide…We still don’t think Kerry are capable of winning an All Ireland but their relative return to form will be enough here and may well be enough for a quarter-final win if they draw Dublin or Mayo. Certainly key players have hit a hot streak with Kieran Donaghy and Declan O’Sullivan playing their best football in an age, meaning Colm Cooper has support. As well as that, Bryan Sheehan is having an immense season while James O’Donoghue and Shane Enright have stepped up and not looked out of place amongst so many great names.

As for Clare, we know the talent of David Tubridy but there’s an overreliance on him and getting him the ball will be a problem. He excelled in Division Four and against Limerick but we saw how they match-up against the best teams out there when they were gamey but utterly outclassed by Cork.

The game breakers are…God. No, not Colm Cooper but the actual God. If will take divine intervention on his part to stop this being a stroll in the park for Kerry.

Kerry’s Colm Cooper. Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

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Gazing into the crystal ball…With this game, it’s more about seeing if Kerry’s key components can maintain their form rather than the actual result which is never in doubt. They won’t play as defensively with the half-forward line dropping way back and looking to counter and that will allow Declan O’Sullivan in particular to play more of his natural game and playmake. Kieran Donaghy won’t be dragged out to midfield as he was against Cork either although Jack O’Connor would like to see Anthony Maher be as dominant as Sheehan in that sector.

As for the backs, we still think Aidan O’Mahony and Eoin Brosnan could be exposed by the fastest and the best teams, but that’s not Clare. None of that is a go at the underdogs, they’ve bounced back from missing out on promotion and it’s a huge success story that they are still about as August creeps up on us. But this was the worst draw possible and the worst timing possible.

Verdict… Kerry by 12

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