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Kerry's next step, Mayo's challenge, the opportunity for Galway and Armagh

Two massive All-Ireland quarter-finals await in Croke Park.

Kerry and Mayo renew acquaintances.
Kerry and Mayo renew acquaintances.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated Jun 26th 2022, 10:40 AM

1. Kerry’s next step…

It is just under three months since Kerry headed down the road from Croke Park, the league trophy in tow, the title of spring champions fastened to them and a sense of positivity as they turned the corner towards the championship. They blitzed Mayo that day by 15 points and there has been no slippage since in terms of resounding victories – 12 points clear of Cork and 23 points clear of Limerick.

It’s not new information that they were comfortably clear of the opposition in Munster, another provincial crown merely reaffirms it. But translating that into a hot streak of form in Croke Park is the next step they must take. Burning up the ground at home in Killarney is one thing, last year generated enough regrets for Kerry in their showing in the All-Ireland series, to prompt caution now.

Still they are a formidable unit. Their defence is spearheaded by speedsters, Shane Ryan has brought consistency to the number one post, Diarmuid O’Connor is growing in stature at midfield and Paul Geaney looks a revived figure in attack. The squad news sees Adrian Spillane and Jack Barry out, Dara Moynihan and David Clifford in. The presence of the latter linking up with his brother Paudie and Sean O’Shea provides a considerable problem for Mayo to solve.

Kerry have the form, now is the opportunity to cast aside concerns they have not been road-tested sufficiently to reach full speed.

2. Mayo’s challenge…

We’ve been here before. Mayo stuttering and stumbling their way through the championship before catching fire when the needed was greatest. They tapped into some of their best stuff in the 2017 All-Ireland quarter-final replay against Roscommon and in the 2019 Super 8s clash with Donegal. Both those wins were preceded by unconvincing and patchy displays, similar to the recent qualifiers against Monaghan and Kildare.

lee-keegan Mayo's Lee Keegan.

Can they step it up again at a critical stage? Injuries continue to hurt their cause, much like Cillian O’Connor’s absence ultimately hampered them against Tyrone last year, there is a sense they are now feeling the pain of neither Tommy Conroy or Ryan O’Donoghue being available close to goal. Some of the stars of those past shows of defiance have slipped into retirement, replacing them was never going to be a simple process.

They still have Lee Keegan giving towering performances, they still have Oisin Mullin after a winter where he looked bound for Australia and they still have some hope that they can lift themselves again. But their form and that of Kerry’s, means this represents a huge challenge.

tomo-culhane-liam-silke-and-owen-gallagher-celebrate-with-the-cup Galway players celebrate their Connnacht final win. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

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3. The opportunity for Galway and Armagh…

The quarter-final that has sparked most debate in the attempts to forecast a winner. The provincial champions that have impressed in taking down Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon, after previously claiming Division 2 promotion. The qualifier outfit that have rebounded in some style from Ulster disappointment with statement wins achieved over the reigning All-Ireland champions and the team that had handed them off in Ballybofey in April.

It’s a clash dripping with potential but also one loaded with significance for both camps. With big guns on the opposite sides of the draw, there is an All-Ireland semi-final place at stake and a viable pathway to a final. Galway haven’t been in the final since 2001 and their only modern semi-final appearance was in 2018, Armagh’s last final showing was 2003 and their most recent last four contest was 2005.

kieran-mcgeeney-with-fans Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney.

Padraic Joyce and Kieran McGeeney were two of the most celebrated figures in the game during their playing era. For all the plaudits their teams have received to date this summer, they will know the opportunity to push on further is a big one.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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