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5 talking points ahead of Kerry-Mayo and Galway-Roscommon

The Division 1 and 2 finals take place in Croke Park today.

Tom O'Sullivan is likely to pick uo Ryan O'Donoghue once again today.
Tom O'Sullivan is likely to pick uo Ryan O'Donoghue once again today.

1. Who needs a win more – Kerry or Mayo?

IT CAN BE argued this game means more to Kerry than Mayo. 

Jack O’Connor set out his stall from the start of the season, targeting a league title by putting out very strong and consistent selections over the course of the spring. 

O’Connor wants to build confidence by delivering national silverware, particularly given they must wait five weeks before taking on Cork in the Munster semi-final.

 There’s also a good chance the Kingdom will meet Mayo down the line, so they won’t want to give the Westerners any added belief. 

Mayo won the league in the recent past, beating Kerry in the 2019 final. They’re not heading to Croke Park in desperate need to experience winning silverware at the venue or beating the Kingdom, but Mayo would take a lot from beating Kerry.

The Connacht semi-final with Galway on 24 April is looming and remains James Horan’s priority. However, there’s no reason why Mayo can’t go hung-ho for this final given there’s a three-week wait before their championship begins. 

killian-spillane-and-padraig-ohora Kerry's Killian Spillane and Padraig O'Hora of Mayo battle for possession. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

2. Kerry’s last test for a while 

After this weekend, Kerry likely won’t face Division 1 opposition again until All-Ireland quarter-final weekend on 25/26 June. Kerry will learn little about themselves in the provincial campaign, given how poor Cork have looked so far.

The Rebels narrowly avoided demotion to Division 3, while Clare, Limerick and Tipperary don’t have the artillery to give Kerry a test. 

So the Kingdom will have to make do with in-house games to keep them ticking over until the big tests come down the line. Dublin encountered little difficulty in overcoming the lack of challenge in Leinster before peaking at the All-Ireland series, although it’s something Kerry have had more difficulty with since Cork’s decline. 

They’ve had a much improved defence, yet question marks remain over their best midfield pairing, while O’Connor has yet to settle on his number one. This could be his last chance to road test his best XV before the latter stages of the All-Ireland.

3. Mayo could finish league in style 

The league clash between these teams in Tralee last month was played in a storm, but Mayo must learn from that narrow defeat – not least the inability of their forward line outside of Ryan O’Donoghue to generate scores. 

It’ll be worth watching how Horan uses Aidan O’Shea and if Cillian O’Connor has done enough work to make an appearance off the bench

Who’ll mark David Clifford? Padraig O’Hora was given the task in Tralee before Oisin Mullin moved onto him and struggled at times. Brendan Harrison has marked him before but he’s out injured. Could Mullin be handed the task again or might they use Lee Keegan on him?

It’s been a positive league for Mayo. Horan has spread game-time generously around his squad and built depth. To beat Kerry this afternoon would give them enormous momentum heading into the Galway showdown. 

cathal-sweeney-with-ronan-daly Cathal Sweeney takes a shot under pressure from Ronan Daly. Source: John McVitty/INPHO

4. Attacking game awaits in Division 2 decider

Both Roscommon and Galway have moved towards a more expansive styles of play. They are the top scoring sides across all four divisions and boast the largest scoring differences. 

Galway’s tally of 14-99 across even games left them with a total of 141 points, ahead of second place Roscommon on 123 points.

Since Steven Poacher departed their set-up as coach, the Rossies have returned to a traditional system. Instead of dropping bodies behind the ball, they play with six out-and-out attackers.

Against Galway last weekend, Ciarain Murtagh, Enda Smith, Cathal Heneghan, Cian McKeon, Donie Smith and Conor Cox formed a dangerous and talented forward unit that would give any defence problems. 

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Galway too have improved up front. Cian O’Neill has clearly been an excellent addition to the coaching set-up. Shane Walsh misses out this weekend and will be a huge loss, but the full-forward trio of Robert Finnerty, Damien Comer and Dessie Conneely bring plenty of scoring threat. 

5. Joyce and Cunningham want silverware 

An immediate return to the top flight was the priority of Padraic Joyce and Anthony Cunningham  at the outset of the league, but silverware at this stage of the season is not to be sniffed at. 

“We’ll go up with respect to try and win it,” said Cunningham this week. 

“We want a big performance in Croke Park as past results there haven’t been good. For us to go the next step has to be to perform at a high level in Croke Park.”

After six wins from seven and a date against Mayo looming, Joyce recognises the importance of maintaining Galway’s fast start to the year. 

“We need to go in and not lose two games in a row, so we’ll approach the game at the weekend like it’s a championship match. It’s great to have a day out in Croke Park, for the supporters and everything so we’ll give it our best,” he said.

“We’ll never refuse silverware. We don’t get a whole pile of it too often so when it’s there for grabs, you go try and win it. We don’t go up to try and leave it behind us.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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