Tyrone's Martin Penrose and Kerry's Declan O'Sullivan will be bidding for success tomorrow. INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Kerry v Tyrone - All-Ireland SFC qualifier round three match guide

Has there ever been a All-Ireland football round three qualifier clash to whet the appetite as much as the meeting of Kerry and Tyrone tomorrow? Here’s the lowdown on a fascinating clash.

Tomorrow, Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, 5pm, (Ref: David Coldrick, Meath), (TV3 Live)

Latest from the medics and management…Kerry have made just the one change with Shane Enright coming into the defence for Brian Maguire. Darran O’Sullivan, who has been troubled with a hamstring injury of late, has to be content with a place on the bench again.

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 (Piarsaigh Na Dromada), Donnchadh Walsh (Cromane); James O’Donoghue (Legion), Colm Cooper (Captain) (Dr Crokes),  Kieran Donaghy (Austin Stacks).

Tyrone bring Stephen O’Neill back into their attack instead of Jonathan Lafferty in the only change from the qualifier win over Roscommon.

TYRONE SF: Pascal McConnell (Newtownstewart); Aidan McCrory (Errigal Ciaran), Conor Clarke (Omagh), Dermot Carlin (Killyclogher); Cathal McCarron (Dromore), Conor Gormley (Carrickmore), Sean O’Neill (Dromore); Joe McMahon (Omagh), Colm Cavanagh (Moy); Mattie Donnelly (Trillick), Mark Donnelly (Carrickmore), Peter Harte (Errigal Ciaran); Martin Penrose (Carrickmore), Stephen O’Neill (Clann na Gael), Owen Mulligan (Cookstown).

Checking  the odds…Kerry are tipped to progress at 1/2 while it’s a 2/1 shot that Tyrone will be successful in their journey south. The handicap betting has Kerry (-2) at evens.

Clues from the form guide…Upon the conclusion of the regulation phase of this year’s league, Kerry were in superb form with eleven points garnered from a possible fourteen. Since then they have slipped with a league semi-final defeat to Mayo and a Munster semi-final loss to Cork before scraping past Westmeath in their opening qualifier joust last week. There will be question marks over their form in the wake of that game but survival is the prime objective in the qualifiers and they are old hands at this level of the competition.

Tyrone appear to have recovered well from their Division 2 final loss to Kildare, a game that was characterized by the manner in which they were outsprinted in the closing stages. They fashioned a fine opening Ulster win over Armagh in what was a thrilling test of endurance and while they fell short against Donegal in the provincial semi-final, there were plenty positive facets to that display as they came close to sneaking victory through Martin Penrose’s late goal. They got the qualifier show on the road against Roscommon last Saturday, pressing on the accelerator to pull clear decisively in the second-half.

The game breakers are…It’s going to be interesting to see how Tyrone start this game given their tentative openings in their last two outings. The sense is that they will need to be quicker out of the blocks and it is the trio of Peter Harte, Joe McMahon and Martin Penrose who are the figureheads they need to gain a foothold early on.

If they succeed it will help relieve the pressure on other sectors like in defence where rookie full-back Conor Clarke is facing an immense challenge just two years after winning an All-Ireland minor medal and also enable an attack that features Owen Mulligan and Stephen O’Neill to thrive. In addition Darren McCurry, fresh from the minor ranks, looks a useful option on the evidence of his scoring exploits in Dr Hyde Park last weekend.

Kerry’s Darran O’Sullivan. Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

There were murmurs of discontent about Kerry’s form in the wake of last Sunday’s victory over Westmeath. It was a performance fraught with concerns, chiefly the fact that they only scored once from play in the opening 41 minutes of the game, and there were grateful to Darran O’Sullivan’s goal for vaulting them back into contention .

The victory should bring them on though and there is scope for improvement in the displays of several performers with Tomás O Sé, Paul Galvin and Eoin Brosnan notable exceptions in that regard last week. The extent to which they can unleash the undoubted class in their line-up and benefit from having undergone a rigorous examination last week, will be vital.

Gazing into the crystal ball…Colm Cavanagh described this game as a potential war during the week and the Tyrone midfielder is right. This could be a thunderous clash and is arguably the biggest game the football qualifiers have ever seen with two sides who have accumulated seven of the last nine All-Ireland titles, squaring off in a knockout clash in mid-July.

It is a huge opportunity for Kerry to reignite their 2012 campaign and this group of players can banish those nagging questions about their record against Tyrone. But similarly Tyrone can view this as a chance to announce their arrival as a championship contender again and continue to exert their hex over Kerry. There’s a massive amount at stake yet it was a draw that Kerry in particular needed to properly gauge where they stand. Jack O’Connor has taken teams through the backdoor successfully in the past and while that is not a guarantee they can replicate that feat, it will help here.

Kerry may not have all the stars of 2009 but they still have enough in their ranks. Home advantage should be of great assistance, the chance to topple an enemy from the past decade will surely motivate them and for all Tyrone’s development, the suspicion is that their new players are not quite ready for a test of this magnitude. Expect sparks to fly and Kerry to just prevail.


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