Eager Tyrone likely to expose Kildare’s defensive shortcomings
Allianz Football League Division One semi-final
Kildare's Alan Smith is bundled over the sideline by Conor Gormley during the league game in Newbridge last month. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Croke Park, 2.0
The first semi-final brings together two counties, who will be well pleased with their season's work to date. Having aimed, like all promoted sides, to consolidate their Division One status both have enjoyed positive campaigns on the way to the play-offs.
Neither Mickey Harte nor Kieran McGeeney have been renowned for flooding their teams with new faces in recent seasons but both have trialled extensively and successfully so far while gathering enough points to finish in the top half.
The divisional match between the sides in Newbridge last month proved a damp squib with Tyrone getting out of the traps so fast the race was over before it had started. Of some significance however was the impact made by some of the promising under-21 cohort that McGeeney has introduced to such effect during the league.
Seán Hurley transformed the fortunes at centrefield but isn't listed to start this weekend whereas Paul Cribbin, who kicked three points and could have had more, is. Also included in the announced team are Daniel Flynn and Niall Kelly, who have been attracting plaudits since the new year, and the under-21 goalkeeper Mark Donnellan.
How many of them actually play with just a week to go before the All-Ireland under-21 semi-final, is another matter but it's a great opportunity to take a look at the newcomers playing knock-out in Croke Park with the championship on the horizon and a potential league final against Dublin as the prize for winning.
Tyrone have looked formidable at times but could do with options at centrefield where Seán Cavanagh greatly supplements the attack but his brother Colm's form, for all his industry, has been inconsistent.
The attack has been excellent. Stephen O'Neill is on as long an injury-free run as people can remember without jinxing him. Mark Donnelly and Matthew Donnelly have added serious work rate to their talents - the latter in a linking role that at times takes him deep enough to be named at centre back in the starting line-up.
The issue in defence is at full back now that Conor Gormley is adopting a more supervisory role. Can Conor Clarke build on last year's promise or can Justin McMahon rediscover the form that made him an All Star?
Tyrone have the edge in this. Kildare's defence has been the leakiest in the division, the adventurousness of the half-backs routinely exploited, and Mickey Harte's team can punish that.
KILDARE: M Donnellan; O Lyons, M Foley, H McGrillen; P Kelly, E Doyle, P Cribbin; D Flynn, P O'Neill; D Flynn, N Kelly, E O'Flaherty; S Johnston, A Smith, J Doyle.
TYRONE:N Morgan, PJ Quinn, C Clarke, C McCarron, D Carlin, Mattie Donnelly, C Gormley, C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh, Joe McMahon, P Harte, Mark Donnelly, M Penrose, S O'Neill, D McCurry.
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).