Séamus Moynihan warns Kerry of rejuvenated Derry

Mickey Harte’s team ready for third knock-out game in a row, in contrast to Kerry’s preparation

Derry’s Conor Doherty celebrates with Shane McGuigan. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Séamus Moynihan believes Kerry must be wary of a resurgent Derry at Croke Park on Sunday.

Having saved their season in Castlebar last Saturday, Derry now face Kerry in the last eight of the championship, a match which is a repeat of the 2023 semi-final between the counties when the Kingdom edged the result by just two points after a late surge.

This will be Derry’s third knock-out championship game in as many weeks, following a nervy win over Westmeath in their final group game and last Saturday’s preliminary quarter-final triumph over Mayo after a penalty shoot-out.

But Kerry’s last outing was a comfortable 14-point win over Louth on June 16th, so the contrasting preparations for each side must be a consideration ahead of this showdown.

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“Kerry will certainly be going in fresher,” says Moynihan. “On the offset of that though, Derry will be battle-hardened and they’re coming in with a very positive frame of mind. They are walking on air because they pulled the Houdini up in Mayo and got the result they wanted.

“They will be recovering well and they will be flying again [in a few days]. All these guys, they are professional in everything they do.

“Kerry obviously will be fresher, that’s an advantage for Kerry, but having said that they haven’t had the tough games that Derry have had over the last few weeks, which ultimately is an advantage from Derry’s point of view.

“As of now, Kerry haven’t really been challenged much, certainly not during the group stage. The last really tough challenge they had was in the first 25 minutes against Cork.”

Despite Derry’s lacklustre form for most of the championship – during which they lost three games on the bounce against Donegal, Galway, Armagh – Moynihan feels that Mickey Harte’s side might now have rediscovered their mojo.

“For me, I thought there was only one team in it in extra-time [against Mayo], and that was Derry,” added the Kerry great.

“They looked really energetic, they were playing for one another. After the game they were a united bunch and they will be going to Croke Park extremely united and confident that they have a massive chance to get back into the penultimate stages of the All-Ireland.”

Kerry footballer Ambrose O’Donovan and Cork hurler John Fenton, who captain their sides to All-Ireland titles 40 years ago, at the launch of the Circet All-Ireland GAA Golf Challenge in Killarney Golf and Fishing Club. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

The Harte factor is sure to be a feature in any discussion ahead of the match – the Derry manager has a rich history with Kerry, one Jack O’Connor knows only too well.

Harte’s decision to take the Derry job continues to generate heated debate, particularly among Tyrone and Derry supporters, but Moynihan feels the three-time Sam Maguire-winning manager realised there was a talented group to work with inside the dressingroom.

“Mickey is a really astute manager. I suppose it’s a funny one up in Derry, where you have a lot of former players probably cribbing and giving out about the fact that he’s there, he wasn’t wanted and what not.

“Mickey is his own man and he does his own thing, but we were all kind of surprised [when we heard he was taking the Derry job] because it would be akin to Jack O’Connor going from Kerry to train Cork. There are certain lines in the sand that you don’t cross.

“We are well aware that there’s a lot of people in Derry, their noses were put out over it. Obviously, Mickey thought long and hard about it, he has a great grá for the game and wanted to be involved, looked at Derry and recognised the huge potential there.

“There were always going to be a few arrows thrown at him but to be fair to the man he is, I don’t think he takes too much notice of that.”

“At the end of the day the county board in Derry would have looked at last year, they would have felt they left an All-Ireland semi-final after them.

“Mickey has great experience and he will use all his strengths to try pull one over Kerry again next Sunday. From a Derry point of view, I think that’s a huge bonus for them.”

Moynihan was speaking at the launch of the 23rd annual Circet GAA Golf Challenge at Killarney on October 17th and 18th in aid of Glenflesk clubman Jerry O’Leary who 12 months ago suffered serious spinal injuries in an accident while walking home.

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times