Football previews: Dublin and Tyrone can secure place in semi-finals

Kerry’s attack can give them the edge over Donegal in intriguing Croke Park clash

Donegal duo Paddy McBrearty and Jamie Brennan could  prove a potent threat to Kerry’s defence at Croke Park.  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Donegal duo Paddy McBrearty and Jamie Brennan could prove a potent threat to Kerry’s defence at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

SATURDAY

All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals, Group 2, Phase 2

Cork v Tyrone, Dr Hyde Park, 5.0 [Live, Sky Sports]

Cork have been one of the great restorative stories of the football championship, bringing a consistency of performance and – in the circumstances – a brave reversion to what they know best, flat-out, man-to-man duelling that has produced decent results.

They were live contenders for the Munster title going down the stretch and if a 13-point defeat stretches the consensus view of ‘decent,’ three goals in five minutes at the end of a match has a fair impact on such a margin.

Cork’s conditioning and fitness is much improved on last year but it’s not tempered in these sorts of matches so the closing minutes always run the risk of being disproportionately damaging.

The bad news about Saturday is that Tyrone are unlikely to play along with the once orthodox set-ups, facilitated by Dublin and Kerry, and the consequences will be less space for Brian Hurley and Mark Collins to weave their patterns and more congested passage through the centre of the defence than the runways down which Ruairí Deane and Ian Maguire have roared down in recent weeks.

Cork’s defence will be under scrutiny and not just to see how they handle the lone wolf threat of Cathal McShane. Even if they stay put, as say, Dublin in the startling 2011 semi-final against Donegal can they cope with the quick counter-attacks and fast hands of Tyrone on the break?

For all Cork’s improvements, they are a work in progress and this contest promises to be a key module in the learning process but can they crack it first time of asking? Unlikely.

Last meeting: All-Ireland SFQ round four, 7th July 2018, Tyrone 3-20, Cork 0-13.
Just the ticket: Stand: adult – €30.00, juveniles (U16) – €5.00 (Cusack and Davin Stands). Hill 16 Terrace €20. Concessions in Cusack and Davin.
Odds: Tyrone 2/7, Cork 7/2 and 11/1 the draw.
Verdict: Tyrone  

Dublin v Roscommon, Croke Park, 7.0 [Live, Sky Sports]

The return of Diarmuid Connolly to the fold can’t be simply ascribed to Jim Gavin’s genius for deflection but it served that purpose for this week even if the player’s likely to need a little longer to reacclimatise.

More significant than the late goal-burst last week to see off Cork was the reappearance of Jonny Cooper, Eoin Murchan and James McCarthy after varying lengths of injury-related absence, which greatly enhances defensive options.

Roscommon clung grimly to Tyrone’s shirt-tails in Dr Hyde Park but there was a sense that the Ulster visitors were unruffled in the end despite the apparent struggle. There was, worryingly, a scoring failure with Conor Cox off-beam and a total of 13 scores, more or less in keeping with their league average, against Division One teams and below their impressive returns in Connacht.

More sustained performances will be needed from Enda Smith and Cathal Cregg if last year’s valiant scoring in this fixture – Donie Smith got 1-3, all but  appoint from play, coming off the bench in the final quarter – is to be maintained.

Dublin’s attack will be more full-on than Tyrone’s and with competition for places gearing up, a hungry Dean Rock on the verge of returning to the forwards and the re-emergent presence of Connolly and perhaps, Bernard Brogan – who played in this fixture last year – adding to the cast, pressure is intensifying.

Roscommon’s defence – almost completely changed from last year – battled hard but it was caught on the back foot by the pace of Tyrone’s transition.

 No let-up, here.

Last meeting: All-Ireland SFC quarter-final phase 3, 5th August 2018, Dublin 4-24, Roscommon 2-16.
Just the ticket: Stand: adult – €30.00, juveniles (U16) – €5.00 (Cusack and Davin Stands). Hill 16 Terrace €20. Concessions in Cusack and Davin.
Odds: Dublin 1/100, Roscommon 22/1 and 40/1 the draw.
Verdict: Dublin

SUNDAY

 All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals, Group 1, Phase 2

 Mayo v Meath, Croke Park, 2.0 [Live, RTÉ]

The teams shifted last week to close the perceived gap between them even if their respective defeats were by similar margins. The difference was that Mayo’s exhausted and outclassed display in Killarney contrasted with Meath’s feisty trip to Ballybofey where late scores glossed Donegal’s win.

Nearly all of their forwards scored from play and they led going into the final quarter – although as Andy McEntee pointed out afterwards, that had not been the extent of their ambition.

Mayo’s tale was more woeful. Unable to shrug off the manacles of the Kerry press, which overstretched David Clarke’s kick-outs, Mayo struggled for possession and were picked off at centrefield where Aidan O’Shea’s lack of a steady partner took its toll on him as well as the collective effort.

More troublingly for James Horan’s team was that the brittleness at the back, exposed by a mundane Galway effort in Limerick was cracked apart by the sheer exuberance of Kerry’s forwards with the much-feared troika of Clifford and Geaney, especially, and O’Donoghue generating 1-8 from play in a collective performance full of movement and menace.

Meath have showed good spirit but their defence has been straining in recent matches. If the five-point return in the Leinster final pointed a finger at the forwards, the fact that Dublin’s 1-17 has since been exceeded by both Clare and Donegal must raise alarm bells.

Mayo have tended to bounce after their worst displays this year – Galway in league and Roscommon in championship – and they get a hesitant vote to do so again.

Last meeting: All-Ireland SFC quarter-final, 9th August 2009, Meath 2-15, Mayo 1-15.
Just the ticket: Stand: adult – €30.00, juveniles (U16) – €5.00 (Cusack and Davin Stands). Hill 16 Terrace €20. Concessions in Cusack and Davin.
Odds: Mayo 4/11, Meath 11/4 and 10/1 the draw.
Verdict: Mayo

Donegal v Kerry, Croke Park, 4.0 [Live, RTÉ]

This will tell us a great deal. Kerry were pitch perfect in Killarney and their focus, tactical acumen and application left Mayo standing. Their pace and stamina made them lethal on the turnover ball Mayo abundantly gifted them and also they also squeezed David Clarke’s restarts to death.

This will be a different story. Shaun Patton’s kick-outs are up there with the best in the country. He has accuracy and prodigious distance and the high press will come with a downside. Donegal are also better at centrefield than Mayo and have a more efficient defensive strategy.

Donegal have been hit badly by the season-ending injury to Eoghan Bán Gallagher, one of their fastest counter attackers and anyway Kerry are better placed to compete given the pace of Stephen O’Brien and Gavin White.

Declan Bonner’s side also have better forwards than Mayo. Jamie Brennan and Paddy McBrearty have been excellent and that form has facilitated Michael Murphy playing a floating role to devastating effect whereas in the past it more resembled a fire engine.

One of the features of the 2014 All-Ireland win was the extent of the success of Aidan O’Mahony in stifling Murphy but the latter is in better form this year and O’Mahony is retired.

David Clifford’s unfolding career looks destined for legendary territory so clever and accurate is his use of ball and realistically, no-one can expect a defender to shut him out and beside him Paul Geaney is returning to his best.

That attack can be the difference.

Last meeting: All-Ireland SFC final, 21st September 2014, Kerry 2-9, Donegal 0-12.
Just the ticket: See above
Odds: Kerry 4/6, Donegal 13/8 and 15/2 the draw.
Verdict: Kerry

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