Sunday's football previews: Meath can push Donegal close

Kerry are favourites in Killarney but they need to go to town on the Mayo kickout

 Mayo’s Lee Keegan: the team needs his ankle to hold up. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Mayo’s Lee Keegan: the team needs his ankle to hold up. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Donegal v Meath

Ballybofey, 2pm

Live, Sky Sports Arena, 1pm

This may well be closer than the advance notices make out. Donegal and Meath have played twice already this year, and though Donegal have had a couple of points to spare on each occasion it was only a freak late goal that won them the game in February. Declan Bonner’s side went on to win the Division Two final between the sides but had to come back from an eight-point deficit to do so. With a bit more composure Meath could be going into this two from two in 2019

Indeed, when the sides met in Navan in the middle of the 2017 summer it was only a majestic display from Michael Murphy and a virtuoso injury-time score from Patrick McBrearty that got Donegal over the line. They have unquestionably kicked on since then but does all of that really add up to a seven-point spread, as the various odds-compilers have it?

For Meath to prosper they will need more from Cillian O’Sullivan, who couldn’t get anything going last week against Clare. They did manage to get more forward in support of James Conlon than had been the case against Dublin, and that will have to be repeated here.

Donegal have been anointed by all as the coming men, mostly on the back of outwitting a Tyrone side that didn’t adapt to them. But since neither Cavan nor Fermanagh put up much of a show there’s an argument for saying they arrive here somewhat short of a test.

Meath probably won’t beat them but they’ll give them that at least.

Verdict: Donegal

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)

Last meeting: July 8th, 2017, All-Ireland qualifier R3; Donegal 1-15 Meath 1-14

Just the ticket: adult €25, seniors/students €20, juvenile €5

Odds: Donegal 1/10 Meath 15/2 Draw 14/1

Kerry v Mayo

Killarney, 4pm

Live, RTÉ One, 3.30pm

Where else would you be? What else would you be at? Both these sides have flaws but both are high up on the list of those with a puncher’s chance against Dublin. Sunday will decide the order.

Kerry are favourites, but surely only on account of their record in Killarney. No Kerry team has lost there in championship since 1995. Their recent body of work doesn’t compare to Mayo’s and they were soundly taken care of after a replay when the sides last met in 2017. Mayo have beaten Armagh and Galway to get here, probably the two best teams outside the Super-8s. Kerry have beaten Cork, who are improving but coming from a desperately low base.

Paddy Durcan is an undoubted loss for Mayo if the reports are borne out. It’s going to be a scorcher in Killarney, and Mayo could do with both his engine and calm head. They will need Lee Keegan’s ankle to hold up too. Their advantage is in experience above all – any bodies lost overboard will hurt them.

Kerry need to go to town on the Mayo kick-out. Both Galway and Armagh very nearly forced David Clarke into calamity in recent qualifiers, and it often looks only a matter of time before it leads to a goal. It could be the difference between the sides.

If Mayo avoid disaster they can go down there and win. That’s always a big “if” with Mayo, which is half the fun.

Verdict: Mayo

Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone)

Last meeting: August 26th, 2017, All-Ireland semi-final replay; Mayo 2-16 Kerry 0-17

Just the ticket: Sold out

Odds: Kerry 1/2, Mayo 2/1, Draw 8/1

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