MANUS BOYLE COLUMN: D-Day for Donegal and Kerry in Croke Park

Winners will avoid favourites Dublin in All-Ireland semi-final

MANUS BOYLE COLUMN: D-Day for Donegal and Kerry in Croke Park

Donegal will face down the Kingdom in Dublin this Sunday in a match that will decide who will go forward as winners from the group. With Kerry’s comprehensive win over Mayo in Killarney and Donegal’s win against Meath, both sides are in prime position to avoid Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Kerry attacked Mayo like their lives depended on it and showed a different kind of grit that we have not seen much off over the years from the Kingdom. They went for the jugular early on and never dropped the intensity until maybe the last 10 minutes when the game was most definitely over.

Donegal, on the other hand, were finding it hard to shrug off a determined and dogged Meath side who to their credit never gave up the fight and but for their exertions the previous Sunday against Clare, I doubt if they would have tired as they did in the Ballybofey heat.

Both Kerry and Donegal looked fresh in comparison to Mayo and Meath showing the benefit of winning your provincial championship, but from here on in it’s about winning every game. Donegal cannot afford to leave it to the last game away to Mayo in Castlebar. Kerry will have an easier game in Navan but Donegal have no choice but to go all out for the win against Kerry at the weekend.

While we did put up another big score against Meath, following great victories against Tyrone and Cavan, I doubt Kerry will afford us the room and time that we got at times in all of those games. Kerry have had another easy summer, they don’t have to do much to get out of Munster but that can play against them as well.

Cork ran them close in the Munster final and showed a number of weaknesses in the Kerry make up. They worked hard in the last three weeks and showed against Mayo what they can take to the table.

Donegal had it too easy against Cavan and to be fair Meath ran them close for about 50-55 minutes and both games showed how open at the back we are at times, especially when we are turned over.

While we do have a defensive structure when we lose the ball the policy now is to attack en masse when we go forward which is fine and the way that most other sides are playing at this moment in time. However, when we give away the ball or it is turned over there are plenty of holes in the defence with little or no cover for the full-back line, something if Meath or Cavan were bit sharper in front of goals could have made us pay.

Meath last Sunday had at the very least six or seven goal chances and Andy McEntee would not have been pleased with their finishing. Donegal and Kerry are seen as the biggest threat to the Dublin drive for five and the game next week will tell us a lot of who are best equipped to take the Sam Maguire away from the capital but if it is to be Donegal we need to get the defensive side of our game spot on. Yes, we have plenty up front, probably more that any of the remaining hopefuls, but what may be our biggest advantage may also be our downfall and something I have no doubt the Kerry management will be looking at in the coming few days.

Donegal and their management team will know the challenge of looking after the likes of Clifford, Geaney and Stephen O Brien, but it’s the movement of everyone else that creates the space and chances for the three sharpshooters. They, like Donegal, are not dependant on one or two for their scores and look to have got a good balance with their defensive plan.

Looking at how tired and jaded Mayo were will tell us very little about Kerry but they have had a lot of success at underage with many of these players and for those in the supposed home of Gaelic football, five years is a long time without Sam. They will not relish playing a team with the likes of Paddy McBrearty, Jamie Brennan, Eoghan Ban, Ryan McHugh or Michael Murphy; they are more than aware of the talent that Declan Bonner has at his disposal but you get a sense that there is a hunger in this Kerry outfit that has been missing for a few years now.

Donegal are in the same boat, many of the lads now involved have been up against these same Kerry lads through the underage championships and know what to expect but hopefully the experience and form that Donegal have shown since the league final will stand them in good stead in what is the biggest game yet of 2019.

INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT IN DUBLIN

Interesting development in the Dublin camp with Diarmuid Connolly back in training with the reigning All-Ireland champions. It could either be a huge mistake or a masterstroke. One thing is for certain neither Connolly nor Jim Gavin, the Dublin manager, rushed into the decision, something the Dublin set up don’t do. Could the press make it all about Connolly and upset the rest of the Dublin camp? Or by the press making it all about Connolly does it take the pressure off the rest of the players? Either way he is some player to get back into your squad in July.

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