Having seen both sides in the last 48 hours, Jim Gavin’s panel seem to have the edge in pace, power, penetration and options off the bench.
Their performance against Cork was far superior to Kerry’s against a mediocre but improving Cavan outfit. Still, it is mission accomplished for Eamonn Fitzmaurice. The quarter-final box is ticked, and they are in the last four.
At no stage did Kerry look like they were going to lose to Cavan and Fitzmaurice was able to run his full bench and weigh up his options for the bigger test that lies ahead.
Everyone accepts that the standard of opposition is going to be ramped up enormously from what they have faced thus far in championship 2013.
I saw Cavan against London last week and they did not impress me and, in the first half yesterday, they looked like a team that did not believe they were going to beat their illustrious opponents. They looked nervous and they turned over possession far too often. Some of which set up easy scores, such as when Paul Galvin robbed a Cavan defender, fed Donaghy and he popped over a good point.
It can be difficult for young players, especially from the lower divisions, coming up against men they have watched all through their formative years winning All-Irelands and All Stars, and Cavan looked star-struck at times in the first half when they allowed Kerry to power into a 0-9 to 0-1 lead.
To be fair, they picked up a lot in the second half, pushing on and exposing some frailty in the Kerry rearguard.
Both Shane Enright and Fionn Fitzgerald fouled too easily, and coughed up three scored frees for Niall McDermott and Eugene Keating.
They need to work on their tackling and shadowing their men as a team while more belief and potency up front would have made a much closer game of it.
When it was a five-point game and Cavan had hit three-in-a-row, they proceeded to hit four wides, which denied them the chance to ask any real questions off Kerry.
But this was a tough game for Kerry to be fully up for. Everybody — perhaps even the Cavan lads — expected Kerry to advance and when the Munster champions led by 0-11 to 0-2 at half-time, it made the second half look like a dead rubber, unless Terry Hyland’s side could sneak a goal.
Kerry footballers are logical people and when needed, they can play the defensive system as much as anyone.
You only had to observe Colm Cooper chasing back and harrying to realise that no one is above shouldering their defensive load.
The Crokes man was very effective yesterday. He was involved in at least 35 plays and his ability to find colleagues and switch the play effortlessly was a joy to watch. Dublin will have watched his vital influence and they will want to crowd him out and keep his back to their goal as much as possible.
The further from Stephen Cluxton’s danger zone that Cooper is kept, the less of a threat his vision and finishing prowess will be.
It was interesting the Kerry management team took off Donnacha Walsh, Kieran Donaghy and Darren O’ Sullivan. Walsh had scored three points from play and impressed, and the forward line did not look any better with Kieran O’Leary, Paul Geaney or Patrick Curtin on board.
Considering the consternation that Ciarán Sheehan and Brian Hurley caused in the Dublin full-back line under an aerial bombardment on Saturday night, Donaghy can be a key weapon for Kerry on September 1, if he is supplied with high quality cross-field, diagonal ball.
My overall impression of this quarter-final is that it was the poorest quality game of the four played over the two days.
The standard was average at best and once Kerry got ahead, the intensity levels dropped off alarmingly. Kerry took their foot off the gas and seemed to go into their shell and just soak up the Cavan pressure and hit them for an odd point to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Ideally, they will have Anthony Maher and James O’Donoghue back to full fitness to strengthen their hand and give them more options next time.
They did what had to be done yesterday and no more. However, they don’t look to have the overall defensive unit to stop a Dublin team that has scored an average of 23 points per game in the championship to date.
We said the same thing in 2009, before Kerry went out to beat Dublin by 1-24 to 1-7 in the quarter-final.
A lot has changed, especially in Dublin, in those intervening four years.