IN a summer of novelty in the All-Ireland SFC, tomorrow represents the start of a two-week period where there are prospects of seismic results in all four provincial finals.
Limerick begin tomorrow by trying to scratch a 114-year itch in Munster, Louth contest their first Leinster final in half a century on Sunday week, Monaghan try to bridge a 21-year gap in Ulster on July 18 and out west both Sligo and Roscommon are still entertaining hopes of success.
A triumph for Limerick would supersede all other feats given the scale of the football famine they have endured. This present bunch of players have experienced plenty agony in their own careers, with a bunch of them coming up short in 2003 and 2004, and the entire squad suffering the dejection of defeat in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last year after controlling vast chunks of that battle with Cork. Those setbacks do not seem to have sapped the spirit of Mickey Ned O’Sullivan’s team and they enter this match in a terrific shape.
Kerry’s wariness is justified. John Galvin always impressed at midfield against Darragh O Sé and Kerry must now quell his influence without the An Ghaeltacht maestro. In addition Limerick brilliantly scavenged for breaking ball against Cork last year and Kerry are minus their best exponent at securing carpet ball, Paul Galvin. The influence that Galvin exerted during his substitute cameos in the two matches against Cork earlier this month, cannot be over-estimated.
Possessing the double-act of Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy is a clear advantage in Kerry’s favour as Limerick’s highly-rated full-back Johnny McCarthy cannot be expected to quieten them both on his own. Kerry’s bench has also shown signs of strength this year with Barry John Keane most strikingly coming to the fore. The consistent excellence of the Kerry rearguard shows no signs of abating, and it’s worth noting that while Sean Buckley and Ryan caused havoc against the Cork backline last year, that was a patchwork Rebel defensive unit due to injuries.
Limerick do have a genuine chance of victory, playing away from home did not deter them from running Kerry all the way in 2004 and they are criminally overpriced at 11/2. But the suspicion is that the scare they gave Cork 12 months ago will count against them and place Kerry on their guard.
Jack O’Connor should ensure notions of complacency will have dissipated in their camp sufficiently to scrape home.
Verdict: Kerry by three
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