KERRY face the prospect of a Munster final against Cork without their talismanic midfielder Darragh Ó Sé.
The Gaeltacht ace aggravated a groin injury in a challenge game on Monday night and is rated a serious doubt for the provincial decider at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday week.
It’s potentially another major blow for the All-Ireland champions who are already without the suspended Paul Galvin and the injured Declan O’Sullivan. And it could force the Kerry selectors to draft Kieran Donaghy out to midfield for the clash with Cork, thereby robbing its attack of another experienced forward.
Donaghy was in stellar form at full forward for Kerry in Monday night’s challenge victory over Meath in Templemore. But it was the sight of Darragh Ó Sé limping off as early as the 10th minute that will spark further anxiety in the Kerry camp. Ó Sé has been struggling with a groin problem for the last week, but still started the game against Meath.
His injury is the latest in a bizarre series of problems for Cork and Kerry heading into the Munster final, underlining the attritional toll of preparation for a modern GAA player. Cork could be without as many as six potential starters for the final — John Miskella (AC joint), Kevin McMahon (dislocated elbow), Paudie Kissane (broken arm), Noel O’Leary (AC joint) are definitely out, while Alan O’Connor (ankle) and Diarmuid Duggan (foot) are doubtful.
Kerry will be missing the suspended Galvin and Declan O’Sullivan through a cartilage injury and may now have to do without the four-time All-Ireland medal winner, Ó Sé. Neither Killian Young (shoulder), not Kieran Donaghy (knee) has played a full competitive match since the National League, though Donaghy does appear to be back to full fitness now.
The loss of Ó Sé would force the Kerry selectors to choose between the redeployment of Donaghy to midfield — with Tommy Walsh at full forward — or starting the in-form Tommy Griffin alongside Seamus Scanlon at centrefield.
Darren O’Sullivan, Sean O’Sullivan and Eoin Brosnan could form an untried half forward line for the All-Ireland champions. Ironically they may be up against a much-changed Cork half back line with Kissane and O’Leary out of contention for the wing back slots. That may give an opportunity for Kieran O’Connor and Anthony Lynch to come in and flank Ger Spillane.
Meanwhile, barring draws in the last of the provincial semi-finals this Sunday, the full list of 16 teams for the first round of the football qualifiers on July 19 will be known this weekend. The draw will be carried out live on TV3 at 6 o’clock on Sunday. The tv station will also have first rights to all three rounds of the football qualifiers, which will be played on consecutive weekends. Ultimately, this will produce the four teams which will contest the All-Ireland quarter-finals against the provincial winners on the second weekend in August.
Included among the 14 counties hoping to renew their challenge for championship honours are the current League champions Derry and the 2007 winners Donegal, along with Meath, Tyrone and Monaghan who will also have strong ambitions for a lengthy involvement.
They will be joined by the losing teams from the Ulster semi-final, Armagh v Down, in Clones at 4 o’clock (live on RTÉ2 and BBC2) and the Dublin/Westmeath game in Croke Park at 2 o’clock, which will be screened on TV3.
Only three rounds will be played in the qualifier series, but as a result of the motion from Wicklow which received almost unanimous support at this year’s Congress, League positions will no longer determine the championship status of counties from next year onwards. That will see the competition reverting to four rounds.
Under the ‘old’ rule, 2007 Connacht champions Sligo are consigned to the Tommy Murphy Cup, as a result of being relegated from Division 3. Conversely, Offaly’s achievement in topping Division 4 earned them not just promotion but the right to go through the qualifier route.
The counties going into the draw are: Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Longford, Roscommon, Kildare, Tipperary, Meath, Louth, Limerick, Tyrone, Offaly, Laois and Derry — along with Westmeath or Dublin and Down or Armagh. The first team drawn will have home venue provided their ground meets safety requirements.
The draw for Phase 3 of the hurling qualifier competition will also be made on Sunday. This will involve, Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Offaly, who will be paired on a ‘cross provincial’ basis. These games are scheduled for July 12, the day before the Munster hurling final. The competition gets under way next Saturday, with Galway travelling to Casement Park to take on Antrim.
Phase 2 will involve the same two teams in games against the first round losers in Munster and Leinster — Waterford and Laois, respectively.
The winners of Saturday’s game will be paired with Laois, while the losing team will be lining up against Waterford.
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