JOE KERNAN is backing Down and Tyrone to secure victory in the weekend’s All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals.
The Galway boss, who steered his native Armagh to September glory in 2002, believes that the loss of key players will be keenly felt by Kerry against the resurgent Mourne men.
And while Dublin have shown signs of recuperation through the qualifiers, Kernan argues that the memory of previous heavy reversals at the hands of Mickey Harte’s men will be too much to shake off for Pat Gilroy’s side.
While Kerry coped with the absence of four of last year’s All-Ireland winning side in dispensing with Cork after a replay in the Munster semi-final, suspensions leave them more vulnerable than ever before according to Kernan.
“If Munster kingpins and current All-Ireland champions Kerry form a gigantic barrier to Down’s further progress, then a reinvigorated Dublin will fancy their chances of ending their recent dismal sequence of championship results against Ulster champions Tyrone,” Kernan wrote in his Belfast Telegraph column.
“The fact that Kerry will now be missing those two renowned dogs of war Tomás Ó Sé and Paul Galvin because of suspension, as well as the already absent Tommy Walsh, Tadhg Kennelly, Diarmuid Murphy and Darragh Ó Sé, will provide Down with an extra spur to offer an optimum performance especially now that Martin Clarke, Daniel Hughes and Dan Gordon are scaling new heights.
“And if Dublin’s new-found belief has had its origins in clinical rather than spectacular qualifier victories, then the fact that manager Pat Gilroy has suddenly acquired fresh selection options because of the course these particular games have taken will help solidify his side for their joust with a streetwise Tyrone outfit that normally thrives when Croke Park is transformed into a fiery cauldron.”
He continues: “Dublin’s memories of their 2005 (2-18 to 1-14) and 2008 (3-14 to 1-8) defeats by Mickey Harte’s side at the business end of the championship are all too vivid to allow the slightest frisson of complacency to invade their mind-set for Saturday’s confrontation. They may have exuded energy, industry and a subtle scoring acumen lately against what was in essence rather moderate opposition but the Dubs must still touch their forelock to Tyrone when it comes to experience, cohesion and sheer physicality.
“The general consensus is that Saturday’s twin version of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object is coming at just the right time — two games that the GAA has already predicted will bring the combined total of football and hurling championship match attendances to past the one million mark. But what could prove an even more telling insertion in the record books would be a lavish Ulster double.”
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