Sunday’s All-Ireland Football Quarter-Finals – Sean Cremin gives us his predictions on the days two fixtures, will it be victory for Kerry & Mayo?
Kerry v Cavan
Kerry must be expected to win here but I think this will be a much tighter game than people are expecting. Kerry have had a long lay-off since their Munster final win so there will be a degree of rustiness involved. Cavan have bounced back from a narrow defeat to Monaghan in the Ulster semi-final with two good wins in the qualifiers and I think they have deserved to see their season continue. I have seen them a good few times this season and I must say they have impressed me.
Kerry were excellent against Cork but it should be noted that Cork were very poor and the game should have been over at half-time. They destroyed Cork in the first-half of the game and they should have been home and dry by half-time. Numerous wides and missed chances allowed Cork back into a game they never should have been in and Kerry need to learn from this. Their forward play was excellent but they were given so much space that I can’t see Cavan allowing to them.
The positioning of Colm Cooper at centre-forward has added a lot of creativity. Their midfield has looked a good source of possession and they are moving forwards after a slow start to 2013. Cavan have had a fine championship so far and they have decent momentum behind them this season. They have a defensive system in place but it is very organised. They don’t just pile bodies back, they pressure and tackle in a very disciplined manner to force turnovers. A player like Cian Mackey has epitomised what Cavan are all about and they have gained a lot of admirers so far.
Cavan have had very shrewd game plans so far, in particular the nullifying of Jamie Clarke against Armagh, and it would be predicted that they will have a similar plan for the game against Kerry. Cavan may also be a tired outfit. They are a young team and they have had a lot of tough games in this championship so far which could prove to be mentally draining. Kerry must be fancied to advance but I think it could be a dogfight.
Mayo v Donegal
In my opinion this definitely is the clash of the round. We see a replay of last season’s All-Ireland final with two teams determined to get their hands on Sam Maguire. There are a lot of questions surrounding both sides and it’s another game that is hard to predict. Jim McGuinnes started mind-games last weekend with suggestions of fears for his players due to cynical play and I am not surprised that James Horan has stayed quiet in the build-up to the game.
Mayo have blown away each of their opponents this season. The opposition has been poor so it’s hard to know where they are at on that basis. Ciarán Whelan and Joe Brolly debated the issue on last weekend’s edition of The Sunday Game, with Brolly saying that he felt Mayo were in a great position and Whelan arguing that his experience with Dublin would suggest that big wins against poor opposition was far from ideal preparation. Until Sunday I don’t think that can question can really be answered.
I don’t think Mayo got the credit they deserved in last year’s All-Ireland final. Fair enough, they conceded early goals and left themselves with an up-hill task but they stayed in the game right until the end. They finally created a goal chance, when Seamus O’Shea slipped when through on goal, if that had been converted than the outcome could have been very different. They have looked like a better team this season but again, there have to be question marks about their opposition so far.
Donegal have not become a bad team overnight. The only thing that concerns me with Donegal is the fact that the strength and depth of the squad is being tested to the limit. Their squad is small. When depth was needed in the league, they fell short and found themselves relegated. Injuries to Karl Lacey, Neil Gallagher and Mark McHugh have proven to be very costly. They haven’t been able to replace them adequately. Up front outside of Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden and Paddy McBrearty there doesn’t appear to be a scoring threat. There are no replacements to challenge them and if they don’t perform there doesn’t seem to be a ‘plan b’.
There obviously still a very good team but I think this season has just shown that they appear to be a bit one dimensional. I expected a real statement of intent against Laois last weekend but they stumbled over the finishing line. They will need to get things right against Mayo or they could have to hand Sam Maguire back. They obviously still have a good chance to retain their title but other than Dublin I think this is the team who really can beat Donegal. I’m going to go for Mayo to win here. I think there time has come. They have Andy Moran back from last year’s All-Ireland final and I think he could be the difference.