The key battles as Donegal take on Kerry in Super 8 showdown
Paul Murphy (Kerry) v Jamie Brennan (Donegal)
BRENNAN has been irresistible in games this year. Two-footed, quick and determined, the Bundoran clubman’s first half display against Tyrone was right out of the top drawer. He timed his runs perfectly to receive possession and scored off both feet, netting one goal and coming within a whisker of a second.
Murphy is among the most experienced players in this Kerry side and he has the pace to stay with Brennan and even turn him towards his own posts with over-lapping runs on the flanks.
Brennan (2-14 from four games) has become a key player in this Donegal attack and the winner of this battle could decide the outcome of the game tomorrow.
Man of the moment
David Clifford (Kerry)
THERE’S nothing like a young fella in the green and gold to get pulses racing down in the Donnybrook studios but David Clifford is living up to his hype.
The All-Ireland minor-winning forward showed last season that he has the big-game mentality and all the skills to go with it and his performance against Mayo yielded seven points in a man of the match display.
At the risk of pooping the party, fans should remember that this was the same Mayo defence that could not handle Armagh pair Jamie Clarke and Stefan Campbell either at times during the Qualifier in Castlebar but there is no doubt that Clifford is a special talent.
He is in for a different challenge today against a Donegal side that will pack their own half of the field and earmark Neil McGee to mark him with support from Hugh McFadden.
The Donegal defenders will need to be on their game because Clifford only needs a second, just half a yard to turn a chance into a score or open up a defence.
If he gets the supply he needs, he could be the match-winner tomorrow.
DECLAN Bonner’s side is a versatile unit. They will defend in numbers leaving just Paddy McBrearty up front on his own at times and then look to turn Kerry over and transition from defence to attack in the blink of an eye. In McBrearty, Jamie Brennan, Michael Murphy and Ryan McHugh they have proven match-winners.
Donegal may drop back and allow Kerry to have short kick-outs which will leave them in position to set up in their own half, mark the dangerous forwards and soak up pressure. But if Kerry do decide to kick the ball long then David Moran will be their target and Declan Bonner will earmark Jason McGee, or Michael Murphy, to compete with the Kerins O'Rahilly's ace.
Donegal are bigger around midfield and are well equipped to win their share of ball and Shaun Patton’s kick-outs have been superb all season.
THE Kingdom strength is in their forward unit and David Clifford, Paul Geaney, Stephen O’Brien and James O’Donoghue are all potential match-winners for them tomorrow. The quicker they can get the ball into the Donegal half of the field the better and they will look to kick the ball into space for runners on the flanks to stretch the Donegal defence.
But the forwards will also have to do their defensive jobs and track the Donegal runners who will look to drag them towards their own goal at every opportunity.
Kerry have the attacking flair to cut any defence to shreds. Midfield pair David Moran and Adrian Spillane were in superb form against Mayo last Sunday and will be prepared for a battle royal against Murphy, McGee and McFadden while manager Peter Keane will need to earmark a player to keep an eye on Ryan McHugh who is a master at collecting breaking ball around the middle.
The concern for Kerry is the defence – they were too easily breached by Cork in the Munster final and not tested by Mayo who were wasteful in possession. They could struggle to cope with the pace and power of the Donegal runners.
Previous Championship meetings
September 21, 2014, All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final: Donegal 0-12 Kerry 2-9
A RARE mistake from keeper Paul Durcan was the pivotal moment in Kerry's three-point victory but Donegal had their chances in a tense Sam Maguire decider that proved to be Jim McGuinness’s final game as manager.
Donegal were just one point behind when Durcan kicked the ball straight to Kieran Donaghy who grabbed it eagerly and blasted home his side’s second goal.
Paul Geaney had scored their first in the opening minute but Donegal battled back and took the lead early in the second half. Colm McFadden came close to grabbing a lifeline for the Ulstermen but his late effort hit a post and Kerry held out of win their 37th Sam Maguire.
The only previous Championship meeting between the sides was at the quarter-final stage in 2012. Colm McFadden's early goal straight from a sideline ball proved the crucial moment of the match.
Donegal led 1-4 to 0-5 at the break and with McFadden and Mark McHugh both outstanding and the Ulster Champions extended their lead to six-points before Kieran Donaghy hit a late goal to test their nerves.
But Donegal held on and went on to beat Dublin in the semi-final and Mayo to win the second Sam Maguire in their history.
Sunshine with an outside chance of a shower and a high of 21*C.
Who’s the ref?
ROSCOMMON whistler Neilan took charge of the Tyrone v Kildare Qualifier in Newbridge and the Ulster semi-final replay between Armagh and Cavan.
He did a decent job in a game that probably wasn’t the hardest to referee, playing the advantage when possible and communicating with the players. Neilan did well to keep up with such a fast-paced contest at Clones that day and he’ll need to do the same at Croke Park tomorrow.