Football

Kerry look to get All-Ireland defence back on track against biggest rivals Cork

Kerry manager Jack O'Connor hopes to see his side recover from their loss to Mayo when they visit Cork Picture by Philip Walsh
Kerry manager Jack O'Connor hopes to see his side recover from their loss to Mayo when they visit Cork Picture by Philip Walsh

ALL-IRELAND SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND TWO

SATURDAY

GROUP 1

Cork v Kerry (Pairc Uí Chaoímh, 3pm, live on GAAGO)

Usually, the only way you would see Kerry at the bottom of the table would be if you were hanging upside down, but that is reality. And still, this game isn’t a must-win. An upset for Cork and a third-place group finish for Kerry would really throw a cat amongst the pigeons.

Paul Flynn emphasised an improved Cork defensive system against Louth, although they still leaked 1-17 in what was probably the game of the weekend.

They will need to rack up a huge score at that rate, so don’t be surprised to see Stephen Sherlock utilised from the start. Kerry and boss Jack O’Connor (above) will surely be hurting, however, and no better time to put it right than derby day.

Odds H 7/1 D 16/1 A 1/10

Verdict Kerry

GROUP 3

Kildare v Dublin (UPMC Nowlan Park, 5pm, live on GAAGO)

Two teams that are nigh-on impossible to get a read on clash for the third time this year. The Lilywhites showed up when no-one expected them to in the Leinster semi-final, and arguably should have won. Equally, they failed to perform against Sligo, and on another day they could well have been beaten.

Dublin’s scoring threat in the big games has been markedly reduced. Between the two Derry League matches, that Kildare semi and last week’s draw with Roscommon, they averaged under 15 points. It has to click sooner rather than later for Dessie Farrell’s charges and anything less than a 5-6-point victory will sate the doubters.

Odds H 6/1 D 12/1 A 1/7

Verdict Dublin

GROUP 2

Westmeath v Galway (TEG Cusack Park, 5pm)

Conor Turbitt and Andrew Murnin’s late show could have been more crushing for Westmeath than they even realised at the full-time whistle in Armagh. The evergreen John Heslin was imperious, but it was a huge opportunity missed.

Galway’s strength in depth is frightening. Sean Mulkerrin, a natural full-back, has returned to the bench after a horrendous kneecap injury. Peter Cooke and Ian Burke have returned to the panel, while Matthew Tierney and Seán Kelly are in Footballer of the Year territory at present. Many people’s All-Ireland favourites, and it’s hard to disagree.

Odds H 7/1 D 16/1 A 1/10

Verdict Galway

Tyrone v Armagh (O’Neills Healy Park, 7pm, live on RTÉ2)

Odds H 5/6 D 13/2 A 11/8

Verdict Tyrone

SUNDAY

GROUP 1

Mayo v Louth (Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, 2pm, live on RTÉ2)

Defeat to Roscommon somewhat put paid to the endless hype in Mayo, fuelled by their Division One title success. Much has been made of Aidan O’Shea’s form at full-forward, while Tommy ‘Goals’ Conroy’s return is huge for Kevin McStay. What has arguably been most impressive has been the consistency from the likes of James Carr, while an entirely new full-back line has slotted seamlessly into elite level football.

One thing guaranteed with Louth is they will travel with no fear, but defeat here and they are staring into a Kerry match requiring nothing other than victory, which still may not be enough. Sam Mulroy is obviously the man to watch, but Liam Jackson has a knack of grabbing important goals, and could be one to watch. Mayo don’t tend to do things the easy way, but they’ll pass this test.

Odds Mayo 1/12 D 16/1 Louth 8/1

Verdict Mayo

GROUP 3

Roscommon v Sligo (Dr Hyde Park, 3pm, live on GAAGO)

The turnaround in Sligo has been nothing short of seismic. Eamonn O’Hara, a legend around Markievicz Park, kickstarted the celebrations with an U20 Connacht success as manager in 2022. The seniors also had an underrated run to the Tailteann Cup semis, made the Connacht final this year, and, of course, we all know about the “f***ing big dogs”.

Roscommon will know their opponents better than most, however. One thing about Davy Burke is he does his homework meticulously. Sligo will take a big support, but the gulf between Division Four and Division One is simply too vast.

Odds H 1/12 D 16/1 A 8/1

Verdict Roscommon

GROUP 4

Monaghan v Clare (St Tiernach’s Park, 2pm)

Odds H 1/6 D 12/1 A 5/1

Verdict Monaghan

Donegal v Derry (Pairc Seán Mac Cumhaill, 4pm, live on RTÉ2)

Odds H 11/4 D 15/2 A 2/5

Verdict Derry