Match Preview: Blues To Lead Kerry In Derry For Crucial League Match

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Gavin O’Connor says Kerry will be sharper this time out and should get the two points…

David Moran looks for a team-mate as Stephen Coen of Mayo looks on during the Allianz League game between Kerry and Mayo at Killarney on Sunday. Photo by Dermot Crean

David Moran looks for a team-mate as Stephen Coen of Mayo looks on during the Allianz League game between Kerry and Mayo at Killarney on Sunday. Photo by Dermot Crean

Derry v Kerry, Allianz National League, Celtic Park, Derry, Sunday 2pm

IT may just be the second game into the league, but already you can feel a little bit of pressure for Kerry to get off the mark.

The holidays are over and it’s time for Kerry to get up to speed after an opening home defeat to Mayo last Sunday.

The big news coming into this game will be the inclusion of Tommy Walsh in midfield. Kieran O’Leary is the only man to be dropped from last week, Bryan Sheehan makes the switch from midfield to centre-forward to make way for Walsh.

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The defence and full-forward lines are unchanged. The side are also happy to announce the return of three old stalwarts at this stage, Donnchadh Walsh, Killian Young and Anthony Maher.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice, sticking with more or less the same side would suggest the notoriously experimental approach to the league is being parked for the moment. The team picked for Sunday looks like the strongest side at his disposal.

Losing would mean a third year in a row where Kerry have spent the bulk of the league worrying about survival rather than being afforded the luxury of tweaking the side without the pressure of relegation.

The long trip to Derry is noted for being a match where three Kerins O’Rahilly’s players will make the starting team. David Moran, Barry John Keane and Tommy Walsh inclusions are not token gestures either.

David Moran has arguably been Kerry’s best performer since the first Mayo game last August. Thankfully he looks to have carried that form into 2015.

This could be a huge year for Barry John; two out of four of the scores he got against Mayo were carved out of pure guile. He showed tenacity to stake a claim for a starting 15 place rather than the cameo performance he has become accustomed to. He is still without a championship start after almost five years in the Kerry set-up.

We didn’t see much of Tommy Walsh last week, but with those three clean catches shortly after his arrival last Sunday, he announced himself back on the inter-county scene.

Fitzmaurice is right to start Walsh. There is still a bit of rawness in his game, which is understandable given the length of his absence. What Tommy needs now is games and this is the best time to give it to him.

Looking at Derry, they lost to neighbours Donegal last week by five points. Both teams adopted an ultra defensive formula in that game – it’s hard to not see them go the same way on Sunday.

Derry pulled off one of the early shocks of last year when they came to Killarney and won, kicking over some excellent long range scores while doing so.

It’s a long way up north, but given Kerry’s strong enough side and Fitzmaurice’s tactical nous when facing ‘the blanket’, I’ll give the Kingdom a cautious nod for victory.

Verdict – Kerry by 3 points 

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