PREVIEW: Kerry Hurlers Can Make History On Sunday

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Mike O’Halloran previews the Joe McDonagh Cup Final next Sunday where the Kerry hurlers hope to overcome Antrim in Croke Park on All-Ireland Final Day…

A momentous day for Kerry next Sunday as they take to the big stage in the final of the Joe McDonagh Cup.

The setting is the biggest hurling stage in the world when they will perform as the warm-up act to the greatest hurling show on earth.

They have performed with Antrim on three other occasions lately, exiting stage right on each occasion, but Sunday is a new performance with a few new cast members being added to the ensemble due to injuries to the previous cast.

The last meeting of these sides took place a couple of weeks ago in the wind and rain.

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Kerry leaked a few goals early in the game and even though they did attempt a rally in the second half, it wasn’t enough to see them over the line.

They also met in the league earlier in the midlands in the final of Division 2 A the boys from the Glens won that day by three points.

I think the fairest way to access Kerry’s chances on Sunday next is to concentrate on the Division 2A final and not on the game in Belfast as the weather conditions and travel to the venue may have had a bearing on the display by the Kerry boys.

I mentioned earlier about a change of cast; there may be as many as five changes in the line up from the 2A final.

Two players definitely out through injury are the men from Lixnaw — Martin Stackpoole with a hand injury and John Buckley with a leg problem. Two huge losses.

Martin has been solid between the posts, but expect his understudy John B O’Halloran to fit seamlessly into the part. Antrim won’t have played against John B before and the Kerry puck out strategy may be changed for the wide expanses of Croke Park.

John Buckley has been the stand out player for Kerry this year in defence, making the hurling team of the week on one occasion.

This is tough on both lads as John had just returned to hurling this season after a long layoff and Martin missed the 2014 county final also with a hand injury.

Bryan Murphy the captain is hoping he can recover on time from his hand injury to make the team, Tomas O’Connor did a fine job in that position last time out.

Since the League final, the Kilmoyley boys have come on board and they will be the difference in Croke Park.

The last day in Tralee they contributed nine points with Dan Collins and Maurice O’Connor on the score sheet, with Paudie O’Connor very influential at mid field.

Word is that the Crotta dual star Barry O’Mahony will make an appearance he will be a huge asset.

So with the extra scoring power and game management the likes of Collins and Maurice O’Connor bring to the stage along, with the extra expanse of Croke Park I expect that the Causeway club will have a national title in their midst.

They may have to wait a few months for the trophy to be delivered though, given that Croke Park is not allowing teams to take the cups back home under present Covid restrictions.

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