PREVIEW: Survival/Semi-Final Spot On The Line As Kerry And Tyrone Renew Rivalry

Posted by

INEC Bay Run Insert

Bryan Sheehan, will be absolutely if Kerry are to avoid the drop this Sunday. Photo by Dermot Crean.

Bryan Sheehan will be absolutely vital to Kerry’s chances on Sunday. Photo by Dermot Crean.

KERRY and Tyrone renew acquaintances once more this Sunday in a game with survival on the line for both sides.

Though for various reasons it lacks the spice of years gone by.

The permutations this Sunday are that Kerry need a win away to guarantee survival, but can stay up if Tyrone win by less than two points.

A semi-final place is still alive also, if Kerry beat Tyrone and Monaghan beat Dublin in Clones.

Ahead of what Sky Sports would probably term ‘Sunday Survival Day’, the ‘team of the decade’ debate now seems a relic of another era.

It was an argument played out in pubs and clubs with precious silverware to show at the end of it.

Kerry followers would be lying if they said losing to Tyrone in two All-Ireland finals and an semi-final in the space of five years didn’t bruise their pride, but time is a great healer and having Sam helps patch up a few scars also.

In the time since Kerry lost to Tyrone in the 2008 final, Kerry have won four out of the five encounters. Most notably a championship qualifier victory in Killarney in 2012 and a 15 point drubbing last year which forced Mickey Harte to remark that it was “the worst display of any Tyrone team I have been involved with”.

It’s a sign of the times then that last weekend, after losing to neighbours Donegal, he re-evaluated that notion, dubbing it the new low.

Just when he may have thought, he was out of a relegation dogfight for three consecutive years as Kerry manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice is dragged in again once more.

He’s unlucky because statistically, if a side wins three games in the league, they are nearly always guaranteed survival. This year Kerry will go to the last day in search of four.

For the second game in a row there is a change in the number one shirt – Kelly this time making way for Kealy.

Often, you feel, national media doesn’t even notice the difference between the two!

In the back line, Paul Murphy returns in place of Pa Kilkenny. Up front, there is the welcome return of Bryan Sheehan – out goes Paul Geaney who’s carrying an injury. Stephen O’Brien makes the switch into corner forward to accommodate Sheehan and that valuable right peg of his.

What has grabbed the headlines however, is the inclusion of Paul Galvin and Colm Cooper at numbers 25 and 26 on the match day panel.

It’s nice to see both great men back, but, barring a rout (unlikely,  it’s difficult to see them play any part.

For Tyrone, they welcome back talisman, Sean Cavanagh. He was passed fit on Friday, after missing his side’s defeat to Donegal last weekend.

Looking at this game, the lack of prolific scoring forwards in the Kerry team is a worry. This will mean that Bryan Sheehan will have to bring his best kicking if Kerry are to win.

In the two games that Kerry won against northern opposition – in Derry and at home against Donegal – Sheehan, put in an exhibition of kicking.

The St Mary’s man’s absence was noticeable as Kerry sunk against Monaghan.

With Sheehan there, Tyrone will be wary of fouling Kerry outside inside 45 yards. This will hopefully open up chances for players to create inside a scorable distance.

With something tangible at stake for either side, this could be a cracking encounter.

Tyrone will be looking to test Kerry’s mettle with the double prize of staying up and relegating a side they have tormented so many times in the past.

But, unlike before, there is a gulf in quality between the teams, one reflected in championship performances over the last few years.

Verdict – Kerry by 4

Allianz National League, Tyrone v Kerry, Omagh, throw in 3pm, live on TG4

Comments are closed.