PREVIEW: Trip To Clones Has Kerry Eyeing A Semi-Final Spot

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Gavin O’Connor looks forward to the Kerry v Monaghan, Allianz National League Division 1, Round 6 game at St. Tiernach’s Park Clones, Sunday 3pm (deferred coverage on TG4)… 

Stephen O'Brien and Kieran Donaghy, dispossess a Monaghan in the Allianz National League match in Austin Stack Park last year. Photo by Gavin O'Connor.

Stephen O’Brien and Kieran Donaghy, dispossess a Monaghan in the Allianz National League match in Austin Stack Park last year. Photo by Dermot Crean.

ON paper it looks like Kerry have a great opportunity to extend their winning run to four.

But memories of last year’s defeat to Monaghan at home may indicate this game should be approached with a healthy dose of trepidation.

In Austin Stack Park last year, Kerry fell flat against Monaghan and lost 0-10 to 1-11.

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The teams meet once again in the penultimate match of the campaign. Victory for Kerry would mean, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, stands a great chance of preparing a side for a National League semi-final tie for the first time since taking over in 2014.

Defeat and the Finuge man could be looking at fighting relegation on the final day once more.

Darren O'Sullivan in action for Kerry. Photo by Dermot Crean.

Darren O’Sullivan in action for Kerry in last year’s league game. Photo by Dermot Crean.

Kerry are currently third in the table on six points, a loss against Monaghan and a loss on the final day could well put The Kingdom in the drop zone.

Although if Mayo lose at the weekend against Roscommon, Fitzmaurice and co need not worry of such permutations.

Monaghan have two wins under their belt, coming against the division whipping boys Down (0-13 – 0-11) and surprise package, Roscommon (1-9 – 2-10).

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That victory against Down was the Farney county’s only win on home soil.  Mayo (1-12 – 2-11) picked up their only points of the league in Clones earlier this month.

The side are heavily reliant on Conor McManus, who has scored  an incredible 2-32 of  the side’s total of 4-62 in the National League.

So it’s natural to assume that if you stop McManus, you stop Monaghan. But that’s easier said than done which anyone who saw his blistering display in Croke Park against Dublin can attest to.

Despite being on the losing side, McManus, claimed man of the match after scoring eight of his side’s tally 16, five of which from play.

The Clontibret man is arguably the in form forward in the country at moment, so it will be interesting to see how Fitzmaurice and his backroom staff hope to curb his influence.

A massive loss for Kerry is Bryan Sheehan who has been sidelined due to a hand injury, the St Mary’s man finally succumbing to the rigors of a 20 match streak between club and county which contained only one defeat.

Kerry do however welcome back David Moran, Paul Geaney and Killian Young from injury and Alan Fitzgerald from suspension.

Given the result of last year’s match against Monaghan at home under very similar circumstances, you’d be wary of calling it.

Relegation is still a possibility so you would be hopeful Kerry can keep it going after wins against Down, Donegal and Mayo to ensure they stay in the division.

There’s also that carrot of a league semi-final and more importantly one more meaningful fixture, before the long break that leads to the championship.

Verdict – Kerry by three

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