All-Ireland Super 8s Group 1

Kerry v Kildare

Tomorrow at 6pm

Fitzgerald Stadium

  1. Fitzmaurice’s last stand?

The Monaghan game was billed as do-or-die for Eamonn Fitzmaurice but, in the end, he did neither. This time out it’s do-or-die again for the Kerry manager – but he could end up doing both. David Clifford’s last gasp equaliser in Clones afforded the Finuge man a stay of execution but anything besides a win tomorrow will eliminate Kerry and, in all likelihood, signal the end of his tenure.

Even if Kerry do win, their fate is out of their hands. It’s a perilous position for Fitzmaurice to find himself in and he’ll need a big performance from his team – and a favour from Galway – to make it through the weekend unscathed. 

  1. The keeper conundrum.

Legion’s Brian Kelly was drafted in to replace Shane Murphy up in Clones and while I felt it was harsh enough to drop the Crokes man in the first place, you couldn’t fault Kelly on the day. As strange as it was to discard your supposed number one keeper at this stage of the season, it would almost be even stranger to switch back again now. That’s not to say it won’t happen. If Fitzmaurice has shown anything throughout his tenure it’s that he’s not afraid to make big calls.

  1. A starring role?

Kieran Donaghy came in played the full game against Monaghan but up until the 74th minute he wasn’t utilised effectively. Unless Kerry are going to station Star in on top of the square send long passes in his direction, I don’t see the point in starting him – certainly not ahead of James O’Donoghue.

  1. He’s on fire.

David Clifford made his championship debut against Clare in June and the consensus was, yes, he’s class, but it’ll take time. Two short months later and he’s the main reason Kerry are still in the championship.

His numbers in the Super 8s have been frankly ridiculous. The Fossa teenager has scored 2-7 from 12 shots against Galway and Monaghan. He’s shooting 70% (7/10) on point attempts and 100% on goal attempts (2/2). It’s frightening stuff and Kerry fans will be hoping that his hot streak continues tomorrow evening.

  1. From Newbridge to nowhere

Kildare have been unable to carry the momentum from their memorable victory over the GAA (and Mayo) into the Super 8s and, following two defeats, they have nothing play for against Kerry. Having said that, Cian O’Neill, a former Kerry selector, will be desperate to avoid a hockeying in Killarney so you’d expect his charges to fight tomorrow.

  1. The permutations.

Their poor showing in the opening two games of the Super 8s means that Kerry now require snookers if they are to advance to the semi-finals. For the Kingdom to qualify, they need to beat Kildare, Galway need to beat Monaghan and there has to be a swing of six in the points differential between Kerry and Monaghan. (Apologies for all the ‘if’s in the next few paragraphs.)

For example, if Kerry beat Kildare by three and Galway beat Monaghan by three, Kerry will advance. If Galway beat Monaghan by five, Kerry only need to win their game by a point. But if, as expected, it’s a close game and Galway only manage to beat Monaghan by a single point, Kerry need to beat Kildare by five.

If the sides finish on the same points difference, it will come down to points scored. At the moment Kerry are on 33 and Monaghan are on 35. If the teams still can’t be separated, the team with the most goals will move on to the next round. Kerry currently have two. Monaghan have one.

The chances may be low but it’s not entirely unconceivable that Kerry and Monaghan might finish dead level at the end of play. If that happens, a play-off will be required

  1. The other game.

Of course, all the match-ups and tactics and permutations won’t matter a jot if Malachy O’Rourke’s charges go out and get a result in Salthill. A draw will suffice for both Galway and Monaghan and the conspiracy theorists will be out in force if that transpires.

Realistically, though, I doubt Galway will want to face Dublin in the semis. You might say that they’ll have to beat them at some stage anyway but I’m sure they’d rather get to an All-Ireland final than not.

Machiavellian scheming aside, I’ve been impressed by Monaghan so far and I think they have a real chance of pushing Galway close. There will be a lot of heads stuck in smart phones up in the terrace tomorrow evening at around twenty past seven.

Prediction: Kerry by six… but Galway and Monaghan draw.

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