Mayo travel to Killarney today to take on Kerry in what promises to be the game of the weekend. Questions marks hang over both teams with the news that Patrick Durcan could miss out due to injury, adding to Mayo’s depleted squad while no one really knows how good this Kerry team is just yet.
While Mayo will enjoy all of the momentum that comes with a run through the qualifiers, Kerry having been sitting idle for a number of weeks after their Muster final victory. Former Mayo star Alan Dillon sees positives and negatives in both teams respective entry into the super 8s, “Mayo have the last three games under their belt, three tough games and there are positives to take from that”.
“Some addition minutes in their legs, they’ve got players back from injury and the manner of victory against Galway was very positive. I think Mayo played their best football of the year in the first half but there’s always that danger when you come into a game against Kerry, who have been eyeing this one up since the Munster final and they’ll be looking for a big improvement from the cork victory”.
“They’ve had the last three weeks and that bit of freshness so there are pros and cons and we won’t know until the opening exchanges and we see both teams going hammer and tongs at it. There’s a mouth-watering challenge ahead of both teams and I’m sure there won’t be an inch spared either side”.
Dillon pointed to the impact made by the experienced heads within the squad while also praising the fresh faces added to the team this campaign, “There’s huge leadership within the squad and there’s huge experience. A lot of the guys who were at the fore last weekend (vs Galway) probably know they haven’t many more seasons left and they want to maximise their time in the jersey at this stage, you could see the passion they had and the hunger”.
“Darren Coen has been exceptionally good this year; he’s taken over the mantle of scores from play in the absence of Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran so he’s grown into a key player for Mayo up front. You look at the likes of James Carr and Ciaran Tracey and these new guys coming in are contributing which is crucially important and I think a lot of defences won’t like to see them sort of players coming”.
While Mayo have added some new blood to their forward line, Kerry have one of the best inside forwards in the country, and Dillon feels Mayo will have to be on top of their game to match these Kerry attackers, “We’ve always had are strongest line in our defence and we have to look at really tightening it up now for the next few games and make sure we can nullify Kerry’s strengths and be really compact in defence and break really hard.”
“I think they’ll go man to man but when you have Colm Boyle at number 6 who’s a natural sweeper and he’s got that defensive mindset to protect the full back line and when Colm wasn’t playing, Mayo looked a lot more open in their defensive structure. I think the likes of Geaney, Clifford and O’Donoghue will be man marked and there’ll be an extra layer of cover so even if they do get on the ball they won’t be left one-on-one for fear that these guys have the pace and power to skip in and get goals. If Mayo don’t concede goals against Kerry I think they have a fantastic chance of getting something down in Killarney”.
Come four o’clock this evening the talking will be done and the form book will be thrown out the window as two of the country’s top teams lock horns. Dillon believes his county has enough to overcome the kingdom in a tight game, “We don’t really know how much Kerry will improve from the Munster final and one thing is for sure Mayo will be targeting this game. I think Mayo could shade this by the slightest of margins”.