| 18.2°C Dublin

EXCLUSIVE Kerry and Tyrone will keep their powder dry but Dublin will get the deal Done' in league semi-finals

Close

David Clifford of Kerry, in action against Kieran McGeary of Tyrone, has learned to look after himself. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

David Clifford of Kerry, in action against Kieran McGeary of Tyrone, has learned to look after himself. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Stephen Cluxton could make a return for Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Cluxton could make a return for Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

/

David Clifford of Kerry, in action against Kieran McGeary of Tyrone, has learned to look after himself. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Pub quizzes ... just a distant memory at this stage but hopefully they’ll be back when the world settles back onto its axis!

Some time in the future when they resume, probably in GAA clubs striving to redress the deficit after the financial hits of the pandemic, the following question could be a tie-breaker: who contested the 2020 NFL Division 1 final?

It’s a trick question, of course, as there was no final, Kerry secured the title as table-toppers after the seven rounds of games.

This season may be no different, with the chances of a top-flight decider hinging on the outcomes of tomorrow’s semi-finals. Only victories for Dublin and Tyrone would create the situation where a Division 1 final was possible.

That outcome is more possible than probable.

In a sense, inter-county footballers have been short-changed when compared to their hurling counterparts.

The league consisted of only three regulation games this year, followed by promotion and relegation semi-finals. There was no league finals last year and there’ll be definitely none in some divisions this year.

And that’s before you even introduce into the debate the fact that there is no back door in the football championship, again unlike hurling.

One of the advantages of a tiered championship in hurling is that it allows the GAA’s games-scheduling strategists greater flexibility – food for thought, a column for another day!

That’s not to say this weekend’s action across the divisions is not something to look forward to. Not at all.

There are plenty of potential talking points – can Roscommon stop yo-yoing between divisions? Two provincial winners of last year, Tipperary and Cavan, are both in relegation play-offs. Can the free-scoring Derry maintain their rise? Offaly, too?

Then there’s the very interesting all-Leinster meeting of Meath and Kildare, as they both attempt to secure some traction on the upward climb towards their neighbours in blue at the top of the summit.

And will Stephen Cluxton (below) be among Dublin’s match-day panel for their meeting with Donegal?

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

After making his SFC debut in 2001, he has played, at some stage, in every league campaign since 2002, but hasn’t featured in this campaign so far.

There is nothing new about Dublin trying out new goalkeepers during the league. Bryan Murphy, Paul Copeland, Michael Savage, Shane Supple, Seán Currie, Evan Comerford and most recently Michael Shiel have all deputised but with the championship on the doorstep, you’d imagine Dublin will be planning his return soon ... though even the greatest can’t go on forever.

So to the first Division 1 semi-final. Tyrone face the long trip south to face Kerry in Killarney – two counties that tend to get under each other’s skins.

Close

Stephen Cluxton could make a return for Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Cluxton could make a return for Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Cluxton could make a return for Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Remember last year? Against the backdrop of Storm Ciara, it was a flinty enough encounter at times.

Tyrone, eventually, edged out the Kingdom 0-14 to 0-13 but just seven points were scored from play over the contest (Kerry 0-5, Tyrone 0-2).

There was a late change of venue and plenty of talking points – none more so than the dismissal of Kerry’s David Clifford. One of the modern game’s other leading exponents, Tyrone’s Peter Harte, also saw red in an unrelated incident.

Clifford did nothing – or nothing that was caught on camera – to deserve the second yellow card, as he came in for plenty of attention off the ball.

Perhaps the Tyrone lads were putting their own twist on the advice, a few years back, of a certain legendary six-time All-Ireland winning Kerry midfielder from An Ghaeltacht, my old sparring partner Darragh Ó Sé, who in a newspaper column offered the following advice to any potential opponents of Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly.

“To me, there’s still a bit of a scamp in him. His temperament has got better over the years but I still think there’s something to be said for pulling his tail and seeing if he’ll hiss back at you.”

In many ways there are similarities between Clifford and Connolly, in terms of their extraordinary ability and how they carry a burden of expectation, and would also have a target on their back.

The Fossa clubman looks to have a solid game temperament and is learning to stand up for himself as well, while being smart about it at the same time.

Both counties have probably got what they wanted out of the league to date, so it’s more than likely that they’ll keep their powder dry tomorrow – I don’t anticipate any major fireworks.

Kerry are going very well at the attacking end. They are currently the league’s top scorers across all divisions, but it is at the other end where the problems persist.

Their management have used their three games to date to afford game-time to 28 players and their concentration will have moved to championship mode since their last game.

With regard to the other Division 1 semi-final, I think Donegal boss Declan Bonner will be happy with how his team responded to the concession of all those goals against Monaghan.

In the absence of the injured Michael Murphy, others have emerged to assume more of a leadership role on the pitch – players such as Paddy McBrearty, Michael Langan (who has also scored two superb goals), and Niall O’Donnell.

Donegal have used 28 players in their three games to date and the return to action of Stephen McMenamin, following injury, plus Odhrán Mac Niallais’s return to the panel has strengthened their depth considerably.

However, with a Ulster preliminary round against Down just around the corner, I’m not sure how hard they’ll go after tomorrow’s game against Dublin, so I expect the Dubs to prevail.

The games with an early championship feel to them will probably be the ones outside the top-flight semi-finals, with the relegation battles between Armagh, who I fancy to defeat Roscommon, and Monaghan, who should overcome Galway, promising to be great tussles.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy