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spillane's verdict Kerry need to demonstrate that they don't fear the Dubs and can match them in final straight

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David Clifford was in sensational form last weekend when Kerry ran riot over Galway

David Clifford was in sensational form last weekend when Kerry ran riot over Galway

David Clifford was in sensational form last weekend when Kerry ran riot over Galway

Allianz NFL Round 2

Division 1 south

KERRY v DUBLIN

Semple Stadium, 1.45pm TG4

Forget hurling and, indeed, all the other sports events scheduled for this afternoon.

This is the Match of the Day and, arguably, the most significant Gaelic football match of 2021 until the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Whatever 15 players take the field for Dublin will fit in seamlessly to their well-honed system.

Free-taker Dean Rock was missing last Sunday; his replacement Cormac Costello chipped in with 1-13. Nothing appears to faze them.

Dublin will not worry as much as Kerry about the result – for the All-Ireland champions, it will be all about the performance.

Kerry will have a different attitude – they need to win to lay down a marker.

Granted it is only the league, but they need to demonstrate that they don’t fear the Dubs, and can match them coming down the final straight.

Had anybody told me that the Kerry half-forward line would fail to score from play, and that Paul Geaney would be replaced early in the second half last Saturday, I would have assumed Kerry had struggled against Galway.

Instead, they gave a masterful performance in the first 40 minutes, hitting 4-9 from play. With a 3-6 tally, David Clifford was awesome.

Crucially, they played to their strengths – front-foot football with the shackles off. Their defensive play was solid all over the field, with their high press being particularly noticeable and effective.

But the nagging question remains – how good are they are? Galway simply didn’t show up.

By the time the final whistle blows this afternoon, we will have a much better idea of how good Kerry are.

The bottom line is that the Kingdom must win.

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VERDICT: Kerry


GALWAY v ROSCOMMON

Pearse Stadium, 2.0, GAAGO

If any team needs a performance this weekend, it is the Galway footballers who were atrocious in Tralee.

They had no fight, no pride and threw in the towel very early. It simply wasn’t good enough.

A win here is vital to restore pride. It is also a necessity, given they face Dublin in the last round. Today could be their only chance to win a game before a relegation play-off against an Ulster team.

Roscommon produced a spirited performance against the All-Ireland champions, and held them scoreless for 13 minutes in the third quarter.

But their nine-point defeat was a fair reflection of the game.

VERDICT: Galway


DIVISION 2 NORTH

DOWN v MEATH

Athletic Grounds, Armagh, 3.45, GAAGO

Down found out the hard way that taking on All-Ireland finalists Mayo was a big step up from Division 3 football. Bar the opening quarter, they were outclassed – and a 13-point defeat was deserved.

Meath won last weekend, though they struggled to get past Westmeath’s defensive set-up. On the plus side, they had 12 scorers, the Royals’ substitutes contributed 0-5 and they came from four points down in the last 15 minutes.

VERDICT: Meath


DIVISION 2 SOUTH

KILDARE v CLARE

Newbridge, 2.0 GAAGO

Kildare were very impressive in beating Cork with Darragh Kirwan and Jimmy Hyland (inset) playing star roles up front. After conceding five goals to Meath in the championship last year, they unveiled a new defensive set-up which did the job.

I was wondering how Clare would manage without the retired Gary Brennan and Gordon Kelly, who David Clifford has said was the toughest defender he faced so far in his career. They have a nice blend of youth and experience, and dominated at midfield last Sunday, albeit against a Laois team way off the pace.

VERDICT: Kildare


DIVISION 4 NORTH

LEITRIM v LOUTH

Carrick-on-Shannon, 3.0, GAAGO

A must-win for both counties after losing their first-round matches. Both were unlucky. Louth lost by a point and Sam Mulroy missed a late goal chance, which would have secured a win over Antrim. Leitrim lost to Sligo by seven points, but they played more than half the game with 14 men.

VERDICT: Louth


ANTRIM v SLIGO

Corrigan Park, Belfast, 4.0, GAAGO

This is a hard game to call. Sligo made heavy work of putting away 14-man Leitrim. On the plus side, it was good to see Niall Murphy back in the fold – he scored 1-3.

Likewise, Antrim fell over the line against Louth but they showed great spirit in scoring the last three points away from home.

VERDICT: Antrim

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