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big clashes Pat Spillane's verdict on Sunday's two big GAA showdowns

"Last year I got it wrong. I thought Kerry would beat Cork handily in the Munster semi-final."

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Cork's Seán Powter in action against Kerry's David Moran during last November's Munster SFC semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Cork's Seán Powter in action against Kerry's David Moran during last November's Munster SFC semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Cork's Seán Powter in action against Kerry's David Moran during last November's Munster SFC semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Sunday World columnist Pat Spillane gives his verdict on Sunday's GAA clashes, as he backs Kerry to record a thumping win against Cork.

MUNSTER SENIOR FOOTBALL FINAL

KERRY v CORK

Killarney, 4.30pm

Live on RTÉ 2

I remember when I joined the Sunday World years ago I got the following advice from the editor: “Don’t sit on the fence, call a game as you see it.”

Last year I got it wrong. I thought Kerry would beat Cork handily in the Munster semi-final. My friends on social media had a good laugh as the Spillane big-match prediction backfired – I was the butt of all jokes.

And the gas part about it was that not one other pundit had gone for a Cork victory, but I took all the grief.

Now I don’t write the headlines, but the one over my piece last year was ‘Clifford and his colleagues could have a field day – I don’t give Cork a prayer against Kerry’. Do you know what – we could use the same headline again today.

Let’s be clear about what happened last year. Kerry boss Peter Keane had far too much time on his hands and obsessed about how Kerry would beat Dublin. He forgot that you have to qualify to play Dublin before you can beat them, and thus got his team tactics and his personnel all wrong against the Cork boys.

Do you know what? Kerry would have beaten the living daylights out of Cork in any subsequent game. But they didn’t beat Cork on the day it mattered. Such is sport!

Cork are not exactly flying into this game. Only two of their forwards scored from play in their semi-final win over Limerick – and their recent record in Killarney is woeful, they have not won a championship game there since 1995.

Kerry have run up huge scores this year, they are unbeaten in all games and their general fitness is way in advance of anything I have seen from a Kerry team in recent years.

But do they yet know their best starting XV? Does Peter Keane know it? Does he try to finish matches with that XV on the pitch, not start them?

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And, finally, it is just plain bonkers that only 2,500 people will be allowed into Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, for the match today. There will be at least three times that number down the town, watching the match on big screens on the streets. Will anyone be practising social distancing there?

VERDICT: Kerry to win convincingly

CONNACHT SENIOR FOOTBALL FINAL

GALWAY v MAYO

Croke Park, 1.30pm

Live on RTÉ 2

This is a much trickier provincial final to call. It might surprise you – but the only team with a 100 per cent record in 2021 is Mayo. The Green and Red romped through Divison 2 of the Allianz League, and blitzed Sligo and Leitrim in their two Connacht Championship outings.

We know all about Mayo’s fitness and athleticism and their warrior spirit. And we know, too, about their power running from deep positions on the pitch.

On the negative side, Sligo and Leitrim are hardly among the elite of the game and, of course, Mayo go into battle today without their leading scorer Cillian O’Connor.

So Mayo are coming in cold and untested at this level, we just don’t know enough about them.

As for Galway, they were relegated to Division 2 of the league, taking a 22-point hammering by Kerry along the way, but yet I’ve a sneaky fancy for them today. Unlike Mayo, the Tribesmen had a right tough battle with Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final.

Their youngsters looked the part, the Kellys, Matthew Tierney and Rob Finnerty, while Damien Comer (inset) and Shane Walsh are now fully fit.

Last year Mayo fell over the Connacht Final winning line against a Galway team that had played no game in the Championship to that point. I think Galway are better prepared this year.

VERDICT: A hesitant vote for Galway.

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