Huge crowd expected for Mayo-Kerry clash

Facing forward: Fionn McDonagh and his Mayo teammates will face a stiff test from Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile.

Facing forward: Fionn McDonagh and his Mayo teammates will face a stiff test from Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile.

After the opening two rounds of the league, Kevin McStay’s Mayo find themselves in fifth position in the standings with two points to their name after draws in both of those games.

Both the clashes with Galway and Armagh had dramatic finishes to them, one that felt like a win almost and the other a bit like a defeat, after letting a five-point lead slip against Armagh.

This weekend will provide a very valuable test, the acid test to see where we are in terms of being a competitive force, as we welcome All-Ireland champions Kerry to Castlebar.

Despite Kerry being very under-strength for their first two encounters, in a loss to Donegal and a comfortable win against Monaghan, you’d expect a whole posse of that All-Ireland winning team to be available for this weekend’s clash.

Jack O Connor made no secret of the fact he was resting Kerry players, especially those who had a tough run in the club championship after their All- Ireland victory.

Despite not one of his All-Ireland starting forwards playing in their round one game against Donegal, the Kerry starting 15 still had amassed 350 league appearances between them, which leads you to ask, how under-strength were they really? Even their second, string forward sextet, had bundles of experience.

After the two-week break since round two, you can expect to see David Clifford, Sean O’Shea and a whole host of others taking part for Kerry this Saturday evening.

Jack O’Connor will want to lay down a marker against Kevin McStay and Mayo, make no mistake about that. Unknown to the rest of the country before this year, full forward Darragh Roche proved a real handful for both Donegal and Monaghan as he scored 1-05 from play for Kerry in those two games, while another newcomer Donal O’Sullivan got man of the match against Monaghan scoring 1-03 for his troubles. Roche is 27 and O’Sullivan is 24 so they are not exactly on the young side in terms of making a name for themselves.

Rumour has it Tommy Conroy is primed to make a return against Kerry, which would be great to see. Along with new captain Paddy Durcan, they will add serious strength in depth to the squad.

I'm a little baffled Charlestown's Paul Towey, who only got 20 seconds against Galway, hasn't been given more game time; maybe they're waiting to unleash him against Kerry.

I know it’s frustrating for players biding their time, but when the opportunity arrives, it has to be taken when its presented to you.

Kerry are priced at slight favourites at 4/5 to win the game while Mayo are 11/8. If you think Mayo are going to draw their third game in a row in the league, then 13/2 is the way to go.

There is a huge crowd expected in Castlebar for the clash.

Roscommon find themselves top of the pile in Division One on four points after two impressive wins -Tyrone at home and then against Galway in Salthill in round 2.

Their primary objective will be survival, so they know one more point from the rest of their league campaign will effectively keep them in the top-flight. The sooner they achieve that goal, the better for them, as teams are going to be getting much stronger as the league goes on. They face unbeaten Armagh in a top-of-the-table clash in the Hyde on Sunday.

Despite Donegal beating Kerry in the first round in dramatic fashion, the wheels fairly came off against Tyrone as they were hammered 0-16 to 0-08.

Along with Monaghan, they look to be the team poised to make the dreaded drop into division two. Allowances must be made though as they are missing up to eight household names, which isn't an ideal situation for their new manager, Paddy Carr.

Their clash with Monaghan this weekend is already the proverbial four pointer as the losers are in real trouble.

Padraic Joyce will want to get Galway moving this weekend but they too must face Tyrone without a whole host of experienced players. Four of Joyce's starting six forwards from the All-Ireland final will be absent, either through injury or unavailability. When you take Damien Comer, Shane Walsh and Rob Finnerty from your team, it gives you some idea what you are dealing with. They could struggle without them.

Ray Dempsey hasn't had the kindest start to his senior Inter county managerial career as his Limerick team have gone down badly in their opening two games, leaving them at the bottom of division two.

The positive Dempsey can take from this however, is that his team’s first two games were against the Ulster and Leinster champions, Derry and Dublin.

He knows his team will have to get something from their away trip to Louth this weekend. The fact that league placings now have a direct bearing on the race for Sam Maguire makes these league games all the more appealing and intriguing, especially in division two as it's likely whoever finishes in the bottom two in division 2 will have to play in the Tailteann cup and not the All-Ireland championship.

Confusing as it seems, it will become self-explanatory when the time comes. For what it’s worth, I fancy Armagh and Tyrone to win their games against Roscommon and Galway, Donegal and Monaghan to draw and Mayo to draw their third game in a row in the league when they play Kerry. Surely that would be a first.


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