Pat Spillane: “While the big guns muster for Sam Maguire, here are my final predictions for all four Allianz Football League divisions”
In Kerry we don’t usually celebrate anything we achieve in football before St Patrick’s Day.
However, there is no denying that last weekend’s one-point win over Mayo in Tralee was seen as a turning point.
Eventually, Kerry prevailed in a tight finish.
Being beaten to death has become a recurring theme in the kingdom’s recent history.
Kerry supporters in weak shape might want to skip the next few paragraphs.
Take this catalog of close losses and draws.
Lost to Dublin in the 2015 All-Ireland Final and 2016 Semi-Finals by three and two points respectively.
Beaten by Mayo by five points in one replay in the 2017 semifinals.
Draw with Monaghan and lose to Galway by three points in Super 8s 2018.
A two-point loss in extra time – after conceding a last-minute goal – against Cork in the Munster 2020 semi-finals
And a one-point overtime loss to Tyrone in last year’s All-Ireland semifinals.
But it’s what happened at the business end of the 2019 tie final against Dublin that haunts every Kerry fan.
With 11 minutes remaining, Kerry went up a point against Dublin of 14.
Not only did they not score for the rest of the game; They didn’t even have a shot on goal.
Believe it or not, they didn’t even kick the ball over the halfway line.
They carried the ball into the Dublin half three times and got turned over each time. It still hurts to think about it.
In this year’s league they lost a three-point lead in Newbridge and finished the game evenly.
Again they gambled away a three-point lead over Mayo last weekend. This time they redeemed themselves with a free-kick from David Clifford in the sixth minute of added time.
No wonder Jack O’Connor was so happy after the game.
As the league comes to an end, my list of realistic contenders for All-Ireland remains unchanged. It’s still Kerry, Dublin, Mayo and Tyrone.
Mayo is the odd county in this quartet that hasn’t won an All-Ireland since 1951. The others have all had success in the last ten years.
So what are the odds of Mayo finally crossing the finish line in four months?
They tick all the boxes in terms of physicality, athleticism and martial spirit.
James Horan has fielded 31 players in the league and introduced many promising newcomers.
The question, as always, is whether they have enough marquee forwards.
They lost last year’s final to Tyrone because their forwards’ conversion rate in open play was 37 percent.
Against Kerry, their starting forwards scored 0-4 compared to 1-7 of their Kerry counterparts.
Although Ryan O’Donoghue was a revelation, they don’t have enough top-class forwards.
Imagine how much more effective they would be if they had a target man on the edge of the court for O’Donoghue and Cillian O’Connor to outplay on his return.
In the meantime, here are my predictions for how the four divisions in the league will fare.
DEPARTMENT 1: Final – Kerry vs. Mayo. Relegated – Kildare and Tyrone.
DEPARTMENT 2: Promoted – Galway and Derry. Relegated – Cork and Down. However, if Galway wins today they could field a weakened team against Roscommon in the final round which could be significant.
DEPARTMENT 3: Promoted – Antrim and Westmeath. Relegated – Wicklow and Longford. Depending on today’s results, Antrim and Westmeath may need a point each to secure promotion. Guess what? They play against each other in round seven.
DEPARTMENT 4: Promoted – Cavan and Tipperary
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/as-big-guns-assemble-for-sam-maguire-tilt-here-are-my-final-predictions-for-all-four-allianz-football-league-divisions-41471982.html Pat Spillane: “While the big guns muster for Sam Maguire, here are my final predictions for all four Allianz Football League divisions”