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Fitzmaurice isn't deserting Kerry's fearless attitude

By Declan Bogue

In 2011, there were nine points between the All-Ireland semi-final pairing of Kerry and Mayo. The Kingdom would go on to lose the All-Ireland in agonising circumstances with Stephen Cluxton's winning free-kick and over the winter, Mayo could bask in a year of setting the bar nice and high.

Since then, the Connacht side have only been beaten twice in Championship football – the All-Ireland finals of 2012 and 2013. Both were close-run things. They now enter this tie as warm favourites, perhaps the greatest team to have not won Sam. Should they qualify for their third consecutive final, that debate would probably move beyond doubt.

Yesterday, they named their team. It contained 10 of the side that started the 2011 semi-final. Richie Feeney, Alan Dillon, Enda Varley and Alan Freeman are all still on the panel, while Trevor Mortimor's Mayo career ended with emigration.

Kerry have named a side without 11 of the 2011 starters. Tomás ÓSé, Brendan Kealy, Tom O'Sullivan and Eoin Brosnan have all retired. Colm Cooper is recuperating, while Killian Young, Bryan Sheehan, Darran and Declan O'Sullivan, Kieran Donaghy and Kieran O'Leary are on the bench.

Given the suspicion that surrounded the announcements, sources yesterday said that the Kerry team was not a 'dummy' team; that in fact the experienced trio of Declan O'Sullivan, Sheehan and Young would be on the bench.

Only over Sheehan does an injury doubt hang, after he was replaced early against Galway, David Moran taking his place.

Having missed quite a bit of league action, there is a chance that Young could be replaced.

But then you look at Declan O'Sullivan, a man who sat out the entire league campaign only to take up an entirely pivotal role in Championship football and you start to question things.

Perhaps this is the greatest trick Eamonn Fitzmaurice has pulled yet, and he has pulled a fair few, such as the relocation of The Gooch. Under the Finuge man, Kerry have become the darkest of dark horses.

He addressed the questions of on-field leadership, saying: "When leaders move on there can be a vacuum. The lads have stepped up – Declan O'Sullivan is a big leader and Donnchadh Walsh has established himself as a big leader.

"The younger lads like Fionn Fitzgerald, Johnny Buckley, James O'Donoghue and Paul Geaney are all flourishing now."

As former team-mate Mike Quirke said on Twitter after the announcement: 'Fitzy's team selections are fearless. If this game is close in the last quarter, Kerry have ferocious impact and experience on the bench.'

We have to concur. Having the legs and the experience to cope with a Mayo team that is incredibly athletic and mobile, yet still retain enormous presence around the middle third, could be Fitzmaurice's greatest concern.

Let's see how he answers it by holding his experienced generals back.

MAYO: Rob Hennelly; Chris Barrett, Ger Cafferkey, Keith Higgins; Lee Keegan, Tom Cunniffee, Colm Boyle; Donal Vaughan, Seamus O'Shea; Kevin McLoughlin, Aidan O'Shea, Jason Doherty; Cillian O'Connor, Andy Moran (Capt.), Alan Dillon

KERRY: Brian Kelly; Marc ÓSé, Aidan O'Mahony, Shane Enright; Paul Murphy, Peter Crowley, Fionn Fitzgerald (Capt.); Anthony Maher, David Moran; Michael Geaney, Johnny Buckley, Donnachadh Walsh; Stephen O'Brien, Paul Geaney, James O'Donoghue.

Belfast Telegraph

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