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All-Ireland Championship: Kerry boss talks up Mayo

By John Campbell

Kerry manager Jack O’Connor believes that Tyrone’s exit from the All-Ireland football championship does not necessarily mean that his own team’s chances of recapturing the Sam Maguire Cup have improved appreciably.

The Red Hands have held the Indian sign over the Kingdom for the greater part of the last decade and although Kerry have won five titles since 2000, the strong feeling within the county is that they would have won more had Tyrone not proved All-Ireland party poopers.

Now as his team prepare to face Mayo in the first of this year’s semi-finals tomorrow, O’Connor is deriving little comfort from the fact that Tyrone are no longer in the hunt for football’s biggest prize.

“You would have to say that Mayo, Dublin and Donegal are three very strong sides who have got to where they are at on merit. This being the case they deserve to be treated with the utmost respect,” maintains O’Connor.

“Tyrone, obviously, had been very much in the frame until they were beaten by Dublin and obviously the Dubs’ performance in that game has made them favourites in the eyes of many to lift ‘Sam’.”

Last year Kerry were on the receiving end of an All-Ireland quarter-final drubbing by a Martin Clarke-inspired Down, and in 2008 Tyrone proved their masters in the All-Ireland final.

But while O’Connor admits that Ulster teams have inflicted mortal wounds on Kerry’s morale in recent years he is only prepared to talk up Mayo right now.

“They have done very well in their first season under James Horan and the fact that they have beaten the reigning All-Ireland champions Cork in the quarter-final speaks for itself.

“They will be very fired up for tomorrow,” insists O’Connor.

His decision to omit the fiery Paul Galvin from his starting line-up may have caused a few raised eyebrows but O’Connor certainly has strength on his bench.

Not only will the colourful and sometimes controversial Galvin be thirsting for action but Shane Enright, Tommy Griffen and Padraig Reidy are among the other players who will be keen to get plenty of game time.

“We are looking no further than tomorrow’s match against Mayo.

There have been some twists and turns in the championship this year and we will certainly be taking nothing for granted,” adds the Kerry boss.

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness and Dublin boss Pat Gilroy will scrutinise the game closely of course while at the same time continuing their preparations for their semi-final showdown on Sunday next.

McGuinness believes that tomorrow’s game will throw considerable light on the destination of ‘Sam’.

“We are very happy to be one of the four sides still in contention for the All-Ireland title,” states McGuinness.

“But there is an awful long way to go bef ore the destination of the trophy is decided.

“Tomorrow will give a further insight into just how things might pan out.”

Belfast Telegraph


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