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Calling the shots

Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

ALL-IRELAND FOOTBALL

CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL

TYRONE v KERRY (tomorrow, Croke Park, 3.30pm)

There's nothing like football without the tightrope.

Thing is, this used to be the way with the football Championship. Teams would cram all their fitness work into the weeks leading into the first game because you couldn't take the risk of being knocked out in the first round.

There is no doubt that teams now, with the back door and especially the Super 8s system, are looking to peak for the month of July. You can see that in Tyrone performances in Ulster over the last two years and there is no doubt that football in general is not played with the same fervour until the All-Ireland semi-finals stage.

But here we are, and Tyrone are still standing, a tribute to their powers of recovery surely, but also their ability to reframe setbacks.

Having examined this game up and down, and bearing in mind that bookies have Kerry priced up as favourites, we cannot make a case for a Kerry win here. Yes, they have frightening potential, but when the air gets thin at this stage of the competition, the work has to be laid down for season after season, year after year.

When these two met in 2015, Kerry were much further into their cycle. Fifteen men that played for them that day have either retired, picked up an injury or slipped down the pecking order. They can longer call on wily veterans such as the entire full-forward line of captain Kieran Donaghy, Colm Cooper and Barry John Keane.

Admittedly, what they have replacing them is just as exciting, with Sean O'Shea expected to play closer to the Tyrone goal and offer a foil for David Clifford. The difficulty is that neither man - and this goes for the likes of other young talents such as Gavin White and Killian Spillane - have faced this level of intensity and pressure before.

Cast your mind back to that semi-final four years ago. Tyrone drew level with eight minutes remaining when Mark Bradley nailed a difficult chance. The last four points of the game belonged to Kerry. Why? Because they just had it in their muscle memory.

The potential young players on the Tyrone squad of 2015 are no longer rookies. The Michael Cassidys, Cathal McShanes, Kieran McGearys and Conor Meylers have the advantage in experience. When the final minutes loom, we will see the 2015 outcome, only in reverse.

VERDICT: Tyrone

ALL-IRELAND FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SEMI-FINAL

DUBLIN v MAYO (Today, Croke Park, 5.00pm)

For many people, this is just as good as the All-Ireland final. Finally, we get to see Dublin getting a proper test of football in the year they look to make history with five in a row.

Is it going as well as it could? Well, manager Jim Gavin might have been happier if some of his more recognised forwards had have put their hand up against the Tyrone reserves in Omagh last Sunday.

Paddy Andrews and Kevin McManamon showed that their best days could be behind them, while the recall of Diarmuid Connolly is either a masterstroke or 'complete insanity' according to Tony McEntee. Only time will write that narrative. Even if Connolly doesn't play another minute, the opinions will match the eventual outcome.

Mayo's best chance possibly went out the door when Jason Doherty was confirmed as suffering a cruciate injury.

They will be as honest as ever, but it will not count. Dublin by a couple.

VERDICT: Dublin

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