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Monaghan hold the axe over Kerry as Super8s picture takes shape

By Declan Bogue

There was no need for hyperbole from Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice as he spelled out the daunting task in front of the Kingdom this weekend.

Having lost the opening game of their Super8s series against Galway, they are travelling to one of the most storied venues in the GAA tomorrow, seeking to keep their season alive.

What's more, Monaghan would have examined their schedule in the quarter-finals and seen a huge opportunity not only to defend their home patch of Clones, but pick up a first-ever Championship win over Kerry.

"We've a tough game now up in Clones and we're going up there, we're fighting for our lives and we'll have to bring everything we have, but I suppose the positive thing is that we're still in the Championship," assessed Fitzmaurice as he tried to move on from the Galway loss in Croke Park.

"If this was the old system of an All-Ireland quarter-final knockout and we brought that level of performance, that's it, we're gone, we're out and we're finished, so we have another chance," he added.

Their task is not simple. Malachy O'Rourke's men beat Kerry in the league in mid-February in Inniskeen, having achieved the same task in Killarney in 2017.

Kerry failed against an organised Galway defence, and only the performance of their teenage attacker David Clifford kept them in the game.

A full-forward line of Paul Geaney, James O'Donoghue and Clifford looks irresistible on paper, but it would seem that Fitzmaurice will want the leadership and aerial ability of Kieran Donaghy on the turf at St Tiernach's. How Down's Connaire Harrison profited twice from his duel with Monaghan full-back Drew Wylie last season will not have escaped Fitzmaurice.

"I read Darragh Ó Sé saying that they need to stand up and be men, but to me, you don't win the titles they have won at all age groups without serious leaders and battle-hardened players," stated O'Rourke.

"Who can argue with their tradition and quality?

"Kerry is a proud footballing county and they'll be coming up to showcase all the talent they have. We just have to be ready for that."

It's all on the line for both Roscommon and Donegal when they meet in Dr Hyde Park today.

In another one of those anomalies that need to be worked out over the winter, the provincial winners have been left with their home game as the last round of the series, and surely Donegal will be wondering why they put so much into winning the Ulster title.

The other factor is to look at the 4-24 that Roscommon conceded to Tyrone last weekend and wonder how the Connacht side can patch up whatever little confidence they have to make a fist of things before they travel to play Dublin in Croke Park in the final round of the series.

"I wouldn't look too much into Roscommon's result against Tyrone," Donegal manager Declan Bonner said with a note of caution.

"It was just one of those games. Tyrone have been improving steadily through the back door. They are looking like a serious team.

"It is going to be difficult down in Hyde Park.

"It is going to be a tough match and we know we have to get two points out of it."

Should they manage that, then they will have everything to play for against Tyrone in the final round in Ballybofey, regardless of how the Red Hands get on against champions Dublin tonight.

The other game in this weekend's Super8s is Galway's meeting with Kildare, which is staged in Newbridge tomorrow.

A narrow defeat to Monaghan has stalled the momentum of Kildare and they fell down on composure in an extremely finely-balanced tussle in the rain last Sunday, the conditions making football almost impossible.

Galway will be full of confidence after beating Kerry for the first time in Championship football since the 1960s.

They have already shown how their structure makes them exceptionally hard to beat and another two points here would have them safely into an All-Ireland semi-final.

Belfast Telegraph

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