Following Mayo's footballers

What’s the likelihood that Kerry will lose tomorrow?

9/4, according to Paddy Power who quote Kerry at 1/2 to prevail over 70 minutes in tomorrow’s Munster football final at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney. Those are mad odds, IMHO, but another way of looking at it, of course, is that it represents a superb opportunity to fill one’s boots with betting slips backing the Leesiders.

I dunno about you (or youse as they are wont to say in these parts, on Dublin’s Northside) but I think Cork have, at the very least, a good 50:50 chance of winning tomorrow. They’ve had two outings so far compared to Kerry’s sole appearance and, while they weren’t put to the pin of their collar in either, their matches with Limerick and Tipp constituted tougher tests compared to Kerry’s stroll in the park against a lamentably poor Waterford side. (By the way, folks, that was the Munster Football Championship – what an annual farce it is. The sooner they put some half-decent hurdles between Cork and Kerry and the All-Ireland series, the better but don’t bet on that one happening anytime soon).

I think there are a few reasons why Cork could win tomorrow. First, they have Graham Canty back in the side at full-back and, if there’s anyone (apart from David Brady, that is) who can put manners on Donaghy, then it’s Graham Canty. His absence through injury in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final was the main reason that Cork didn’t win – it forced Derek Kavanagh back to deal with Donaghy, fatally weakening the Cork midfield. With Canty back, Donaghy – himself just back from injury and looking out of sorts – should be well shackled, while Kavanagh should, alongside Nicholas Murphy, do well in midfield.

Indeed, the whole spine of the Cork side looks strong and Cork’s own Donaghy clone – the monstrous Michael Cussen – could give Kerry’s new no.3, Tom O’Sullivan, a tough time. What Cussen does with the ball he gets will be crucial and the likes of U21 star Fintan Goold will have to see to it that all the responsibility for getting scores doesn’t rest with James Masters.

This is the first real test for new Kerry manager Pat O’Shea, who has the tough job of trying to steer Kerry to become the first county to win back-to-back All-Irelands since Cork did so back in 1990. Defeat tomorrow wouldn’t be a complete disaster for Kerry but it would, in O’Shea’s home town, still be a big blow to the new man at the helm in the Kingdom.

Kerry haven’t won a Munster final in Killarney since 1986 and if Cork produce the kind of performance I think they’re capable of, they could well ensure that this record is extended for another year at least. Cork by two or three, methinks.

Elsewhere, an injury-plagued Laois take on Wexford in the Leinster football semi-final at Croker. Laois have a veritable slew of injuries and this provides Wexford with a genuine chance of reaching their first provincial football decider in over fifty years. Wexford showed Louth a fairly clean pair of heels in the last round, while Laois stuggled for long periods to overcome a game Longford outfit. If Wexford demonstrate the same level of accuracy in their point-taking tomorrow, a shock win for the Model County could be on the cards. However, the weight of history cannot be ignored and so, injuries or not, I think Laois will sneak through to face the Dubs in the provincial decider.

Finally, the Mayo ladies face Galway in the Connacht final at Pearse Stadium tomorrow. I hope they have better luck than their male counterparts had back in May at the same unlovely venue.

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