Donegal are back in action and on the road this weekend as they make the long trek to the Kingdom where they face Kerry in Killarney in the Allianz National Football League. (Throw-in 2.30 pm)
And boosted by last Sunday’s victory over Cork in Ballybofey and with Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden back on board, Jim McGuinness and his men will be anxious to build on the four point win over the Leesiders.
They will also be anxious to add to their points tally to resurrect their league ambitions and more importantly move away from the foot of the table in what is proving to a very competitive and tight league.
There is no doubt there was a pep in the Donegal step on Sunday evening after registering their first win of the campaign and with Murphy scoring 1-3 and McFadden also playing well and scoring a point, Donegal looked in a different zone than they had shown in their previous two games against Down and Laois.
“It is a matter now of getting all the boys that have come back and work on their fitness in the coming weeks and also pick up enough points to stay in Division One and work towards having the team right for Cavan on the 20th of May,” McGuinness insisted speaking after last Sunday’s game.
Kerry bounced back last week against Down in Newry in some style having lost their previous game at home to Armagh. That game was in Austin Stack Park, and the word in Kerry is that the current team prefer playing on the wide open spaces of Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, which is also reputed to have a livelier sod than Austin Stack Park.
Kerry emerged from their meeting with Down with six points to spare on a 0-14 to 0-8 scoreline. All-Star midfielder Brian Sheehan posted 0-6, Barry John Keane 0-4, Declan O’Sullivan 0-3 and Patrick Curtin 0-1.
Kerry manager, Jack O’Connor, who has experimented with Kieran Donaghy at wing half-forward, has his hand strengthened with dashing forward Darran O’Sullivan having shaken off an injury that ruled him out of the trip to the Mournes last weekend.
O’Sullivan is expected to make O’Connor’s starting 15. However, the Kingdom will still be without the inspirational wing back Tomas O Se who is currently serving a suspension while Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper has still to return to the squad.
Cooper missed the earlier round of game due his club Dr. Croke’s run to the All-Ireland club semi-final. But while Croke’s were beaten by Crossmaglen Rangers a number of weeks ago, the multi All-Star is taking an extended break and has stated this week that he will not return to the squad until next month at the earliest.
There was much speculation last week in the build up to the Cork game on whether or not Jim McGuinness would start his two star forwards Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden. But as the world and his mother knows at this stage, McGuinness gambled and the gamble paid off and Murphy’s goals within 12 seconds proved the big score in the game and really rocked Cork.
And with both players coming through Sunday’s encounter none the worst for wear, both will be given the green light again this weekend.
While Murphy and McFadden impressed last week, Patrick McBrearty, Anthony Thompson and Marty O’Reilly probably did enough when introduced to merit inclusion from the word go this weekend, with Christy Toye, Eamon McGee and David Walsh, the men in bother.
With the exception of Ryan Bradley, Donegal will probably start as they finished against the Rebels.
Kerry are always a tough nut to crack especially, on home soil, and after losing to Armagh the last time they were at home, albeit in Tralee, it is almost unthinkable for Kerry, under Jack O’Connor, to lose two games in succession on home turf.
Yet, despite their aura of invincibility, the perceived wisdom of many is that this Kerry team without Tomas O Se and Gooch Copper are not all they are cracked up to be. They are thought to be especially vulnerable at full-back and given the strength and power of Michael Murphy, Donegal can definitely make hay in this area, if Murphy and McFadden get a decent supply.
However, don’t be at all surprised if O’Connor does not come up with a contingency plan and with the record books very much favour a Kerry win, a couple of early Murphy specials could make it an interesting 70 plus minutes.
Donegal travel down to the Kingdom by road in Saturday morning and Jim McGuinness, as has become the norm, is not expected to declare his full hand until shortly before throw-in time.