1. Kerry continue good form

KERRY HAD A place in the Division 1 semi-finals virtually sealed prior to yesterday’s trip to Roscommon, but they got the job done to make it three games unbeaten.

David Clifford celebrates his late goal.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Peter Keane estimated after the game he used 30 players over the first three weekends of action. He’ll be particularly pleased with the form of young midfielder Diarmuid O’Connor, who broke forward for three points and made a good case for sealing a starting spot alongside David Moran for the championship.

Paudie Clifford, drifting out from the full-forward line, played the link role well once again and got his hands on plenty of ball. Paul Geaney’s fitness continues to improve and he alternated well between the full- and half-forward lines. 

“I don’t think we looked at it as if we were in a semi-final. We looked at it as a game we wanted to get more game-time into players,” said Keane afterwards.

“We made six or seven changes to the team so I think we were anxious to get fellas in and Tom started today and Stephen O’Brien started today and Mike Breen got his first start.

“Subsequently Joe O’Connor made his debut and capped it off with a fine goal towards the end. So we’re getting more game time into players’ legs and that’s what we were looking for.”

2. Water breaks affect Roscommon

Roscommon led by 0-4 to 0-3 at the first water break and kicked five of the first seven second-half scores to trail by 0-13 to 0-12 by the second one. But on both occasions, Kerry steamed cleared during the ensuing quarters.

They hit six points 15 minutes into the second quarter and 1-2 in the eight minutes after the second water break. When they sensed Roscommon were beginning to gain some momentum, Kerry had the class and threat up front to widen the gap between the sides.

Anthony Cunningham was disappointed with the nature of their final quarter showing.

“A lot of the lads would have learned a lot today,” he said. “A lot of the play we would have matched Kerry or had them on the back foot, disappointed with the last quarter, we can’t dress it up any other way. It’s a learning process for a lot of our younger players.” 

Kerry selector Maurice Fitzgerald and manager Peter Keane before the game.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Tyrone and Armagh clashes loom

Keane has stressed in recent weeks that one of his main priorities is to get through the league without picking up major injuries, so there’s a danger that comes with facing Tyrone two weeks out from their championship opener against Clare. 

The Kingdom will have home advantage in the clash against Tyrone in two weeks as they’ve played at home just once in the three games, while the Red Hand had two games in Omagh during the round robin phase.

Tyrone’s draw with Monaghan on Saturday sent them through ahead of Armagh on scoring difference. Fergal Logan and Brian Dooher’s side don’t open their Ulster campaign against Cavan until three weeks after Kerry play Clare, so they’ll certainly be targeting a strong performance here.

Roscommon’s bid to avoid the drop sees them face Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh in a shootout to stay up. A toss will decide home advantage as both counties have played twice at home so far.

“They showed great spirit today and wanted to work, a lot of very good play, it builds us but we’re fighting for Division one survival, it’s the biggest game of the year for us, that will help us,” said Cunningham.

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He added that the performance against Kerry will bring “confidence to players and training on Wednesday night will be honest. [We’ll] pick up the good points from [the] Kerry [game] as well. That’s why we want to be in Division 1, exactly that and we really know there is going to be a savage battle.”

4. Selection issues

Killian Spillane didn’t make the 500km round trip to Roscommon after picking up “a bit of a nick” during the week in training according to Keane.

They also opted not to risk Jack Barry after his recovery from injury, while James O’Donoghue has returned to the training field and may come into contention in the weeks ahead.

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Interestingly, Kerry goalkeeping coach Brendan Kealy deputised as sub keeper for the third straight game.

Keane was able to leave regular starters Sean O’Shea, Paul Murphy and Gavin White on the bench until the second-half, while Jason Foley gave another solid outing at full-back. The team is starting to take shape with Kerry’s attacking options looking particularly strong as their Munster opener looms.

“The most important thing is to be ready for championship,” noted Keane. “That is the priority.”

Kerry’s Mike Breen and Shane Killoran of Roscommon.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Roscommon response from Galway defeat

The Rossies were reasonably happy with their performance against Dublin, but their standards dropped in the six-point loss to Galway.

The Tribesmen were always going to respond after the hiding they took from Kerry, but Cunningham was disappointed with the nature of the round 2 defeat to their Connacht rivals.

This was a much-improved display and they played a good brand of football with Murtagh brothers Ciaran and Diarmuid kicking 0-6 between them. Conor Hussey and Shane Killoran also had their moments, while Conor Cox kicked a couple of nice scores.

Without playing a sweeper, they crowded out the Kerry attack at times with their half-forwards dropping deep, though at times their fouling let them down.

Still, playing in a group alongside Kerry and Dublin will have brought Roscommon on a great deal over the past few weeks.

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