You have to admire the cheek of former Kerry players and managers down through the years.
No matter how often they beat Cork from pillar to post in the championship, out come these wily old sleeveens in the media telling us ‘The Rebels will fancy their chances of an ambush this week’.
The Kingdom beat Cork by 12 points in the 2022 Munster championship and by as many as 22 a year earlier — an aggregate of 49 scores to 20.
This is giants v minnows stuff but it doesn’t make for a great column if we simply state the most likely outcome.
Focusing on the outside bet — and the Rebels are 13/2 here — makes for a better storyline, and the quality of player on Leeside gives them that puncher’s chance as we saw in 2020.
That was the winter Munster semi-final when Mark Keane scored a knockout goal at the death to put Kerry out of the championship, and set the Rebels up for a fall in the final against Tipperary.
In the aforementioned 12-point defeat last season, Cork were competitive for about 50 minutes, at which stage the wheels scattered hither and yon.
Paul Geaney, David Moran and Paul Murphy came off the bench to power the Kingdom to an easy win, but crucially Moran has walked away since.
Midfield is an area in which Jack O’Connor’s side look a little shy, and Mayo very much exposed that zone in their opening-round game of the All-Ireland SFC group stages. Kerry should be able to weather an early storm here.
Can Kevin McStay keep the momentum going when Mayo take on Mickey Harte’s Louth this weekend?
The latter took an unmerciful hammering from Dublin — conceding 5-21 — and it would be no shock if they shut up shop in this game as a result. Louth +9 at evens might be a decent call for that reason.
Derry have beaten Donegal just once in the championship since 2008, and that just so happened to be in last year’s Ulster final.
Rory Gallagher was the manager for the Oak Leaf County that day but he has exited stage right to be replaced by Ciaran Meenagh, while Tir Chonaill have been through two bosses since.
Declan Bonner ended his long reign at the backend of 2022 while Paddy Carr was gone before the end of March, with Aidan O’Rourke now in charge.
His coach is Derry legend Paddy Bradley, a man with a deep insight into the opposition and one who has coached Conor Doherty and Paudie McGrogan at Newbridge.
One of the biggest challenges for their Donegal side is finding scorers given the retirement of Michael Murphy and an injury to new captain Paddy McBrearty.
In many ways, both teams are in disarray. Yes, Donegal are coming in off the back of a win against Clare but they have lost ground on the top sides in the country.
Derry may well have lifted the Ulster title after a penalty-shootout win over Armagh, but they looked in bother for long spells in the draw with Monaghan, where the loss of Gallagher may have first been truly felt.
To their credit, they came from three behind to nab a draw, and being incapable of getting a result from a losing position is a criticism that has often been levelled at them. The draw at 15/2 is an interesting bet as both teams could be vulnerable, and strange things happen when old rivals meet.
Since being crowned All-Ireland champions in 2021, Tyrone have won only one of five championship games and that came against Fermanagh in the 2022 preliminary Ulster round.
They lost to Derry in the subsequent quarter-final, to Armagh in the All-Ireland qualifiers, before coming up short against Monaghan and Galway this season.
The Orchard County will descend upon Healy Park in Omagh this weekend hoping to gain revenge on Tyrone for relegating them to Division 2 a couple of months ago.
They were level on 11 occasions before the Red Hands won by two, and it is generally tight and fearsome when 30 of these neighbours find themselves locked inside four white lines.
Five red cards were shown in injury time when they met in a league game in February 2022, while one of their 45 championship meetings had to be abandoned. Tyrone by 1-3 at 13/5 looks tasty.
While the Kerry greats try to sell us a pup in how Cork could have a kick in them ahead of the latest routine win, we won’t attempt to get your juices flowing over another Dublin v Kildare game.
This is not the same deadly Dubs under Dessie Farrell, as Jim Gavin’s iteration would not have allowed Roscommon to hold the ball for almost six minutes before scoring. Nor would his side have allowed the Lilies to be within two points in the Leinster semi-final.
Kildare are seeking their first championship win over Dublin since the 2000 Leinster final replay, with the Sky Blues winning all ten clashes since.
Now, given that the two games between league and championship this year were decided by three points overall, it is difficult to look beyond Kildare +6 at 11/10.
At Nowlan Park in Kilkenny, a ground whose patrons would normally wince at the sight of a football, neither team should know which are the scoring goals. Therefore, it should be relatively tight.
If you fancy an ambush from Kildare — or Cork — then the value is certainly there.
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