Marc Ó Sé the Kerry legend was speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes about the opening weekend of Gaelic Football league games.
- On Dublin v Armagh – “Dublin still have that steel at the back and this will be a huge test for Armagh. I would give Dublin the edge, but just about.”
- On Kerry v Kildare – “I know Kerry have been back to training early, and although it is away from home, I think it will be a comfortable result for them.”
- On Mayo v Donegal – “Mayo have the biggest supporters in the country and they will give the team the boost they need.”
- On Tyrone v Monaghan – “Tyrone would have been on a session on their well-deserved holiday so they’re not going to have the same amount of work done as other teams.”
Dublin v Armagh – Saturday 7pm
Croke Park under the lights on a Saturday night; the atmosphere will be huge.
Armagh seem to be on the way up with Kieran McGeeney in charge. Kieran Donaghy as coach of Armagh will help with the emphasis on the long ball into Rian O’Neill. For a team like Armagh playing in Croke Park, this will be huge for them especially as they basically played a condensed season last year against Ulster teams. The experience that they will get from playing here will be vital. Kieran McGeeney is really going to embrace this game. They have great talent in the likes of Rian O’Neill, Conor Turbot, Tiernan Kelly and Ross McQuillan who is back from the AFL.
“The experience that they will get from playing here will be vital”
However, they are up against it with a team like Dublin who will be fired up for this. Dublin have this ability of grinding out wins and have the experience of Brian Fenton, Ciaran Kilkenny, and Con O’Callaghan. There are question marks over Dublin with lots of big names all gone by the way side. This is an opportunity for Dessie Farrell to bring in players like Eoin Murchan and Lee Gannon. They still have that steel at the back and this will be a huge test for Armagh. I would give Dublin the edge, but just about.
Kerry v Kildare – Sunday 1.45
The early signs are positive for Kerry. 16 days in January saw them absolutely wallop Limerick, Tipperary, and Cork by a combined score of 55 points. Jack O’Connor has put out strong teams and this will be no different. Jack can definitely expect a hostile reception considering how he left Kildare. That said, he left them in a far healthier place than when he took charge. Getting Kildare to Division 1 and to a Leinster Final is great going.
“Jack can definitely expect a hostile reception considering how he left Kildare”
Kildare have a new management. Glen Ryan is in charge who is a huge stalwart of Kildare and the backroom team that he’s brought with him is real royalty. He has Anthony Rainbow who has huge experience in club management, and then there’s Johnny Doyle, Dermot Earley, and of course the Kerryman, Paul Galvin, who is now the forwards coach. So there is huge experience there. I think there will be a freshness to Kildare with the likes of Daniel Flynn, Jimmy Hyland, Darragh Kirwan – all quality players.
“Glen Ryan is in charge who is a huge stalwart of Kildare and the backroom team that he’s brought with him is real royalty”
That said, I still can’t see anything other than a comfortable win for Kerry. Considering you have the likes of Paul Geaney now playing in his preferred inside role and then you have Tony Brosnan and Killian Spillane all looking for starting positions. The competition is going to be huge. I know they have been back to training early, and although it is away from home, I think it will be a comfortable result for them. I can see Kildare putting it up to Kerry for the first 40-50 mins, but Kerry should pull away after 50 mins. I am going for Kerry to cover the seven-point handicap at around even money. That is my pick of the weekend.
“I believe they should have won the All Ireland last year”
I think Kerry will win Sam and I will put my head on the guillotine here and say I believe they should have won the All Ireland last year. Now there are a lot of Ifs in my reasoning, but if David Moore hadn’t got injured, and if David Clifford, their best player, didn’t get the cramp, those two players alone would have got Kerry over the line against Tyrone. It was the All Ireland semi-final, it went to extra-time, and went down to the wire. It is these little margins that get you over the line or don’t. Unfortunately for Kerry it didn’t. With Jack O’Connor in and with the few new players coming into the set up, they are my early favourites.
Mayo v Donegal – Sunday 1.45
Mayo have given away their home venue this year so effectively they’re away from home but they have the biggest supporters in the country and they will give the team the boost they need. Positive news from the camp that Oisin Mullin is not going to Australia and even in the FBD, they still have a very strong team in the likes of Ryan O’Donoghue, Tommy Conroy, and Diarmiud O’Connor.
“There is huge pressure on Donegal’s manager Declan Bonner this year”
Huge pressure is on Donegal’s manager Declan Bonner this year. They have a lot of young decent forwards so it’ll be interesting to see if Bonner gives them game time. They are a very physical side.
I think that even though they are coming away from Castlebar, Mayo will win.
Tyrone v Monaghan – Sunday 1.45
I have been thinking a lot about this game, it’s a tough one. Monaghan have been on the slide in the National League the last few years. They have been staring down the barrel at relegation, but that said they have been in division one for the last seven years. They brought in Aaron Mulligan from the under 20’s and he is a great addition and hopefully he will take the pressure off Conor McManus.
“They’re not going to have the same amount of work done as other teams and fitness may be an issue”
Tyrone would have been on a session on their well-deserved holiday so they’re not going to have the same amount of work done as other teams and fitness may be an issue. That said, they are a proud county. They have lost five players in recent months. Now it can be argued those lads weren’t getting much game time but from a panel point of view that is bound to have an impact on them.
Monaghan, being McKenna Cup winners, are on a bit of roll at the moment. I know it is early days but they have the extra bit of fitness built up into the legs so going by what I have seen in the early rounds of the McKenna Cup, I would give Monaghan the win here.