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Blood, sweat and tears in Ulster Championship contrasts with air of inevitability as Kerry take on Clare in Munster decider


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Munster Senior Football Championship final: Clare v Kerry (Sunday, Cusack Park, Ennis, 4pm, live on RTE)

IT’S an ill-divided GAA world. Donegal have had to knock their pan in to get to an Ulster final. As if beating the National League champions wasn’t enough, they then had to beat Tyrone – with a week to prepare – to make it to the Anglo-Celt decider.

Armagh didn’t get it easy either, but Kerry and Clare on the other hand…

One game against Division Two alsorans Cork and next thing Kerry are walking behind the band on Sunday for their 109th Munster final alongside a Clare team that had to beat a Waterford side that finished bottom of the National League.

Up North it’s blood, sweat, tears and injuries. Down south there’s that stagnant air of inevitability but Clare will hope to bring some freshness with a battling display in the heart of their own Banner County territory.

Kerry are bidding for a four in-a-row and a 12th Munster Cup in 13 years with the only exception the 2020 ‘Covid’ year when Cork beat them and Tipperary beat Cork.

Since then normal service has been resumed and Sunday’s meeting is a re-run of last year’s final which the Kingdom won by 14 points (5-14 to 0-15) at Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds.

Something similar is on the cards on Sunday although Kerry’s semi-final performance against Cork wasn’t particularly convincing. It ended 0-18 to 1-12 in Kerry’s favour with the bulk of their scores coming from Sean O’Shea (0-6) and David Clifford (0-4).

John McGovern (right) made his senior inter-county for Down in Sunday's win over Clare 
Picture: Philip Walsh
Clare lost out to Down in Newry in Division Three last month. Picture: Philip Walsh

Playing the final in Ennis gives the local supporters a chance to marvel at Clifford (scorer of 2-6 in last year’s final) and co. and also to get behind a talented Banner side that had little trouble accounting for Waterford in their semi-final. Emmet McMahon and Mark McInerney got the goals and Aaron Griffin scored five from play in a 14-point success.

McInerney’s dad Francis was among the scorers when Clare last won the Munster title – shocking Kerry in the 1992 decider. Kerry were in the doldrums then – their last All-Ireland had come in 1986 – and the Bannermen were All-Ireland ‘B’ champions then, had done well in the National League that season and were full of confidence under the management of John Maughan. Despite seven points from Maurice Fitzgerald, Clare won by four.

A repeat of that famous win over three decades ago seems impossible. After a semi-final performance that was nothing to write home about, Kerry will want a convincing win before they move on to an All-Ireland group that will, in all probability, also include Louth, Monaghan and Meath.

Clare will put up a fight. They were ultimately well beaten by Down in Newry in Division Three but they stayed with the Mournemen well into that game before Conor Laverty’s men pulled away in the final quarter. Down’s win meant they went up along with Westmeath and Clare finished third.

The Bannermen were unhappy to have lost to Westmeath in round two of the League when Mark Fitzgerald’s men had a ‘goal’ disallowed for a controversial square ball and the home side won by a point.

They put that disappointment behind them with a ruthless display against Waterford and will hope to showcase their progress by making Kerry work for their win on Sunday.

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