The state of play ahead of this weekends Joe McDonagh Cup matches sees Antrim in first position in the group, on five points, with Kerry on four and Carlow on three. Thus, there is little to separate the top three, but Carlow also have a game at hand, which gives them an advantage at the penultimate stage of the group. The men from the south-east face off against Kerry who are just a point ahead and will see this weekends fixture as a must win game.
Saturday sees Kerry welcome Carlow to Tralee for this crucial group contest (1:30 pm). The Kingdom currently stand in second place, having played three matches and won two. However, Kerry will have to raise their game after last weeks defeat away to Antrim. The Kingdom struggled for much of the game and were over reliant on Shane Conway to provide their scores. With serious ambitions of reaching the Joe McDonagh Cup Final, Kerry cannot afford to lose their second game of the competition. The Kingdom will hope for big performances from the likes of Shane Nolan, Mikey Boyle and Daniel Collins, all of whom performed well against Antrim last weekend. Home advantage should also make a difference for Kerry in a very close contest.
Carlow, meanwhile, are undefeated at this stage of the competition. Although they are in third place in the table, they have a crucial game at hand over Kerry and Antrim. Carlow drew with Antrim in round one after a tremendous contest, while they did well to grind out a win against Meath, by a one-point margin. The Kavanagh brothers will play a huge part for Carlow, as will the likes of Jon Nolan, Paul Coady and Chris Nolan. Carlow will feel that if they can come away from Tralee with a win, they will have one foot in the Joe McDonagh Cup final. Colm Bonner’s side will face a struggling Westmeath side in the final round and will be very unlikely to slip up in that game.
Saturday’s contest is likely to be a very tough encounter, with little to separate the sides. With a place in the final at stake, the game is essentially a semi-final for the Joe McDonagh Cup. Whichever side is hungrier on the day to progress to the decider will be crucial to the outcome. The prize for the winner is huge and that will add extra pressure on the day, which some players will thrive in, while others will struggle with. Kerry simply have to get a better spread of scorers and relieve some of the burden from Shane Conway. If they can do so, it’s anyone’s game. Carlow’s experience of playing in the Leinster senior championship only last year can’t be under stated, as it gives them huge experience of big games. Ultimately, Carlow should have too much for Kerry if they bring their A game to Tralee on Saturday.