Group One of the Super 8s looks as though it will be a three-way battle for the top two spots, with Meath there simply to make up the numbers.
The Royals have enjoyed a good year so far, earning promotion to Division 1, along with reaching a first quarter-final since 2010. However, the manner of their defeat to Dublin left a lot to be desired and scoring just four points is unacceptable, regardless of the quality of the opposition. They also find themselves in a group with three genuine contenders for the All Ireland and will struggle to make any inroads whatsoever.
Donegal eased through Ulster and utterly dismantled a promising Cavan outfit in the final after they had dispatched a dangerous Tyrone team in the semis.
Their attack brims with quality and the ghosts of Jim McGuinness and Rory Gallagher are well and truly banished. Donegal boast Michael Murphy, Paddy McBrearty and Jamie Brennan in a devastating forward line that is so often supported from midfield by Ciaran Thompson and from wing-backs Ryan McHugh and Eoghan Ban Gallagher among others.
It took a second-half scoring surge for Donegal to beat Meath in the Division 2 final in March as they came from eight points down to overcome a stern test, while the regular league fixture was similarly closely fought. That being said, it’s hard to know how seriously Donegal were taking the league as it seems like they’ve gone up at least one level since the beginning of the championship.
If Meath defend like they did against Clare, or underperform up front like they did in the Leinster final, Donegal will rip them apart this time round. Donegal to cover the handicap of seven points.
Without doubt the tie of the round and arguably the tie of the Super 8s, the excitement around this clash in Killarney is palpable.
Munster champions Kerry have not lost a championship game in Killarney in 24 years, but that all counts for very little against a Mayo team that have largely had their number ever since the titanic All Ireland semi-final in 2014 that saw Kerry pip Mayo at the second time of asking.
Mayo got their revenge in the 2017 All Ireland semi-final, but they’ve also had the better of the rivalry in the league recently, including two victories this year. In what may be a bad omen for Kerry, none of the last five regular league fixtures have been won by the home team. Mayo have won three times in Kerry since 2015, including twice in Killarney, while Kerry have prevailed twice in MacHale Park over the same period.
The Westerners have overcome some early season jitters and looked somewhere near their best in an assured dismissal of rivals Galway in Round Four of the Qualifiers.
They are as dangerous an opponent as anyone to Dublin’s bid for five in a row and with the additions of Darren Coen and Fionn McDonagh to bolster their forward line, they now boast the forwards they were once said to have lacked.
They will not fear going to Kerry for what is essentially a make or break game in the Super 8s. The Kingdom were unimpressive in retaining the Munster title and if they don’t improve come Sunday, they will lose at home to Mayo yet again. We think Mayo will get over the line here @ 15/8.