Kerry legend Seamus Moynihan feels quarter-final clash with Derry is a "50/50 game"

Derry’s Brendan Rogers, Ciaran McFaul and Conor Glass pictured at the end of normal time in Saturday's preliminary quarter-final clash with Mayo with Derry going on to win after a penalty shootout in Castlebar
-Credit: (Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie)

Kerry legend Seamus Moynihan reckons Derry will be ‘walking on air after their Houdini act’ in Castlebar at the weekend.

Mickey Harte’s side had their backs firmly against the wall, but emerged from their All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final at MacHale Park with a penalty shootout victory.

There is little respite though for the Division 1 League champions after their pulled Kerry in the last eight, although they are out next Sunday, so have an extra day to recover and prepare.

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After defeating Dublin in the Croke Park League decider - also on penalties - Derry lost three Championship games on the bounce.

All three were against the best of the Dublin/Kerry chasing pack in Donegal, Galway and Armagh, but it was still an alarming slump in form.

A narrow victory over Westmeath got them winning again, but the 2-7 they hit there and the 0-11 in normal time at Castlebar is unlikely to cut it at GAA HQ this weekend.

However, three-time All Star Moynihan (50) believes that Derry have “hit the wall and got over it” and this weekend is “a seriously 50/50 game.”

Moynihan says this weekend is the time to “hit the ground running” and that “it’s been handbags stuff up to now.”

“I think it’s way more difficult at the minute, trying to just get that team ready for the right time of the year,” he said.

“I suppose ultimately it’s very hard to get the juices going for the group (stages), because you know at the end of the day, with three teams coming out, you are going to get out of that group one way or another.

“And if you don’t, look, you don’t deserve to be going anywhere.”

Derry are facing a third game in 15 days, while Kerry have had a fortnight to get ready for this one.

Last year Mayo and Tyrone found themselves in the same position as Derry, who also had extra-time to contend with over the weekend, and were trounced by Dublin and Kerry respectively.

“With injuries, hits and recovery for the next few days, that’s probably the only difficulty from a Derry point of view,” said four-time All-Ireland winner Moynihan.

“The offset of that - Derry will be battle hardened and they’re coming in with a very positive frame. They are waking up this morning.

“They are walking on air because they pulled the Houdini up in Mayo and they have got the result they wanted.

“Look, there is for and against. They are all in great shape. They will be doing all the right things. They will be recovering well and they will be flying again.

“All these guys, they are absolutely professional in everything they do, whether it’s a seven day recovery - they’ll be fine.

“Everyone wants to play in Croke Park and I think they’ll be hopping - there’s no doubt.

“Kerry obviously will be fresher. That’s an advantage for Kerry, but having said that, they haven’t had the tough games that Derry have had over the last few weeks, which ultimately is an advantage from Derry’s point of view.”

Moynihan continued: “They actually got the break to get the draw against Mayo - they were the better team.

“They seemed to be getting that little bit of confidence back. If they look back 12 months ago (All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry), to be fair, Derry left that game after them.

“Kerry played for three or four minutes, albeit at the latter stages of that game, and finished very strong.

“So Derry will be very confident going back in saying, ‘Look, if we can improve on that performance, we are in with a great shot.’

“I think it’s a great game and from Kerry’s perspective, look, they need a stern test and you are not going to get anyone tougher than Derry in the quarter-final.”

The Mickey Harte factor adds more intrigue with the former Tyrone boss guiding his native county to All-Ireland final triumphs over Kerry in 2005 and 2008, as well as a seismic semi-final victory in 2003.

In his later years with Tyrone he faced the Kingdom in Championship three more times and lost all three (2012, 2015 and 2019).

Moynihan reckons Harte is not a man to take much notice of the critics and that he was always going to “have a few arrows thrown at him.”

He continued: “Look, Mickey is his own man and he does his own thing.

“We were all kind of surprised (at Harte going to Derry) because it would be akin to Jack O’Connor going to Kerry to train Cork.

“There are certain lines in the sand that you don’t cross. Huge rivalry there

“Like social media, mother of god, thank god I am not on any of the platforms and whatnot. There are plenty of guys on the couch that have plenty to say.”

Moynihan continued: “Mickey is a really astute manager. I suppose it’s a funny one up in Derry where you have a lot of former players and guys probably cribbing and giving out about the fact that he’s there - he wasn’t wanted and what not.

“Mickey is long in the tooth and he has been there and done that. You know, to be fair, he is a super manager and Derry will be very confident.

“At the end of the day the County Board in Derry would have looked at last year. They would have felt they left an All-Ireland semi-final after them. They should have been in the final.

“To be fair, you wouldn’t blame them in that. We all felt it with probably three or four minutes to go and Kerry, we were just hanging on and finished very strong.

“To be fair, Mickey has great experience and he will use all his strengths to pull one over Kerry again. There’s no doubting that. From a Derry point of view, I think that’s a huge bonus for them.”

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