SATURDAY 26 JUNE
Quarter-finals: Limerick v Waterford, LIT Gaelic Grounds, 3pm, Kerry v Clare, Fitzgerald Stadium, 7pm
SATURDAY 10 JULY
Semi-finals: Cork v Limerick or Waterford, LIT Gaelic Grounds or Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 3pm
Tipperary v Kerry or Clare, Semple Stadium or Cusack Park, 7pm
SUNDAY 25 JULY
Live blogs on all games on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app.
Kerry v Clare and Tipperary v Kerry/Clare. live on Sky Sports, while The Sunday Game Live on RTÉ2 will have live coverage of the Munster final. Viewers outside of Ireland can watch the games on GAAGO.
The Sunday Game, RTÉ2 at 9.30pm, will have highlights of all the weekend's action.
It's hard even for the best brains in Met Éireann to know what the weather will be like beyond ten days but we hope conditions will be favourable for good football in the weeks ahead. As for the clash of Limerick v Waterford and Kerry v Clare, there is a chance of an isolated shower. Highest temperatures of 14 to 18 degrees in a light to moderate northeasterly breeze. For more go to met.ie.
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Thy Kingdom to come again
November 2020. The Kindom stunned by the banks of the Lee, with recriminations that they were defensive in their approach, thinking about the Dubs down the line. It was Cork's to win, we all thought. Tipp weren't having any of that. They marked the centenary of Bloody Sunday with an excellent performance at Páirc Uí Chaoimh to win a first provincial title since 1935. Deserved winners, they certainly were.
That was how Munster unfolded in the championship just past. Are we likely to see more suprises in this campaign? Unlikely. Let's cut to the chase. Not only are the experts tipping Peter Keane's Kerry to regain the provincial crown, but a place in the All-Ireland finals looks set to be theirs, too.
Of course last year taught us that nothing is a certainty but you get the sense that Kerry folk were very cross last winter, that's not the way it was supposed to end. Cork pulling a fast one late on, no, that did not go down well. The Rebels' subsequent loss in the final, while pleasing to some, would not have induced a greater level of sniggering owing to the inner turmoil being felt.
Time heals. Kerry got back playing with a thumping win over Galway when the league resumed. They then showed no little fight in battling back to force a draw with the Dubs, this after conceding four goals. Things were rounded off when Tyrone were at the wrong end of a green-flag blitz at Fitzgerald Stadium. A case of the Red Hand leaving both shaken and stirred after being hit for six.
You get the sense that Kerry have the foot firmly on the pedal and are determined to drive on. In their four league games they notched up 13-16, with David Clifford accounting for 6-22 of that. And while Clifford may be the marquee name in the Kerry attack, there is a stellar cast supporting him in the shape of his brother Paudie, a recent debutant for the Green and Gold, Diarmuid O'Connor, Adrian Spillane and Dara Moynihan.
Keeping it tight
'That day below in Páirc Uí Chaoimh Kerry absolutely set up too defensively'— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) May 23, 2021
Eamonn Fitzmaurice talks about lessons Kerry are trying to learn from last year's shock defeat to Cork ' #RTEGAA #RTESport #AllianzLeagueSunday pic.twitter.com/aTgMO2kdZ4
Newspaper column inches, radio and tv broadcasts, and the wide array of podcasts out there have all had their say on Kerry's perceived weakness in defence.
Writing in his column on these pages after Kerry's draw with Dublin, Aidan O'Rourke said: "Kerry may very well now have the best attacking options in the country; 1-18 against the All Ireland champions is testimony to that. However, the expected title challenge this year won't materialise without significant improvement in how they defend.
"They largely defend in more numbers than Dublin but how they defend collectively is some distance behind. Their awareness of danger as opponents build is poor and they don’t have that defensive leader who can pull all of the team’s strengths together to reinforce their defensive armour."
That said, the Kingdom conceded the lowest number of points of any Division 1 side (average 0-16 per game) and full-back Jason Foley was named man-of-the-match in the semi-final destruction of Tyrone.
Manager Peter Keane also pointed to stats from the league when he spoke to the media recently.
"I would have to say if you look at our defence, we played Galway and conceded 11 scores. We played Dublin and we conceded 13 scores, albeit four of them were goals which is what you don't want to be conceding, but I think the second half against Dublin we conceded 1-03.
"We played Roscommon and we conceded 1-12; 13 scores and from the 48th minute on against them we conceded one score which was a goal. Last weekend was probably the highest at 1-14 (against Tyrone), which is 15 scores so I would think the communication is quite good there.
"They seem to be from what I'm hearing on the field anyway, they are doing a lot of talking and talking to each other. Obviously you’d love to concede nothing at all, but I’m not sure that happens too often."
Banner will raise a gallop
The ultimate test in regards to Kerry shoring things up will no doubt come against the Dubs in an All-Ireland final. But before that Clare have enough of a scoring threat in the shape of Pearse Lillis, Eoin Cleary, Gavin Cooney and David Tubridy to give Kerry a few things to worry about in Killarney.
A fortnight ago, perhaps sensing that Mayo might be vulnerable after the departure of Cillian O'Connor, they certainly gave the westerners their fill of it. Colm Collins' side will give it a lash and more.
Elsewhere Cork will be eyeing a place in the decider. Limerick, after a decent league campaign where they had a Division 2 push well within their sights only to lose out to Derry, will be confident of accounting for Waterford in the first of the quarter-finals.
Tipperary dropping down to Division 4 was certainly on the agenda for David Power's side, but their recent performances have not been good enough. A big task then for management to focus minds on meeting Kerry or Clare in a fortnight.
Follow all the championship matches this weekend with our live blogs on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app.
Watch Down v Donegal and Clare v Waterford live on RTÉ One (from 12.55pm) and see highlights of all the weekend's action on The Sunday Game at 9.30pm on RTÉ One.
Listen to live and exclusive national radio commentaries on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday and Sunday Sport.
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