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Thursday 8 December 2016

Ciaran Whelan: Kerry will make their second chance count

Rebels will need a twist to game-plan

Colm Cooper, Kerry, shakes hands with Mark Collins, Cork, after the game ended in a draw
Colm Cooper, Kerry, shakes hands with Mark Collins, Cork, after the game ended in a draw

IF you implement the same tactics then most likely you can expect the same result.

Cork did not get the result they probably deserved two weeks ago and Brian Cuthbert's biggest challenge of his inter-county career lies ahead this weekend.

Modern day inter-county management is about being one step ahead of your opposition. Dictate the game and make the opposing manager follow you. When he catches up, be prepared to take the next step forward and change again.

Cork, after shipping a lot of criticism in the lead-up to the Munster final, played with pride in the jersey two weeks ago.

That was the least that was expected from such a proud county. It was backed up by a good tactical plan laid out by Cuthbert that went some way to answering a hoard of critics.

Cork should be Munster champions and it is warranted if they feel aggrieved with some of the key decisions.

However, sport is cruel, Cork did not win and what happened two weeks ago is now history.

Replays are where managers really earn their salt. Each team has put their cards on the table two weeks ago. The key difference is that Eamonn Fitzmaurice played a poor hand. He also played his get of jail card but now knows what he is up against.

Kerry will improve considerably for tomorrow evening's replay in Killarney. Replays take on a life of their own and if Cork are predictable then they will be beaten by Kerry.

Kerry know what worked for Cork and their first objective will be nullifying these advantages. The hardest decision for a manager is to move away from something that has worked but the best managers in the game can tweak their game-plan through the use of versatile players.

So will Kerry let Alan O'Connor dominate the midfield sector again? Will they grant Colm O'Neill the space in the inside forward line to do damage at will? Will Eoin Cadogan be paired up against Kieran Donaghy for 70 minutes? Will Paul Kerrigan be afforded a role that leaves him unmarked where he is most comfortable? Will Paddy Kelly make the same impact linking the play in the half-forward line?

Yes, they are all positive aspects of Cork's play which were very effective the last day. Nullify two or three of them and all of sudden the pendulum can swing the other way.

Reflecting on the Kerry performance and looking for positives, it will certainly not fill much space on the page.

Kerry played like defending All-Ireland champions in that they looked a yard off the pace and did not show the level of hunger that you would expect.

Outside of Marc O Sé and flashes from Bryan Sheehan, James O'Donoghue and Barry John Keane, the large majority of their team under-performed two weeks ago.

Fitzmaurice has a track record in devising strategies that will counter act the opposition strengths.

The only doubt in the Kerry supporters' minds is whether the Kerry team can implement his strategy and if they are mentally up to the challenge. So the questions are (1) whether this Kerry team can reach the required tempo and (2) is the appetite to succeed still as strong as last year?

I refuse to write off any Kerry team and expect we will see a very different Kingdom tomorrow evening.

Contrary to other opinions, I believe Donaghy should start. He could vacate the full-forward position for periods of the game which would allow Kerry to test the Cork full-back line for pace by changing the dynamic of their inside line.

Donaghy still possesses a significant threat in front of goal offering Kerry a direct route to goal which is a huge advantage in the modern game.

Kerry will need to improve defensively and without Aidan O'Mahony in their full-back line they look very vulnerable defensively.

O Sé will be given the job of marking O'Neill for the full 70 minutes this time and Paul Murphy is likely to return to the starting 15.

SWEEPER

It would also not be a surprise if Fitzmaurice played a sweeper in behind his half-back line to protect the central channel.

Declan O'Sullivan played that role to perfection in last year's Munster Final and I wonder could it be a role that would suit Colm Cooper?

The midfield battle will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this game and it was an area of big concern for Cork coming into the drawn encounter.

Alan O'Connor proved that an old head with fresh legs is a good formula and he epitomised everything that was lacking in the Kerry performance by grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck in conjunction with his midfield partner Kevin O'Driscoll.

David Moran and Anthony Maher are the cogs in the wheel that will be needed to give Kerry a platform for success and they must dominate this sector.

All told Cork will have gained a lot of belief from the drawn game. The impetus provided by the three O'Driscolls (Brian, Barry and Kevin) has certainly brought a bit of added steel to their team.

Can Cork replicate the performance of the last day, answer their critics in style and prove that they have turned the corner as a team?

I am not so sure, Kerry have more to find and may just pull through in a right good battle.

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