Tuesday 19 September 2017

Kerry look like real champs

O'Donoghue injury the only blemish on an otherwise awesome performance as Kingdom set the standard

2 August 2015;Stephen O'Brien , Kerry, celebrate's after scoirng his side's sixth goal. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Kerry v Kildare. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
2 August 2015;Stephen O'Brien , Kerry, celebrate's after scoirng his side's sixth goal. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Kerry v Kildare. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Even with their legendary native powers of oration and feigned self-deprecation, they'll struggle to talk this one down in Kerry.

Now for context.

The mercilessly impressive 27 point, 7-16 to 0-10, win over Kildare yesterday in Croke Park was:

1) A record All-Ireland quarter-final winning margin.

2) The most goals Kerry have scored - ever - in Croke Park, the venue in which they do what they do best.

3) Their biggest win, Championship or otherwise, in the same venue.

4) A joint 2015 Championship record winning tally, tied with Dublin's Leinster opener mismatch against Longford.

Sometimes, though, such statistics - illustrative though they are of Kerry's clinical excellence yesterday in Croke Park - just seem trivial.

The only downpoint of the day was the injury suffered by James O'Donoghue, about which Éamonn Fitzmaurice couldn't have been any less evasive about afterwards if he tried, refusing even to divulge if it was the same shoulder on which the reigning Footballer of the Year underwent surgery last year.

"It was one or the other," he shrugged.

By virtue of the fact that Kildare hammered Cork, Kerry paid them the ultimate compliment of coming to Croke Park for an All-Ireland quarter-final, fully tuned in to their task - not always a guarantee for teams from the Kingdom.

Kildare will wish they hadn't.


"Ah, I'm sure when we look back on it there are things we won't be overly happy with and things we will improve on," reflected Éamonn Fitzmaurice when invited to deconstruct his team's dazzling exhibition.

"But any time you come out with a big win in a quarter-final you are going to take it and you are going to be happy. We will take it and move on and have three weeks to prepare for an All-Ireland semi-final."

Where to begin?

Probably Kerry's midfield, a source of worry in Killarney not a month ago when Alan O'Connor gave it to them without salt.

Yesterday, against a midfield of Tommy Moolick and Paul Cribbin - a pairing that attractted many admirers for their destruction of that same Cork midfield last week - David Moran and Anthony Maher lorded it.

Whilst a good/complicated kick-out strategy is paramount these days for all inter-county teams, so is a smart prevention procedure.

It went like this.

Kerry stopped Mark Donnellan from taking quick kicks. They marked the short options and once the deliveries went towards midfield, Moran and Maher ate Kildare alive.

As an almost sickening illustration of Kerry's current depth, Tommy Walsh came on after 60 minutes for his first Croke Park appearance since 2009.

Five kick-outs were aimed at him. He caught three clean, broke to Paul Galvin for another and won a free on the last.

And what happened to the theory of the ageing and vulnerable Kerry defence?

By virtue of the fact that Kerry's attack (we'll get to that in a second) is so deadly and varied, all teams are forced to play with a sweeper.

Meaning Aidan O'Mahony 'screened', preventing early ball, and only Niall Kelly looked good enough to take his man on and with Kildare's game plan apparently built around attempting to run the ball over the Kerry bar, the three points they scored by half-time were hard won.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom's attack - minus the groin-niggled Kieran Donaghy - ripped Kildare apart.

They scored 7-6 in the second-half, with Colm Cooper doing the greatest damage in kicking 2-3 (0-1f) and setting up goals for the unstoppable Darran O'Sulivan and Barry John Keane.

"The way it worked out, with Kieran's injury, it gave us a chance to start him (Cooper) and he got 70 minutes under the belt which was brilliant," Fitzmaurice agreed.

Indeed, Kerry's bench scored 3-4, enough to beat Kildare's tally by three points.

Stephen O'Brien scored 1-4, almost untouched by Kildare hand and even if O'Donoghue's injury proves serious, Kerry are surely the only team in Ireland who could thrive in his absence. "They're going to be pushing hard for a starting position so that means the football is going to be competitive for the next two-and-a-half weeks," Fitzmuarice concluded.

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