herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Kerry have still got the muscle

And so we have been hoodwinked again by our friends from the Kingdom!

How many more times will we be codded with stories of decline and lack of depth in the county of Kerry?

Idle talk of transition and regeneration combined with poor league form was followed by a humiliation of their nearest neighbours rivals Cork.

Granted Cork were inept right throughout the field and were simply executed like lambs to the slaughter. We have all been there.

We know what it's like to be on the end of a Kerry display where they can spray the ball round with the accuracy to their inside forwards at ease and play with a swagger.

Their outfield players send in the bullets and the likes of James O'Donoghue or in the past Colm Cooper or Declan O'Sullivan execute the shots leaving their respective opponents gasping for oxygen.

ARRIVED

Kerry have arrived at the championship table and Fitzmaurice has again shown that he can get the best from his players when it matters most.

So how good are Kerry and how bad are this Cork team.

Many commentators have expressed an opinion that they felt Kerry played a new system against Cork last Sunday.

Having attended the last two Munster Finals, there was not much deviation in their tactical approach last Sunday compared to the game in Killarney last year.

Their approach was again devised to close down the space for the Cork forwards and leave space for Kerry to move the ball quickly by foot on the counter attack.

Basically, Kerry dictated the terms of the game and Cork were left clueless with no plan B, no kick out strategy and without their seasoned veterans who have all retired, they lacked leaders.

It is not just today or yesterday that Kerry decided to play with their half forward line dropping deep into their own half leaving one player in the link zone and two men inside in their full forward line.

They have implemented this style of play many times over the last few years. Granted Declan O'Sullivan may have played a little deeper but last year Cooper, Paul Galvin and Donnacha Walsh also swept in under the breaking ball and retreated back into their back line when not in possession.

Many will recall a great tackle by Cooper on the 14-yard line in Killarney last year when Cork where bearing down on the goal.

Cooper was incensed at the call made by Marty Duffy when he awarded Cork a free for what was a perfect tackle.

This time, Declan O'Sullivan was tasked to play the Cooper role thus pulling the strings and giving Kerry creativity around the middle of the park. This allowed Anthony Maher and Bryan Sheehan to focus their attention on ensuring Kerry were dominant in aerial exchanges and in around the breaking ball.

So Kerry now head for Croke Park with a new level of expectation. I will reserve judgement on their full credentials just for the moment and we will learn more about the Kingdom when they have to cope with a blanket defence if they meet a team like Armagh, Monaghan or Donegal.

The role played by O'Sullivan and the brilliant performance of O'Donoghue will now mean these players will receive special attention from their opponents and bigger challenges lie ahead.

As regards Cork, it is back to the drawing board for Brian Cuthbert. A massive learning curve for any manager.

Cork can salvage pride and whilst they may feel like startled earwigs this week, unlike Dublin in 2009, they do not have to endure a 12-month wait for some redemption. The qualifiers await.

backlash

I would expect a backlash of pride from the Rebels but I doubt there will be silverware heading for the banks of the Lee this year.

There has also been much discussion this week relating to effectiveness of the dual players and the impact it had on the game. I admire the courage and commitment that Eoin Cadogan, Aidan Walsh and Damien Calahane have given to their county jersey in trying to balance both codes in 2014.

Nobody was pointing the finger of blame at these players individually as all the Cork players were culpable in the defeat. However, it is clear that the challenge of playing both codes does play a significant role in the set up of any team.

Brian Cuthbert restructured his full defensive line following the victory over Tipperary to accommodate his dual players for their first championship start and Cork were expected to improve as a result.

How can it be expected that these players can reach the intensity required for a provincial final having missed so much of the preparation. How many internal A v B games would they have missed in recent weeks due to their hurling commitments.

I am not going to hazard a guess but I would suggest that they have missed quite a few. Match practice combined with speed of thought, movement and ball handling cannot be switched on and off.

It is not a criticism of these players effort to accommodate both codes. However, it is a cold reality that the modern day requirements to play top inter county football and hurling is a step too far for professional athletes playing an amateur game.

Preparation is everything in sport and winning big championship games is about inches

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