Kingdom's indiscipline could pose big threat to summer ambitions
IN A belated act of dedication, this column found a spare 70 minutes last Saturday morning to watch a recording of the Cork/Kerry league clash that had taken place six days previously. Not for the first time, we were struck by the contribution of a certain venerable Kerryman who didn't even start the game.
Tomás Ó Sé came off the bench after 44 minutes. He proceeded to do what this magnificent footballer has consistently done in a stellar senior career dating back to 1998: he swept onto ball and then, with that unerring right boot of his, delivered a sequence of inch-perfect foot-passes into the Kerry attack.
'The bould Tomás - he still has it!' we concluded.
The following afternoon, however, the 'bould' Tomás was in the thick of things for another reason entirely.
The decorated defender was sent off in the 10th minute of Kerry's latest Division One outing against Laois following an off-the-ball incident. We have no idea whether the flashpoint merited a straight red - TV footage not being readily available - but reports today indicate that Kerry have reviewed their own footage and concluded that he has little chance of escaping sanction.
In which case, Ó Sé will be left to serve another doubled-up two-match suspension while the Kerry camp ponder what threatens to be a potentially major problem for them in the height of summer.
You see, this was the player's third sending-off in the last 10 months. He was already dismissed earlier this spring following an altercation with Armagh's Ciarán McKeever (himself no stranger to disciplinary spats) and the irony is that if the old time-based suspension system applied in this year's league, Ó Sé would still have been serving an eight-week ban last weekend ... and thus not facing further punishment.
The kernel of this Kerry crux, however, is that Ó Sé is no use to Jack O'Connor if he persistently finds himself sitting in the stands. Even though he turns 34 this June, one of the finest footballers of the modern age can still cut the mustard at elite inter-county level - his recent Páirc Uí Chaoimh cameo underlined that point.
But clearly, too, both O'Connor and the player himself need to curtail his tendency towards trouble. Neither man will need reminding that an ill-timed suspension can wreak havoc with your All-Ireland ambitions.
Back in the summer of 2010, Ó Sé was suspended for Kerry's All-Ireland quarter-final against Down - his yellow card for an incident involving Limerick's Stephen Kelly in the Munster final was retrospectively upgraded, as GAA rules then permitted.
Paul Galvin was also banned for that ill-fated Down match.
Kerry's current league standing - they've already qualified for the Division One semi-finals - would suggest that Ó Sé's latest disciplinary travails have not affected them unduly.
But championship is a different beast and the Kingdom can't afford to see history repeating itself this summer.