Friday 24 January 2020

O'Brien hoping to be 'black' in business for final

PROBLEM: Peter Keane. Pic: Sportsfile
PROBLEM: Peter Keane. Pic: Sportsfile

Even in a game marked by a dramatic Kerry comeback from a perilous half-time position, one flashpoint deep in stoppage-time attracted most of the post-match reaction in Croke Park.

Stephen O'Brien's black card after 76 minutes, for dragging down Tyrone sub Connor McAliskey, has left yesterday's Man of the Match facing the most anxious of waits ahead of the All-Ireland final on September 1.

As things stand, the jet-heeled Kerry forward stands suspended for the showdown with Dublin on the 'three strikes and you're out' rule whereby players are punished for cumulative cards.

O'Brien picked up yellow and black cards (leading to red) in a league match against Galway last February, and he has now followed up with black cards on consecutive weekends against Meath nine days ago and Tyrone yesterday.

Even though black cards don't carry over from the league because the experimental black card 'sin bin' was in place, it's understood that red cards do.

However, there's a feeling afoot that O'Brien has a much better chance of being cleared for the final on the grounds of challenging his black card in Navan.

Even as he accepted his 'Man of the Match' award on the pitch after full-time, the player confirmed that he knew he was walking a disciplinary tightrope going into the semi-final.

But O'Brien added: "I think the black card in the Meath game was very harsh. I was running off the ball and it was an accidental head clash, so we'll be certainly looking to appeal that one."

In his post-match briefing, Kerry boss Peter Keane professed ignorance of the rule that could scupper his key forward.

"It would be very disappointing on the player himself if we was to miss it, but you're asking me about rules and technicalities that I don't know anything about. There is not much point me talking about something I haven't a clue about," he maintained.

O'Brien, he agreed, had been exceptional in the second half "but he was a number of many. I thought the lads really went about their business in the second half and they can be really proud of the work they put in."

And now for the ultimate All-Ireland - and a chance for Kerry, of all teams, to stymie five-in-a-row history.


"Obviously there is going to be a lot of talk in Dublin - I told you I didn't see the game (on Saturday)," he reiterated. "Seemingly, they put up a big score in the second half against Mayo. You are dealing with potentially the greatest team that has ever played."

What of the theory that nobody will give Kerry a chance?

"I left the dressing-room below and (goalkeeper) Shane Ryan was on the phone to Gerard Murphy of Vincent Murphy's Sports in Castleisland. His biggest problem was would he get two pairs of boots or three pairs of boots, because he'd have the boots worn out so much from kicking the ball out to Dublin. That is going to be the biggest problem," he quipped.

Proof that the Gospel of Yerra is alive and well in the Kingdom. Or, as Keane signed off: "We'll come up in three weeks and we'll do our best."

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