Underdogs against the Dubs? That view won’t be shared by anyone in the Kerry camp

Underdogs against the Dubs? That view won’t be shared by anyone in the Kerry camp
Picture: Sportsfile

Mission accomplished for Peter Keane and his men. They are where they want to be.

Forget about the opposition for a moment and enjoy the progress being made. This young team, driven and guided by a key veteran group is one step away from glory. 

A big step, but one step nonetheless. As a group starting out at the start of the season the goal is always to get to the All-Ireland final and take it from there. There are now only two teams left training in the country and it is the only place to be.

Three weeks is the perfect gap and it will fly by as the lads get ready for the biggest challenge of their young lives.

Yesterday was once again a game of two halves, where, as in the other semi-final one team played most of the football in the first half but failed to put the opposition away.

Kerry creaked at times but never cracked. There was plenty of space in front of Jason Foley and Tadhg Morley as they did their best to contain Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly.

Tyrone went for it and went direct as they did early in the Ulster Championship. They did enjoy some success with the pair combining for five first-half points but Morley and Foley emerged with plenty of ball also. 

At the other end, Kerry were creating plenty of chances but weren’t as efficient as they can be, kicking six wides and getting turned over too often.

Tyrone worked hard and forced Kerry into shots under pressure and from questionable distance and angles.

Crucially there was no sense of panic though, either from the players or from the line and while behind by four at the break there was a sense that there was a long way to go and a goal for either side would be huge.

Peter Keane started to make his adjustments at half-time introducing Gavin White and Jack Sherwood. 

Sherwood, in particular, had a huge second half, driving Kerry forward again and again and kicking a great point. But the Tommy Walsh substitution was game deciding. Jason Foley was taking on water and the rejig at the back with Tadhg Morley on McShane and Gavin Crowley on Donnelly worked better. 

Tommy Walsh. Picture: Sportsfile
Tommy Walsh. Picture: Sportsfile

At the other end of the field, Tommy gave Kerry a focus inside and a different way to attack Tyrone. Previous to that they had to win frees by running directly at them or shooting from outside. 

There was space but no presence inside the 20m line. Tommy was available for nice popped balls which he won well, and then he in turn set up some crucial scores such as the brace from David Moran and David Clifford to level the game.

Pádraig Hampsey played a step behind Tommy as he was expecting an aerial bombardment but Tommy read it well and offered himself out in front again and again. 

He was the perfect foil as he foraged and provided and allowed Paul Geaney and Clifford finish whereas previously they were having to win their own ball and score. He can cause Dublin problems and how Keane uses him in the final will sure to be a talking point before and after the game.

The importance of disciplined defending and forcing turnovers was evident once more for the game-breaking score, Stephen O’Brien’s goal when the sides were level. 

Stephen intercepted Conor Meyler’s stray pass at the top of his own ‘D’ while on defensive duty. He immediately transferred the ball on but critically he didn’t stand and admire his work. 

He made a hard run off the ball the length of the field to get on the end of Geaney’s pass and finished brilliantly. Ronan McNamee tried his best but he couldn’t stay with O’Brien. 

Such are the margins in deciding these tight games. Both Dublin and Kerry profited from turnovers to goals at the weekend and it will be interesting to watch out how both teams deal with this for the final, amongst the many many other storylines.

There was a line of thought during the week that Tyrone would have more experience than Kerry when it came down to it. All of these Kerry players have plenty of experience. 

For some of them they have garnered most of it at underage level but they have honed it throughout the year and built on their experiences from last season. 

Critically for me is that they have personality to go with their skills. The heads don’t drop when the going gets tough and they keep trying to find a way out of difficult situations. 

That component is as important as anything else and I’m thrilled to see it emerging in the lads.

Decisively, the experienced players all lead from the front. Paul Murphy and David Moran controlled much of the second half, Stephen O’Brien exploded into the game with his vital 1-1 and Paul Geaney snarled and scored with purpose.

The younger players such as Tom O’Sullivan (who completely nullified Peter Harte), Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Seán O’Shea, and David Clifford all played with courage and smarts. This will be particularly satisfying for the management and the players themselves.

David Clifford. Picture: Sportsfile
David Clifford. Picture: Sportsfile

Keane and his management team will know there is plenty to think about and work on for the next few weeks to get ready for Dublin. 

They will be rank outsiders in many people’s opinion and in some ways they have a shot to nothing to stop Dublin making history.

That view won’t be shared by anyone in the camp. They will believe they can and will win. It will make for a fantastic All-Ireland final. There is so much on the line for both teams. 

More than an All-Ireland, if that is imaginable. 

Dublin can become the first team to achieve the mystical five in a row, while Kerry can stop them and protect the green and gold heritage that contains two four-in-a-row teams.

Roll on three weeks time.

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