Kerry supporters are, allegedly, like animals but they are the ones on safari tomorrow when they take the road to Clones.
It’s fight-or-flight time for these young men from the Kingdom and no better test than Monaghan in the home of Ulster football.
In the GAA, most of the critique is determined by kneejerk reactions.
The manager is out of his depth, players don’t want it bad enough, the county board are dinosaurs, the structures are all wrong. In truth, this is not the case — Kerry have got so much right in the last five or six years as regards their turnover of players, their strength and conditioning, and their structures at underage.
Losing always triggers a harsher examination than even the narrowest of wins.
Obviously, Kerry are not the finished article. Blowing Cork away does not deserve an open top bus parade nor does it signal the arrival of a new team.
So Sunday’s defeat to Galway was a massive realisation for all that Kerry are nowhere near the finished article.
However, if they are not the majestic team some thought three weeks ago, then I also believe they are better than the dishevelled bunch we saw last week.
Kerry are still a very exciting team and have unbelievable potential. They have brilliantly gifted individuals. I feel therein lies a lot of their problems, though. That individualism. Examples?
David Clifford’s scores against Galway. He seemed so isolated when he received the ball. There were few players coming off his shoulder, making him a lot easier to mark and giving him no option but to shoot or recycle the ball a lot of the time.
Stephen O’Brien’s goal against Cork was just an old-fashioned direct run at pace and a finish. Paul Geaney’s only thought on receipt of possession is to see can he get a shot off or take his man on.
I’m not going to be a hypocrite as I like that kind of forward and I think we don’t have enough of them anymore, but Geaney’s responsibility as one of the more experienced players on the team should be greater.
It must be to take the right option. He has a duty to bring other players into the game.
Then you have James O’Donoghue, a player I’ve enjoyed watching for years. Now I watch him through my fingers. I feel for him because I can see him trying harder than ever but it’s just not happening and hasn’t for some time.
I also understand Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s predicament — does he keep playing him in the hope it will turn or does he drop him?
There is a quandary not just for Fitzmaurice but all managers when it comes to dropping a player with fragile confidence, knowing it could finish them off.
This is where man-management comes into play. Fitzmaurice has opted to power through it up to now but I believe the time has come where James may benefit from coming on and making an impact off the bench with 20 minutes to go when the game has broken up a little, when good impact subs are harder to pin down.
I believe Kieran Donaghy was in the bold corner due to his decision to go to the Irish Open in Ballyliffin to play in the Pro-Am.
Strange but there is no other reason why, when Kerry needed an old head, that he would not be introduced.
Speaking of golf, I watched Butch Harmon talking about Rory McIlroy’s chances in the lead-up to the Open Championship.
In typical Butch fashion, he was staring down the barrel of the camera telling us all that McIlroy needs to forget the mechanics of his swing, forget about process, and play “free-wheeling” golf.
Remember what made him enjoy golf as a child.
For Kerry, I don’t believe they should abandon all strategies and tactics but it is essential they remember to be combative, to man up — the most essential part is to play before implementing any
They have a problem with their own kickouts. Galway have had similar problems but solved it by putting all their big men in a small area of the field and kicking it there, winning some clean breaks.
The key being that if Kerry won the ball, Galway also had had enough bodies in place to stop them breaking forward. Perhaps this is something Kerry could implement for their own gain tomorrow.
For 15 minutes Monaghan, ultra-conservative at the start of games, will let Kerry kick short, which is fine, but it’s when Monaghan push up like Galway that the opportunities narrow for Kerry winning that vital possession. Monaghan are ready for this, Malachy O’Rourke is still smarting from the Fermanagh defeat. They are playing with a chip on their shoulder. They have their limitations too, though, but if you are slow and laboured in your build-up they will crucify you.
In Croke Park last Sunday, you could hear Rory Beggan and the other defenders shout “set”. When Monaghan are “set” they are so hard to break down. If you catch them on the break or if you win their kickout, then you will be heftily rewarded.
Monaghan aren’t great at chasing games and they can struggle with pace. Kerry must start well and remain on the front foot, as much for their own confidence and pathway in the game as anything else.
Everything this weekend points to a Monaghan victory, yet I can’t accept that Kerry will not find a lifeline in Clones. It’s not the best place to be going when fighting for your life, but Clones has long since inspired many generations of Ulster footballers. Now with the new format, the lads from Munster get the chance to be rejuvenated by their trip north.
On arrival at Galatasaray, you will be welcomed by a banner that says “Welcome to Hell”. Clones might not be hell but unless Kerry can get their shit together it could be a pretty hellish five-hour trip back to the Kingdom. I’m expecting them to show the fight that was so absent last week and to drag themselves across the finishing line kicking and screaming.
All I can say to Kerry folk is to come up and enjoy some Ulster hospitality — you won’t even have to cross the border. Don’t be worried what time you will get home. Ah come on, live a little!
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