Kingdom troops forewarned and forearmed

WHETHER Limerick’s compelling Munster SFC victory over Cork will prove seductive enough to lure Tipperary fans to Tralee tomorrow for their provincial semi-final against Kerry remains to be seen.

Either way, the visiting fans won't corner the market on curiosity.

It's nigh on two months since Kingdom supporters have had the chance to run the rule over their representatives in a competitive context defeating Armagh with a gutsy, if questionable display. The last time Kerry broke Championship sweat was last September, and the pain is still fresh enough to be used as ally or enemy to Páidi Ó Sé's players.

The benign analysis of their All-Ireland final defeat by Armagh would indicate that Kerry "left it after them", or in cruder terms, "bottled it" in the second-half.

Either way, coach John O'Keeffe has a more pragmatic analysis: "we weren't good enough."

Nearly though, John? "That doesn't matter. We actually weren't good enough last year. We know we have to improve this season, and we have planned our strategy accordingly."

O'Keeffe, trainer Páidi Ó Sé and the three other selectors will be as curious, and more anxious than their supporters in the Championship twilight zone of a season opener.

"We've picked the team on form, and Sunday will tell us a lot because it is difficult to replicate Championship football on the training pitch.

I feel we have a stronger panel this year, and there has been a real competitive edge to training," O'Keeffe reckons.

Certainly, Kerry's selection has an element of experimentation about it. "Their subs bench would beat most other counties in a ten-a-side game," suggested Tipperary coach, Tom McGlinchey.

However, O'Keeffe says that the absence of Dara Ó Cinnéide (hamstring), Michael F Russell (groin) and Eoin Brosnan (hamstring) is dictated by the reluctance to push them back into the fray too quickly after injury. All three are among the replacements, but the selection would indicate that Kerry have picked with a season, not one match, in mind.

Though only Donal Daly and Marc O Sé are unavailable, preparations have been pockmarked by injuries and unavailability, so much so that O'Keeffe, who takes a special interest in the mechanics of physical preparation, is mulling over several theories.

"Hamstrings and groins are the most frustrating, especially the player, where the tendency is to try and come back too quickly. Ultimately, overuse is a problem, and the increase in fixtures plus the player's commitment to his club, means that when we get them in training, there is an onus on us to be mindful of such things i.e., not to overdo the sprinting.

"Unfortunately, the likes of hamstring and groin injuries usually happen in a match situation when the muscle is fatigued. However at this stage, we have most of the worries out of the way and Donal (Daly) will be back training with us next week, while Marc O Sé (who suffered a bout of glandular fever) has returned to club action in recent weeks."

Tipp coach McGlinchey acknowledges that their victorious outing against Waterford was beneficial, but dares not put too much store in it.

"We gave a few lads their debut, so that was a help, but the intensity level in Tralee will be five or six times higher," said McGlinchey, who provided an articulate assessment of the problems weaker counties face.

"They key difference is consistency. We gained a lot of respect in the Munster final last year against Cork but then we collapsed in the replay. The thing is doing it Sunday after Sunday, having the level of expectation Kerry have where anything but an All-Ireland is a failure."

McGlinchey, who played senior football with Clyda Rovers in Cork up to three years ago, used an old adversary as an example: "Kerry remind me a bit of Nemo Rangers. You are with them point for point for 50 minutes and then, bang, bang, two goals and it's all over. You cannot have lapses in concentration."

Though Kerry have selected Seamus Moynihan at centre-back, it would be a great surprise if he didn't have some role to play in curbing Tipp's talented full-forward Declan Browne. However, McGlinchey insists Browne is only as good as those who load the barrels for him. "The other forwards know they have to share the workload," he says, "but Aidan Fitzgerald and young Tony Doyle have been promising, and Liam England has the experience at this stage."

Kerry make a habit of scratchy first round wins, but the cold chill of Limerick's victory in Pairc Ui Chaoimh has provided a warning. It is also unlikely that Kerry's starting attacking will be replicated at any future stage in the Championship so Tipp will never have a better chance to do some scalping. Unlikely though.

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