Free-taking ability the key factor in Ó Cinnéide's selection

THE importance of a reliable free-taker is a key issue behind last night's decision by Kerry to recall Dara Ó Cinnéide to the starting fifteen for Sunday's All-Ireland final against Tyrone.

Last year's winning captain replaces Bryan Sheehan in the only change from the starting selection for the semi-final against Cork.

Ó Cinnéide's selection also means disappointment for Mike Frank Russell, who must have come very close to reclaiming the corner-forward spot for the final. He has been showing up impressively in Kerry training, but the selectors may feel he has more to offer coming into the game, whereas Ó Cinnéide will benefit from starting.

Wing-back Aidan O'Mahony said that, in spite of limited changes to the team, the competition for Kerry places remains fierce.

"Because no one is sure of their place, they have to push themselves that extra bit in training and some of the practice matches we've had recently have been as competitive as any match.

"The competition for places is serious, but there is no bitterness. In my case, Mossy Lyons has been putting me under a lot of pressure and that's what has been driving me on. Jack O'Connor is a great motivator and if anything, we've trained harder this year."

Ó Cinnéide, 30, will be appearing in his fifth final, including a replay, but insists that the defeat by Tyrone in the 2003 semi-final is not a source of motivation.

"We don't have a particular history with Tyrone - they beat us in the last Championship game, we beat them in the last League game. They play a great brand of football, and they are a very good side."

Coach Jack O'Connor wasn't involved in that 0-13 to 0-6 defeat two years ago, but denied that the manner of the defeat affected his philosophy.

"I've tried to get same system of play going whatever team I've been involved in - that's players working hard for each other, defending when they don't have the ball, and having the freedom to attack when they do. Where Tyrone had it over Kerry two years ago was that they worked exceptionally hard and basically out-fought Kerry."

He added: "It's not as complicated as people are making it out to be. It all depends on the players you pick for the different positions, and the job they do.

"There hasn't been any conscious decision made to change our style. I've never used the term 'men behind the ball' or 'blanket defence' - that's a figment of the media's imagination. We just get guys to work hard for each other."

Selector Ger O'Keeffe believes that the Kerry players are more focused on being ahead after seventy minutes than avenging any previous defeats.

"The final has thrown up a pairing that a lot of people are talking about and looking forward to, but we'll look after our own shop, and I think it will take a good team to beat us."

Kerry substitutes: K. Cremin (Dr. Crokes), M. F. Russell (Laune Rangers), E. Fitzmaurice (Finuge), B. Sheehan (St. Mary's), B. Guiney (Emmets), D. O'Sullivan (Glenbeigh/Glencar), D. Quill (Kerins O'Rahillys), R. O'Connor (St. Michael's/Foilmore), P. Kelly (Ballylongford), K. Donaghy (Austin Stacks), M. Lyons (Desmonds), M. Quirke (Kerins O'Rahillys), P. Reidy (Scartaglin), T. Griffin (Dingle).

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