Target Kerry’s old guard, says Brian McGuigan

Former Tyrone forward Brian McGuigan has ratcheted up the heat ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final by claiming Kerry’s two 35-year-old defenders should be targeted.

Target Kerry’s old guard, says Brian McGuigan

Aidan O’Mahony is named on the bench but McGuigan believes running hard at him and Marc Ó Sé, both enjoying fine form at the moment, could reap serious dividends for the underdogs as they aim to reach their first final since beating Kerry seven years ago.

The Ardboe man is no stranger to antagonising Kerry having claimed after the 2012 game in which he was sent off that Declan O’Sullivan had exaggerated an injury to have him dismissed. In 2013, he said Kerry should concentrate on the long term as advances in Gaelic football had passed them by.

Now he reckons the elder statesmen of the Kerry defence are the pillars to attack. “Marc Ó Sé and Aidan O’Mahony are both great players, wonderful servants to Kerry and to Gaelic football,” he wrote in his Gaelic Life magazine column. “But at the same time, I think if Tyrone can get players like Connor McAliskey and Darren McCurry running at the Kerry full-back like with pace, if we can expose them, then there are scores to be had. Their youthfulness has to be made count over the course of a 70 minute game.”

However, Ó Sé and O’Mahony’s former physical trainer Pat Flanagan said he is not surprised the pair are still performing at the top level.

“They’re athletes, they’ve good balance and movement therefore they don’t get injured as much. Economical might be the right way of putting it. They’re fabulous footballers. Marc, I suppose, is the corner-back of his generation. The two of them are super sportsmen but they would also be extremely driven guys even if they are quiet about it. I’ve stories about Aidan O’Mahony going back to 2006 and ‘09 when it didn’t matter if the man had one leg and one arm and half a head. He just wants to play.

“Knowing Eamonn, he wouldn’t be putting them in if he believed they weren’t going better than all the young fellas they’re keeping out of the team. It’s not like they’re there because there’s nobody else to go in. It’s a great tribute to their training programme as well and the scheduling of their strength and conditioning. They have a lot of mileage but they are still in prime condition.

Flanagan accepts it’s unusual for All-Ireland contenders to have two 35-year-olds in their back-line but sees no reason why more of it can’t be seen in the future. “I never bought into the view that at 31 or 32 you were finished. Physically, you’re well able to do it until you’re 35 or 36. I had the privilege of working with someone like Tony Browne who played until he was 40 and could have played on.

“If we’re as scientific and professional in our approach in Gaelic games as everybody says we are then there shouldn’t be any reason why careers can’t be prolonged.”

Meanwhile, Tomás Ó Sé says part of Tyrone’s success is down to how much their football means to them. He puts their intensity down to the number of rivalries they have as well as what GAA people endured to play their sport during The Troubles.

“I’d like to think that away from football down here, we relax and we can step away from it a bit. Donegal are the most relaxed of them in Ulster, I think. Tyrone are bordered by three or four counties and they have rivalries with nearly everyone.

“I always remember thinking that they did have some kind of a chip on their shoulder. I don’t mean that in any disrespectful way. I mean, I always got the feeling like they were fighting for more than just football. It seemed to be as if they were fighting for the whole northern identity, because of what had happened before.”

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