There has been so much speculation about Kerry’s plan for Dublin in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Bryan Sheehan play the first half in goal and the second in full-forward beside a repurposed Marc Ó Sé.
So what has Éamonn Fitzmaurice in his bag of tricks? From the outlandish to the ordinary, here are 15 possible ploys.
1. Sheehan shenanigans
A nutty rumour that Kerry weren’t exactly scotching although it will be vital that, for all the proverbials and giggles inside the camp, that Brian Kelly and Brendan Kealy are reminded of their worth.
However, the idea of Bryan Sheehan taking kick-outs may not be as preposterous as some suggest.
If Kieran Donaghy is stationed at full-forward, he could drift out for kick-outs and even if Kerry were to lose the restart Sheehan is already an extra man behind the ball.
2. Evening Stephen
We’ve mentioned before that Stephen Cluxton can be upset and not just by pushing up on his kick-outs: If there are cynical attempts to prevent him from taking his quick kick-outs it may be enough to unsettle him. But then we are talking about a man who has seen and done it all.
3. Return of Marc Ó Sé
It’s a full year since the 36-year-old started a championship game for Kerry but handing him a start on Sunday is far from unthinkable.
At this stage, it’s unusual that Ó Sé has never been entrusted with a sweeping role given his impeccable reading of the game.
We might not see him on Bernard Brogan again but he would be a suitable marker for Dean Rock.
4. Return of Aidan O’Mahony
It’s highly unlikely we will see both Ó Sé and O’Mahony feature in the same Kerry back-line, unless they’re both brought on to inject some nous in finishing out the game.
Brogan is the only Dublin forward over 30 (Paul Flynn turned 30 last month) and the pace of the Dubs attack must be matched with something similar.
O’Mahony can certainly do a detailing job but in his last two games against Dublin he has been dismissed for black and red cards.
5. Retreat of Paul Murphy
Last Sunday, Tipperary were bought by Mayo’s “long con” who swapped their summer sweeper Kevin McLoughlin for Barry Moran.
Paul Murphy hasn’t exactly been an out-and-out forward this year but he’s certainly played further up the field.
However, his ability to leech and attack from deep with speed may be required in Kerry’s half.
6. Pulling the tail
At this stage, it would be understandable if some sympathy is shown to Diarmuid Connolly even if he should never have been freed up by the Disputes Resolution Authority for last year’s All-Ireland semi-final replay.
The guy is clearly being provoked but it would be negligent of opposition if they were to ignore a potential advantage.
Peter Crowley will ask questions.
7. Shaking up the match-ups
So where does Fitzmaurice divert from the league final when he went with O’Mahony/Flynn, Griffin/Rock, Fitzgerald/Kilkenny, Enright/Mannion, Crowley/Connolly and Ó Sé/Brogan. Griffin looks a solid choice on Rock as does Crowley on Connolly and Enright may switch to Brogan. Young then for Andrews, Murphy on Kilkenny and Tadhg Morley for Kevin McManamon?
8. And No.14 was Kieran Donaghy
According to Fitzmaurice, last year’s captain was the victim of rough treatment around the square in this year’s Division 1 final, which lends credence to the theory that the Kerry manager may not risk him there.
But David Gough is an extremely diligent referee and is likely to clamp down on foul play at both ends of the field.
Dublin have had some bother with high ball but only when it’s combined with on-running support.
Step forward Darran O’Sullivan.
9. Operation Puke
What might Pat Spillane say if Kerry chose to form phalanxes of defenders, an ultra variation of the defensive set-up we saw in the games against Clare and Tipperary?
It may just take an absorbing brand of football to beat Dublin but could Kerry counter-attack effectively playing so deep?
10. A three-man full-forward line
Nothing would give Kerry greater joy than beating Dublin at their own game. A combination of Donaghy and Paul Geaney, two superb fielders, with James O’Donoghue in their midst, with another forward occupying O’Sullivan in front may just be the ticket. Among the regrets Fitzmaurice has from last September must be taking off Geaney and O’Donoghue.
11. An athletic midfield
John O’Keeffe’s preference for Mark Griffin playing further out the field is an opinion shared by several in Kerry and there has been suggestions he could form one half of a new midfield pairing. What’s certain is Kerry need to add some speed in that area. David Moran, who has struggled against Brian Fenton, and Anthony Maher are a solid combination but if there is a horses for course game this is it.
12. Return of Colm Cooper
For a player as proud and proven as Cooper, last September’s final was a nadir. Philly McMahon outscored him and the sight of Cooper left in his wake was one of the abiding memories of the rain-soaked final. Three years ago, the Dr Crokes man showed he has the keys to unlock Dublin’s defence but O’Sullivan’s presence has applied a thus far unbreakable bolt. Cooper’s intelligence will be required, though.
13. Marking the subs
Going back to the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final, Fitzmaurice has shown a preference to bring on fresh legs to match those being introduced by Dublin. After what he did in 2011, McManamon was the sub Kerry feared most, but he should start on Sunday. If Paul Mannion is kept in reserve then Fitzmaurice is likely to have a defender in mind to shadow him and, although he started the last day, Brian Ó Beaglaoich did just fine on him in the opening league match.
14. Fouling forwards
Kerry forwards’ habit of fouling sufficiently so that play is slowed down seems too obvious and frequent at this stage to be down to poor technique. Clearly, there is method in their madness and it wouldn’t be any surprise to see two or three enter the book relatively early for persistent infringements.
15. Let the ball do the talking
Although Fitzmaurice will attempt to emulate Dublin’s pace, he must surely realise he can only do so much in that regard. His players must let the ball do a lot of the work for them, meaning accurate, often long kick-passes. It may just form the centrepiece of a counter-attack game.