A master of his trade is asked to consider how the apprentices are faring. Seamus Moynihan likes what he sees. He won’t say love. Not yet. For all the magic they weaved over Mayo in Killarney last month, Kerry ended up conceding more than the westerners by the end of the group.
He knows they can’t keep believing they are going to score more than the other team when alarm bells have punctuated the summer. Perhaps it’s a rite of passage as this group mature but if Kerry are to go beyond tomorrow then they require a meaner streak.
“Since the Munster campaign have finished, Kerry have certainly improved,” he states. “Against Mayo, albeit Mayo had a very bad day at the office in Killarney, all six defenders played well and stood up like Jason Foley and Tadhg Morley. As a unit, they played well and they got support from midfield and their wing-forwards as well.
“Against Donegal, there were two or three times when they ran at us and if a ball had gone over the head or a pass had been made they could have had goals. We were shaky at times but it was an open game, 1-20 apiece, and a great game to watch but if we are as open as that the next day against Tyrone we will be punished.
Tyrone are more experienced and they have forwards like Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly who are very experienced. They will probably feel they will need to rattle the goal a couple of times if they are to get to the final.
Tyrone’s set-up shouldn’t surprise their opponents and Moynihan hopes Kerry don’t feel the need to mirror what their opponents do. Paul Murphy would be the candidate to go back and mind the “D”. Moynihan wants him to stay where he is.
“If Colm Cavanagh goes back, it probably frees up a midfielder and it might David (Moran), Adrian Spillane, Jack Barry or whoever it may be to help out more defensively. Why put Paul back there when you can use a midfielder as another defender? I would be against it myself, I would feel Paul would be better off marking a player.
“I’m not into sweepers, I don’t like it. I never played with one myself. If you have work-rate out the field, if you have wing-forwards willing to fall back and work hard, midfielders working hard, you don’t need a sweeper.
“I played in the full-back long enough and if there is pressure put on further out the field and you have some chance of winning the ball then I was always happy with that. I didn’t want anyone standing in front of me.
“If the ball is coming in with no pressure from outside you’re goosed if you’re marking a quality player.
“I am fully aware of how Tyrone play that game and they’re very comfortable in that glove but Kerry aren’t comfortable in that glove.
“It’s not something they do day-in, day-out and certainly Paul would be better marking a player and contributing going forward.”
Utilising Gavin White and Jonathan Lyne as wing-forwards, it might be said Peter Keane plays seven defenders as it is. Moynihan knows all that the Kerry captain brings to the table; he just wants him to wise up when he doesn’t have the ball.
“Gavin, he is a very comfortable player going forward. That’s one of his greatest strengths and I imagine Peter is trying to get him into that space to run onto the ball as opposed to being hindered by having to mark someone.
“Ultimately, Jonathan or Gavin also have to be aware that when they go back there is no point fouling and giving away silly frees in front of goal and Gavin probably has it in the back of his head that he has two black cards from the last two games. He needs to address that issue.
“We would be fools not to think Kerry won’t be doing the same with Gavin or Jonathan the next day but the big thing is Gavin has the football, great pace but you can’t be conceding silly frees against Tyrone because they’ll mop it up.
Along with the six backs, those who drop back have to be a lot more disciplined on Sunday. By all means create a shield but don’t concede stupid frees in scoreable positions.
After drawing with Donegal, Stephen O’Brien bemoaned that Kerry’s run without a win in Croke Park extended to six. No big deal, insists Moynihan. They remain one of only two teams left in the competition undefeated.
“I wouldn’t even entertain it, to be fair,” he says of the winless record going back to the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final replay. “You’ve different management and different players. How far you go back, it doesn’t matter. Not losing a Championship game in Killarney since 1995 is a lot more important than not winning a few games in Croke Park.
“The Kerry-Donegal match was a great game and it could have gone either way.
“I thought a draw was the fair result and at least they didn’t get beaten. Travelling down the road from Croke Park for four hours with something to salvage and knowing a semi-final was in their hands was a positive. That would have been satisfying for Peter Keane and the management, not to be depending on anybody else but themselves to go out of the Super 8s. Galway (the opening day defeat) was disappointing last year and the year before they were just flat in the replay against Mayo but it’s a different management now and there’s a lot of new players.
“You can’t look back and there’s a good bunch of players there now playing an exciting, expansive brand of football and if we can tweak a couple of things in defence and they are doing that slowly but surely we’re going to be on the right road. But we’re up against a very experienced team in Tyrone. Stop goals and Kerry have a great chance to get into the final.”