Former Kerry defender Marc Ó Sé has suggested that the appointment of Cork’s Conor Lane for the All-Ireland final replay could play into Dublin’s hands.
The Banteer/Lyre clubman’s involvement in the game hasn’t generated half of the headlines associated with David Gough’s appointment for the drawn match. Yet five-time All-Ireland winner Ó Sé believes that Lane could inadvertently favour Dublin, if he sticks to his style of allowing the play to flow.
It’ll be Lane’s third final, having previously officiated at the drawn 2016 final between Dublin and Mayo and the 2018 decider when Dublin overcame Tyrone.
“If he does (let things go) it will probably stand to Dublin in a way because they’re a more physical team, big strong men,” said Ó Sé.
“You look at Kerry’s big men, you’re talking about David Moran, Stephen O’Brien, Gavin Crowley, Tadhg Morley — Dublin have it all over the field, the physicality that they have. If he does let it go a little bit more, it will probably play into Dublin’s barrow a bit.”
Gough’s appointment for the drawn game was met with a claim from former Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice that because the Meath man lives and works in Dublin, he couldn’t be neutral.
It was generally acknowledged after the 1-16 to 1-16 stalemate that Gough, who dismissed Dublin’s Jonny Cooper for two yellow card offences, had a good game.
“I think Gough did brilliantly the last day,” said Ó Sé. “Possibly Tom O’Sullivan could have got the red card but as well as that, maybe Stephen O’Brien deserved a penalty. It’s a hard one. The pressure he was under coming into the game (was immense). It will be interesting to see how Conor Lane gets on. He’s a good ref, you don’t get an All-Ireland final unless you are a good ref.”
It’s less certain that Gavin White will be involved from the start, the Kerry captain taken off in the second half of the drawn game after a difficult afternoon.
Having won an All-Ireland minor medal just four years ago, some believe that asking him to lead the team on the biggest day in the GAA calendar is too much.
White’s Dr Crokes clubmate Micheal Burns admitted last winter that when he was handed the captaincy against Galway in the 2018 Allianz League, he buckled under the pressure.
Kerry still observe the tradition of allowing the county champions to select the captain, hence White being thrown the armband for 2019.
Asked if it’s placed needless pressure on White, and by extension on Kerry’s All-Ireland chances, Ó Sé said there’s some truth to that.
“I think so, possibly. It depends on the character of the man. It’s a huge debate down in Kerry for years.
“In 2003, Kilcummin won the county championship and Mike McCarthy, one of the best players I played with in the Kerry full-back line, he was the captain as a result. But he never opened his mouth in the dressing room. He was just quiet.
“He was just a quiet man, he did his talking on the field. It was the likes of Darragh (Ó Sé) and Seamus Moynihan who were doing all the talking.”
Ó Sé said there could also be an alternative reason why White didn’t reach his potential during the 1-16 apiece stalemate; his positioning.
“He is out of his comfort zone, he is playing wing-forward,” said Ó Sé.
“He did very well against Mayo at wing-forward but he is a defender. So I think we are possibly being a bit unfair on him.”
In a move that could potentially free up White to play his best football, Ó Sé has suggested that Kerry could put Stephen O’Brien on Jack McCaffrey — keeping the Dublin half-back focused on his defensive duties — move Brian Ó Beaglaoich to attack, and allow White to return to wing-back.
“I suppose it tells you everything you need to know about Jack McCaffrey that we are actually putting a defender (White) on him,” said Ó Sé, a five-time All-Ireland winning corner-back.
“Maybe we need to put a forward on him, put him on the back foot, put him into an area he doesn’t want to play. Stephen O’Brien, no better man.
“It will be interesting to see how it works out at the start of the game. I think that will have a huge bearing on the game.”