Séamus Moynihan: Tighter defence key if Kerry are to regain Sam

In 2000, Moynihan captained Kerry to the All-Ireland and won footballer of the year having switched from centre-back to full-back.

Séamus Moynihan: Tighter defence key if Kerry are to regain Sam

Four-time All-Ireland-winner Séamus Moynihan believes that Kerry need a tighter defensive approach if they are to reclaim the Sam Maguire.

In 2000, Moynihan captained Kerry to the All-Ireland and won footballer of the year having switched from centre-back to full-back. Such a move was doubted at the time as Moynihan was considered too much of a footballer in some quarters and he feels that, in the present day, there are similar concerns about the players being produced in Kerry.

He feels that input of coach Donie Buckley can be utilised to bring more steel to the current side.

“The development squads are certainly working,” he said in conversation with Tony Leen on The Irish Examiner GAA Podcast.

“From small clubs to the large clubs, there’s no favouritism – if you’re good enough, you’re inside with the development squads.

“In terms of defence, I think it’s the we way we play football in Kerry, we go out and it’s the beautiful game – most of those players are playing midfield or a central role, they’re not playing corner-back or full-back or playing a rough-diamond game.

“There are very few of them being produced, in the sense that they’re not playing that, day-in, day-out. They’re playing an expansive game and are very much all-round footballers.

I don’t think Kerry are concentrating on working on out-and-out defenders as such, it’s about the whole footballer. The corner-back can kick the ball over the bar.

That’s not to say that great Kerry defenders of the past lacked finesse, though.

“Mike Mac [Mike McCarthy], Marc Sé, Mike Hassett, Paudie Lynch, Páidí Sé, Johnno [John O’Keeffe], Tim Kennelly, they were all players that could fit in in any position,” Moynihan said, “but, when push came to shove, they were class backs and they did their job.

“They were really, really close, didn’t give away fatal fouls and they did their job exceptionally well from a Kerry point of view.

“When I was playing, Barry O’Shea did his cruciate ligament in 2000 and I had to go back full-back and there were big question-marks, ‘Why aren’t we creating more full-backs?’

“That question will always be there. Looking at the game over the weekend, the weather was poor but I still felt that Kerry played better against Mayo than they did against Meath, who ran at us and we were very vulnerable, we were fouling right in front of goal.

Defensively, it was a bad day at the office but they definitely reviewed it and did better against Mayo away, which is good to see. I’ve said it before and it’s no hidden secret, if we are to win an All-Ireland, we have to be better defensively.

“We have Peter Crowley to come back into it and he’s that kind of player, he can add a rough-diamond element to it. Shane Enright played very well against Meath in a central role, he was blocking, he was shouldering, he was putting himself about.

“We need players like that, blockers coming through the middle. The likes of the Marc Ó Sés, the Tom O’Sullivans, the Mike Macs, when they are marking they’re very sticky and not giving away fouls.

“I think Donie Buckley is unbelievable and I’d like to see him given more time with the players. He turned Mayo – who were one of the easiest teams to walk through, because they didn’t want to know about tackling – into one of the best in the country.

“That was down to his training and his ethos. We have the powder up front, we have some unbelievable forwards, we just need to tighten up. When we go up eight points, we’re not certain we’re going to win the game and that should not be the case.”

It was a charge that could be levelled at few of the teams Moynihan played on and the Glenflesk man cites the influence of Darragh Ó Sé as crucial in bringing so much success to Kerry.

Asked to identify the one player he’d bring with him ‘down Mean Street’, Moynihan chose Ó Sé.

“Darragh was a fantastic character, on and off the field,” he said.

“A rogue of the highest sense, but you need that. He certainly would be, in terms of what he did for Kerry during his playing career, a warrior.

He’s a guy that, if you were picking a team in the morning, you’d have to have him in the middle of the field.

Colm Cooper and Maurice Fitzgerald would also be in the mix for such a team, but David Clifford’s candidacy grows stronger by the game.

Colm Cooper
Colm Cooper

“To be even comparing David, at 21 years of age, to be at that level, is a fair compliment,” Moynihan said.

“He has got off to some start. The two boys are wizards, he’s in that zone already with an awful lot of football left to play.

“It’s hard to believe that he’s just gone 21. I was fortunate to see David play with the Sem and I was involved with him for Kerry minors for a few years. He’s an exceptional talent, he’s 21 going on 31, he looks like he’s been around a long time.

“He has left and right, he has strength and height, he’s a poacher, he can score and he can create things for other players.

“I think the goal he got in the All-Ireland final for the Sem in Croke Park [showcased his quality]. Any other player would have put the ball over the bar, it was in the second half, into the Hill, and David, from about 20 yards out, just turned around and lashed the ball into the cop corner of the net.

It was a freakish goal, to be fair, and it turned the whole game around.

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