Tipperary manager Liam Kearns says Sunday’s All- Ireland SFC semi-final will have to go “very right” if his native Kerry want to join Mayo in the September 18 showpiece.
Kearns believes the midfield battle is crucial to Kerry’s hopes but if Dublin win it, he can’t see the Kingdom holding out defensively.
Dublin are favourites in his eyes but he’s not ruling out a Kerry victory either — provided they at least break even in the middle third.
Kearns described Eamonn Fitzmaurice as “a very shrewd operator” and he believes the Kerry boss will have a very specific plan in place in order to cause an upset.
Kearns reflected: “I think Kerry have been preparing for this game for a couple of months. Fitzmaurice is a very shrewd operator and they will probably have a game-plan they’ve been hatching quite a while for this game.
“Having said that, I think Dublin are the top team in the country at the moment. If (James) McCarthy is playing wing-back, I think Dublin might have enough to deal with whatever Kerry are going to throw at them.
“If McCarthy is out though, it’s McCarthy, McCaffrey and Rory O’Carroll gone out of their (2015) backline and then I would say there might be an opportunity there for Kerry to do something. An awful lot depends on the middle of the field.
“Who do Kerry play there and will they perform to their highest standards? If Dublin win the middle third, I can’t see the Kerry backs holding the Dublin forwards.
“Dublin have nine top class forwards to play, their bench is really, really strong and I think the Kerry lads will struggle to hold them if they do well in the middle third.
“If Kerry happen to do well in the middle third and put the Dublin full-back line under pressure, Kerry might have a big say in it.”
And Kearns revealed: “James O’Donoghue might be centre-forward on Cian O’Sullivan to try and get him to come out and mark him. And I’d expect (Kieran) Donaghy to be on the edge of the square with Paul Geaney alongside him.
“We know how good Geaney is from the Munster final so if they can get the ball into those, they have a chance but it would have to go very right (for Kerry). You need the breaks and the bit of luck. I’d have Dublin favourites but wouldn’t rule Kerry out either.”
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