The Allianz Football League season may only be one game old, but Kerry have added a new dimension to their attacking play, according to Billy Joe Padden.
The former Mayo forward, who is working with eir Sports on their league coverage this spring, was extremely impressed with how Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s team performed against Donegal last Sunday. On a day when the Munster champions put up 2-17 in Letterkenny (all but seven points coming from their starting full-forward line of Jack Savage, Paul Geaney, and James O’Donoghue), one aspect of their tactical set-up, in particular, caught Padden’s eye.
“One thing that I thought was very clever was how they set up their full-forward line. Those three guys played really deep, almost standing on the end line at times, and they also spread out extremely wide. That meant that the open spaces around Donegal’s sweepers were stretched and it left them with an awful lot more ground to cover, plus it gave Kerry’s outfield players more room to kick the ball into.
“By playing so deep, it also meant that the Donegal sweepers had a decision to make. They either had to guard the space in front of the full-forward line or else move out to tackle any runners coming through.
“It’s not something I’ve seen done too often before, and it shows me that the Kerry management are already looking to develop new ways of dealing with mass defences.”
Ironically, Padden believes Mayo’s best chance of upsetting the odds against Kerry in Tralee tomorrow evening may come from adopting a defensive formation. A similar approach against Dublin this time last year saw Mayo lose a war of attrition 0-7 to 0-9 in Castlebar.
“If Mayo go out and try to play open football against Kerry there’s only going to be one outcome,” says Padden.
“Mayo are not going to win a shoot-out in Tralee because Kerry have better forwards than them right now. To be in with a chance of getting what they want, I think Mayo need to play with at least one sweeper, and they need to disrupt Kerry around the middle of the field.
“There was no doubt that Kerry were using the mark as a tactic against Donegal when they were going well last Sunday. David Moran, in particular, was a key man in that regard as he was winning marks, and then turning to deliver a long ball to his inside line before the sweepers were set. Mayo can’t allow Kerry to win clean possession from restarts.”
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