Goalkeeping was a different game when Diarmuid Murphy was between the sticks. They called it a “kick-out” back then, none of this “restart” business.
Murphy hung up his gloves following the 2009 season and nods in agreement when it is put to him that the goalkeeper’s role has evolved dramatically in the interim seven years. So much so that when the Bryan Sheehan rumour first raised its head a fortnight ago, instead of being instantly laughed off, the merits of having the 31-year-old take the Kerry kick-outs, sorry, restarts, were first chewed over.
The role of the goalkeeper, according to the three-time All Star custodian, is no longer concerned with shot-stopping and command of the small parallelogram. Distribution, that’s the name of the game these days.
“There is more emphasis on kicking than what there used to be, which is a good thing for the lads inside in the goal because it’s a different challenge for them,” says the Kerry selector.
“Distribution now is more important than when I finished up seven years ago. It’s not even called a kick-out anymore, it’s a restart now.
“It’s one of the most important positions, definitely. It has increased in importance from when I was playing, which is not that long ago really. There is more emphasis on retaining possession from kick-outs than what there used to be. It is a huge part of everybody’s game plan; winning your own kick-out and disrupting the opposition on theirs.”
And who does he credit with revolutionising the role of the number one shirt? Ah, but Cluxton of course, the foremost individual Kerry will need to suppress tomorrow.
“He has really taken it on to another level over the last three or four years with the kick-outs, never mind the regular goalkeeping which he is excellent at too. He is absolutely fantastic, one of the best around in the last 20 years. It can be hard to keep the hunger going year in, year out for a guy that has been there since 2001, but he seems to be going from strength to strength.
“The kick-out is a huge part of the Dublin game. What are you going to do with it is a huge part of our game-plan. It has been a platform for their success over the last number of years and they will be looking to maximise their opportunities off that on Sunday.”
On the Kerry side, there’ll need to be a marked improvement in this department given their ability to win just two of the Clare kick-outs in the quarter-final.
“We wouldn’t be happy with that kind of outcome. It’s a case that the kickers are so good and sometimes you could have a mismatch numbers wise between backs and forwards. They might have more backs than you have forwards in there just to try and create the extra man. Teams are very good at it, but, by the same token, we’d hope to do better, absolutely.
“It’s important for the goalies to get the chemistry going with the lads out the field as well, which is what our opponents the next day are very good at. It’s a question of getting a feel for the goalie. He knows that a fella is going to make a break left or right. It’s almost like the quarterback in American football.
“It’s easy to make calls from the sideline and say ‘this fella is at fault or that fella is at fault.’ But sometimes it can be just that the chemistry isn’t great between the fellas involved. It’s complex, it’s a complicated racket now. The days of just putting it down and putting it out to your two midfielders are gone. You don’t see a lot of aerial contests anymore.”
The introduction, so, of the mark next year, as agreed at Congress, should see the renaissance of high-fielding around the middle.
“It’s worth a go and might encourage longer kicking [from goalkeeper]. It was a brave move to bring it in rather than trialling it and seeing how it goes. There is a school of thought out there that because you have the mark it might lead to more guys trying to break the ball because the penalty for your opponent catching the ball is a free kick, whereas before you could huddle around him and get him penalised for over-carrying. Definitely, it’s something you would like to see trialled.”
Back to tomorrow. Back to Dublin. In Murphy’s final outing against the Sky Blues Kerry trounced their opponents by 1-24 to 1-7. They haven’t beaten them since. What’s changed?
“Dublin are a better all round team than they were then. They have put huge work into their underage set-up down through the years, the coaching systems up there, getting the best players through and promoting them up through the development squads, which we are all trying to do. They are reaping the rewards of that.
“[The funding] probably goes where the people are. A lot of the population is up there. It can’t be a bad thing to say young fellas are getting good coaching at underage level. Wouldn’t you prefer to see young lads getting coaching than going off and doing something else?
“I don’t think it is fair to criticise a county for using what they have available to them and making the most of it. I think it would be better for everybody else to make sure that they are doing what they can to get their own place in order.”
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