Three-time All-Ireland winning-manager Jack O’Connor believes Kerry’s ability to counter the ultra-defensive approach of northern teams will see them past Tyrone in Sunday’s All-Ireland football semi-final.
The former Kerry boss reckons Mickey Harte has added an extra defensive edge in 2015, but points to Kerry’s midfield strength and their ability to find the target from distance as the key factors in hurdling Tyrone’s blanket defence.
“Kerry’s experience and the fact that Kerry came up against a very defensive Donegal side in the final last year will mean they have the experience of that to draw on, they’ll be able to handle Tyrone on Sunday,” asserted O’Connor.
“My feeling is that Tyrone will be difficult opponents because certainly they’ve got very defensive this year, they have huge energy, mobility and work-rate.
“But I think Kerry will ask them questions that Monaghan did not ask them.
“Monaghan’s curve was on a downward spiral since the Ulster final.
“Overall, I feel that Kerry should have too much for them. I think Kerry are very strong in the middle of the field and they are good kickers.
“And I don’t care how many bodies you have back in defence, if you possess good kickers in Croke Park it’s half the battle.”
Kerry manager Eamon Fitzmaurice last week said the Tiernan McCann fallout would galvanise Tyrone. O’Connor, however, is adamant that ‘Rufflegate” will have no impact this weekend.
“The bottom line is that stuff is really for the media, papers and pundits. I don’t think that will be bothering Kerry as Kerry will be concentrating on getting a performance and leaving the hype to others.
“I don’t think that it will be a factor in Sunday’s game.” Not since 1986 have the Kingdom overcome the Red Hand County at GAA headquarters and although their most recent championship meeting back in 2012 ended in victory for Kerry, O’Connor says Croke Park is a far tougher arena to stifle Tyrone than Fitzgerald Stadium
“That was an important win and there are a lot of the lads that played in that game still involved with Kerry. Tyrone weren’t as good in 2012 as they had been in previous years.
“They’re virtually a new team now with the exception of the McMahons, the Sean Cavanaghs and the Peter Hartes of this world. Tyrone underage football has been very strong and Mickey Harte has always been able to produce teams. He appears to be coming with a good team again.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved