The inside line of Clifford, Geaney, O’Donoghue — someone will surely inflict a C-GOD abbreviation on them before long — has a breadth of promise about it.
The drill usually for Kerry management is a Monday sit-down, most times over a bite, to chew on the issues and problems from the day before.
If Éamonn Fitzmaurice and his team don’t skip the grub altogether this evening, they will surely dispense with the starters and move straight onto the meat of it.
Fitzmaurice ringed June 3 on his calendar from the early days of 2018, but the bright young things he sent out to represent the county yesterday fed so ravenously on Clare they might have been marking the date all their young lives.
Many probably had.
Chances are that this evening’s preliminary review of a record-breaking afternoon in Killarney will reference Cork more than Clare. Both Fitzmaurice and Stephen O’Brien admitted a frisson of excitement at the thought of a Saturday night date on June 23 at the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh against a Ronan McCarthy-led outfit seemingly on the rise.
It will offer Kerry a far greater examination of their summer status than yesterday’s turkey-shoot.
What it does get out of the way is the nervous apprehension Kerry’s talented tyros must have felt Saturday night as they prepared to make a Championship debut their compatriots have been talking about for the best part of four years. Each of the seven Championship debutants acquitted himself capably, albeit with the recognition that the road ahead gets steeper in a hurry.
If Stephen O’Brien was the most consistently good performer over the piece, it was greatly encouraging for Kerry that Jason Foley, Ronan Shanahan, and especially Gavin White looked so at ease with the hard ground and increased expectancy. A plus too that James O’Donoghue got 50 minutes into his legs, and that Seanie O’Shea and Micheal Burns performed so capably in the half-forward line.
The inside line of Clifford, Geaney, O’Donoghue — someone will surely inflict a C-GOD abbreviation on them before long — has a breadth of promise about it, and if Fitzmaurice gets one lucky break, it will be their continued good health until September at least.
As a dry run for June 23, this semi-final was next to useless for Kerry.
Clare manager Colm Collins remarked that his side doesn’t set up “not to lose”, but he must weigh that now against the potential damage inflicted on his players for the qualifier series by such an evisceration.
Fitzmaurice, a history and stats buff, could not recall a higher total from Kerry in Championship, but records are less his concern now than preparing his young side for a high intensity examination in the Munster final.
“Cork are Cork. They have a lot of good players. During the league, Ronan McCarthy’s (demeanour) was very steady, regardless of results. That was going to breed a different atmosphere in the group. There wasn’t going to be a knee-jerk reaction, there wasn’t going to be an atmosphere looking to the outside. Even though they didn’t have a great league, you could see they were content going forward. There was a different feel about them.”
Interestingly, Fitzmaurice added: “I felt there was a lot of talk and bluster coming out of Tipperary so I felt they were in a very dangerous spot. And I felt Cork were in a good spot (before the semi-final). That result didn’t surprise me. And it won’t surprise me in a couple of weeks time when they bring as much, and more, to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.”
If that sounds like the old Kerry yerra, the manager wasn’t slow to talk up his own side too.
Whatever the margin of victory yesterday, it was bound to have a cautionary asterisk attached, but Fitzmaurice admitted his excitement at working with and nurturing this group through to a full realisation of their unquestioned ability. And given the depth of talent and know-how sitting in the dugout yesterday, the chances of youthful arrogance seeping out are negligible.
Certainly from the vantage point of the Clare technical area yesterday, Kerry’s ranking as No 2 in the country was easy to understand.
“They played some excellent football, with great lines of running,” Collins pointed out.
“They also used the player in the best position and their shooting options were very clinical.”
Indeed 23 of Kerry’s mountainous total came from play, with Paul Geaney putting on a two-footed clinic. Interestingly, the Dingle scorer handed the free-taking duties to Sean O’Shea, which says more about the set-up’s confidence in the Kenmare lad than Geaney’s accuracy from a standing position.
David Clifford passed left-footed frees onto James O’Donoghue, but did plenty to indicate that his first winter and spring in a senior inter-county training regime has brought his power, pace, and balance on another 20%. Given the stories of how he’s been doing in training, the possibilities for David Clifford are boundless if he keeps his head straight.
“Football is a simple game,” mused Colm Collins after. “If you win possession, you keep possession, you take it to a conclusion and score. Kerry do that very well, and once the malaise set in for us, we dropped our heads, which is disappointing from a group of lads who have always done the opposite.”
Maybe the older Kerry heads might have taken pity in other circumstances. But the likes of Maher, Donaghy and Darran O’Sullivan have minutes to fight for now, ditto Barry John Keane.
Kerry’s old guard — with Donnchadh Walsh ready to return — aren’t ready to hand on the baton just yet.
Kerry’s young and old have eyes on a productive alliance.
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