Nelligan: Current side similar to mine

Kerry legend Charlie Nelligan has compared the strength of the current Kingdom panel to that of the all conquering one he was part of during the 1970s and 1980s.

Former goalkeeper Nelligan collected seven All-Ireland medals alongside arguably the most talented group of players ever assembled.

The Castleisland man said there are parallels between that array of stars and the current panel managed by Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

Fitzmaurice has consistently overhauled his team throughout the Championship and left icons like Colm Cooper and Darran O’Sullivan on the bench at times.

Barry John Keane and Paul Geaney have been strong impact substitutes also, meaning decorated duo Paul Galvin and Tommy Walsh were left kicking their heels with no game-time at all in the semi-final win over Tyrone.

“We had 28 or 30 players when I was playing and we’d head into Killarney and Mick O’Dwyer would ref the challenge games and he’d blow the whistle at the start and he’d blow it at half-time and in between you went hell for leather,” said Nelligan.

“Eamonn Fitzmaurice is able to do exactly the same with this Kerry panel because he has that quality of player too.

“Some players will tell you themselves that they feel under pressure to perform because they are constantly looking over their shoulder and that’s why Kerry are up there winning All-Irelands, it’s the same with Dublin. Dublin have a fantastic panel too.

“They have the same thing, two teams that can take each other on in training, top players marking each other.

“When we were playing, Páidí Ó Sé used to always say to Mick O’Dwyer before trial matches, ‘put me on Spillane’. He wanted to be marking Pat Spillane because he reckoned that Pat Spillane was the best footballer in the country and that every other player he would face would come second to Pat Spillane. I think there’s probably something similar going on in Kerry at the minute.”

Nelligan conceded that tactics have evolved considerably in recent times though and goalkeepers now enjoy central roles.

Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton has been credited with changing the face of goalkeeping with his laser like distribution from restarts and his accurate free-taking.

“It’s a bad sign when you have to ask your goalkeeper to come out and take a free,” claimed Nelligan. “That’s part of the skills of the game that forwards don’t seem to be taking on. Forwards are supposed to take points, take scores and as a team you’re supposed to have a good free-taker, it’s vital to have a good one.

“Dublin use Dean Rock quite a bit now. I don’t know, I just think every team should have a free-taker up in the forward line, they shouldn’t be depending on a ‘keeper.

“To give Cluxton his dues, he is excellent at it, he’s great with the kick-outs, whatever he does, 65 yards out, no problem to him.”


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