LAST year’s All-Ireland winning captain Darran O’Sullivan has been drafted into the Kerry team for Sunday’s Munster SFC final against Limerick, in the only change made by manager Jack O’Connor from the team that defeated Cork in the Munster semi-final replay.
O’Sullivan comes in instead of David Moran at right half-forward and with Paul Galvin ruled out through suspension, O’Sullivan was the frontrunner for the position.
The rest of the team is unchanged with Anthony Maher staving off the claims of Micheál Quirke to hang onto a midfield spot and Barry John Keane unable to break into the attack, despite two impressive substitute appearances against Cork. Defender Aidan O’Mahony is included amongst the substitutes having rejoined the panel since the Cork match.
In all there are only five survivors from the Kerry team that last faced Limerick in a Munster decider with Tom O’Sullivan, Tomás and Marc O Sé, Mike McCarthy and Colm Cooper all having started in the 2004 replay, although Tommy Griffin was introduced as a substitute during that game.
Meanwhile the Kerry camp retains a wariness for the football threat that the Treaty County pose in Sunday’s decider.
Despite the great All-Ireland triumphs he has presided over, manager Jack O’Connor can still vividly recall the stern examination his team received in his freshman year as an intercounty boss, when they met in the 2004 Munster final.
“I remember in my first year they put us to the pin of our collar above in Limerick. They really should have beaten us that day. Then here in Killarney, they went 1-3 to 0-1 up after ten minutes in a replay. They’ll have a fierce hunger, it’s 114 years since they last won a Munster title.
“That’s fierce motivation. and it’s mentally going to be a great test of our fellas. It’s a perfect scenario for Limerick coming into this game as we’ve been in the limelight now for the last couple weeks. They’re doing their business quietly and it suited us last week to come in under the radar for the Dublin game. You couldn’t pick a better script for the game.
“We’ve been saying that to the boys about how last year, Cork thought they were home after beating us and Limerick tested them. We’re not going to fall into that trap on Sunday. Go back to 1992, Kerry beat Cork in the Munster championship and then were caught by Clare. Like Marty Morrissey said that time about Clare, there won’t be a cow milked in Limerick if they do it on Sunday.
“We’ll be alert after last year’s final. Mickey Ned knows us backwards and Donie Buckley as well. No better men to plot your downfall. They certainly nearly did a number on Cork last year.
“We’ll have to try to pull a couple of rabbits out of the hat and surprise them.”
Captain Bryan Sheehan has a limited bank of experiences to draw on when it comes to collisions with Limerick during his career.
But he’s seen enough of their performances to convince him of the sizeable challenge that they pose.
“I think we might have played them in the round-robin system at minor, but very little overall. The only experience I had was in 2006 when we met in the Gaelic Grounds at senior level.
“But Limerick are a serious outfit and there is no fella inside our dressing-room who thinks it’s not going to be.
“There might be people outside on the street who are talking about Kerry, but we’re long enough on the road to know it’s going to be a massive battle. You look at how closely Limerick ran Cork last year and that could very well be us.
“We haven’t won a Munster title since 2007 and complacency doesn’t come into it.”
KERRY (SF v Limerick): B Kealy; M O Sé, T Griffin, T O’Sullivan; T O Sé, M McCarthy, K Young; S Scanlon, A Maher; Darran O’Sullivan, Declan O’Sullivan, D Walsh; C Cooper, K Donaghy, B Sheehan.
Subs: D Hennessy, P Reidy, BJ Keane, D Moran, M Quirke, D Bohane, K O’Leary, A O’Connell, N O’Mahony, P Corridan, J Lyne, J Buckley, P O’Connor, J O’Donoghue, A O’Mahony.
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