Kerry will have to work hard to down Tribe

Seán O’Sul­li­van Kerry have a lot of work to do to get the bet­ter of a bat­tle-hard­ened Gal­way in Croke Park on Sun­day af­ter­noon

The Kerryman (Tralee Edition) - - SPORT -

WHILE the rest of us sat back over the past month or so to watch the drama of the dreaded qual­i­fiers un­fold, the Kerry play­ers and man­age­ment were qui­etly work­ing away with only one fo­cus in mind: Gal­way.

Of course, they would have been keep­ing one eye on whom the other two teams would be to join them in their Su­per 8s group, but once they knew that their first as­sign­ment was the Con­nacht cham­pi­ons then it was very clear that this game is cru­cial.

Win on Sun­day and it re­ally does put them in pole po­si­tion to qual­ify for an All Ire­land semi-fi­nal.

De­feat to Kevin Walsh’s side, how­ever, would put us on the back foot straight away with a tricky as­sign­ment up in Clones against an ever im­prov­ing Mon­aghan then be­com­ing a must win game.

A resur­gent Kil­dare out­fit come to Kerry in our last game so it would be ideal if our spot in the last four was sealed be­fore that. With the way the group sys­tem pans out win­ning that all im­por­tant first game is vi­tal to our chances.

There seems to be a feel­ing around the county that Kerry will be far too good for Gal­way es­pe­cially in Croke Park, but I fail to see the rea­son­ing be­hind this. In my opin­ion Gal­way come into this game with much the tougher games un­der their belt.

They had to grind out wins over Mayo and Roscom­mon and will have learnt a lot about them­selves in terms of form and tac­ti­cal set up. Kevin Walsh would have known that the re­ward for win­ning the prov­ince would have been a meet­ing with Kerry and he has no doubt planned for that.

In fact he has been plan­ning since the spring. His side came to Tralee back in Fe­bru­ary and de­servedly beat Kerry by a goal.

Go­ing to the game that day sup­port­ers I’m sure would have been ex­pect­ing a lively free scor­ing game be­tween two purists of the game, but what they got in­stead was a steely de­fen­sive set up by Gal­way who have ob­vi­ously de­cided that they needed to bring an­other edge to the their game to get to the next level.

They have now de­vel­oped into a side that is now very dif­fi­cult to break down whereas be­fore they played a very open style which op­po­nents en­joyed as it lead to high scor­ing shootouts.

They have added Paddy Tally to their back room team and by all ac­counts he has th­ese

Gal­way play­ers eat­ing out of the palm of his hand.

I spend a bit of time north of the bor­der as my wife hails from Antrim and from talk­ing to foot­ball peo­ple up there it seems Gal­way have ac­quired the ser­vices of a much sought after coach who has ob­vi­ously im­proved them.

They got to the league fi­nal, which was a huge boost in con­fi­dence and vin­di­cated their new ap­proach. They matched Dublin most of the way in that Easter Sun­day de­cider which has got peo­ple talk­ing about this ‘new’ Gal­way.

They cer­tainly didn’t set the world alight against Mayo or Roscom­mon, but I re­ally don’t think it both­ered them. They be­lieve in what they are do­ing and will bring that to Croke Park Sun­day to make life very dif­fi­cult for Kerry.

They will al­low Kerry pos­ses­sion from the restarts and set their de­fen­sive lines. If Kerry lose the ball they then de­ploy a hard ef­fec­tive run­ning game that is ide­ally suited to Croke Park and they demon­strated how good they are at do­ing it in that league game in Fe­bru­ary.

Of course, within their new set up they still need to score and are hugely de­pen­dent on Damien Comer and Shane Walsh to do the ma­jor­ity of it.

This is where I think Kerry do have a big ad­van­tage in that we have more scor­ing op­tions all over the field.

If Kerry can keep th­ese two dan­ger­ous for­wards un­der wraps then Gal­way will strug­gle to keep the score­board tick­ing over. They are also with­out in­flu­en­tial mid­fielder Ciaran Dug­gan which dis­rupts an im­por­tant sec­tor of the field for them. Re­gard­less though they still rep­re­sent a huge test for Kerry and boy do we need it!

After see­ing what both Clare and in par­tic­u­lar Cork pro­duced in the qual­i­fiers it leaves a huge ques­tion mark hang­ing over Kerry. We dis­patched two ter­ri­ble teams on our way to the Su­per 8s and now some­how have to go up the gears to get the wins needed to progress.

My fear is that just won’t hap­pen with the flick of a switch. If Kerry don’t come out of the blocks on Sun­day then it could take them a while to get to grips with Gal­way whom as I’ve said have had se­ri­ous bat­tles be­hind them.

Of course, we have the qual­ity to do the job there is no ques­tion­ing that. As bad as our op­po­si­tion has been we have played some re­ally ex­cel­lent foot­ball and still boast the best set of for­wards in the coun­try right now.

I’m sure the Kerry fans are sali­vat­ing at the prospect of see­ing Paul Geaney, James O’Donoghue and David Clif­ford ex­press them­selves on the big­gest stage of their sport but I am just erring on the side of cau­tion.

Teams like Gal­way will be do­ing ev­ery­thing on their power to limit the space around our ‘go to’ men and I’m sure Éa­monn and his man­age­ment team have been pre­par­ing for this.

It’s easy to say that Kerry turn into a dif­fer­ent beast in Croke Park and be­lieve me I have seen that hap­pen, but that was when you had won a com­pet­i­tive Mun­ster cham­pi­onship.

At least head­ing into an All Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nal we had over­come a good strong Cork side who put us to the pin of our col­lar ev­ery time.

The Kerry team that runs out on Sun­day won’t know where they are at un­til that first fif­teen min­utes passes by.

Some­thing tells me they will be in a bat­tle.

De­feat to Kevin Walsh’s men would put us on the back foot straight away with a tricky as­sign­ment next

David Clif­ford in ac­tion against De­clan Kyne of Gal­way dur­ing their game in the Na­tional Foot­ball League in Fe­bru­ary Photo by Diar­muid Greene / Sports­file

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