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
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