Rested Kerry should have enough to ad­vance

The Kerryman (Tralee Edition) - - SPORT - BY JA­SON O’CON­NOR

TWO years ago at Mi­nor level in an All Ire­land semi-fi­nal th­ese coun­ties met with Kerry very much in the top level of the mi­nor re­vival that has brought with it the last four Tommy Markham Cups.

They beat the Li­ly­whites so com­pre­hen­sively at 2-26 to 0-10 it’s easy to for­get that Kil­dare ac­tu­ally led the match by 0-4 to 0-2 after 11 min­utes. 0-13 that day came from David Clif­ford and Seán O’Shea as Kerry en­ter Satur­day with­out the ser­vices of two of the play­ers who were the fo­cal point of that 2016 win­ning team.

Kil­dare have re­gath­ered them­selves well from that par­tic­u­lar drub­bing as some new faces have brought them what was a pretty im­pres­sive win over Dublin with Jimmy Hy­land scor­ing 0-8 which in­cluded six frees.

Kerry are not solely drawn on the 2016 Mi­nor win­ning side them­selves with Ste­fan Okun­bor, Fi­achra Clif­ford and Donal O’Sul­li­van com­ing to the fore so far in the cam­paign, Okun­bor’s suc­cess­ful con­ver­sion thus far to the full-back line one of the main fea­tures of the Un­der 20s’ run thus far.

Clif­ford and O’Sul­li­van fea­tured in the 2017 All-Ire­land Mi­nor win and the Laune Rangers man cer­tainly hasn’t looked out of place in what he has brought to the set-up thus far with O’Sul­li­van con­tin­u­ing to build on a lot of the prom­ise he showed last year in the Un­der 17 and Mi­nor sides.

Brian Lon­er­gan is new also in terms of the goal­keep­ing role ap­pear­ing to have got­ten the nod ahead of Deivi­das Uo­sis in start­ing both the Water­ford and Cork games. Back to what we know from 2016, how­ever, and, while David Shaw and Dara Moyni­han con­tinue to be the most recog­nis­able names in the for­ward line-up, both Cor­mac Lin­nane and Bryan Sweeney have given glimpses of their po­ten­tial with Diar­muid O’Con­nor tran­si­tion­ing to mid­field from the wing-for­ward role he oc­cu­pied two years ago at mi­nor level.

It’s the half-back line that is the main rea­son Kerry are in an­other All-Ire­land semi-fi­nal though with the amaz­ing work Mike Breen, Gra­ham O’Sul­li­van and Daniel O’Brien did in keep­ing Kerry in con­trol of a game Cork looked like win­ning at var­i­ous stages.

The im­pact from the bench has been more than ef­fec­tive as well with Brian Friel push­ing hard for a start­ing place each and ev­ery time he per­forms. In­deed with Ed­die Ho­ran and Seán O’Leary prov­ing that they have some­thing to of­fer like they did against Cork it is quite the choice for the Kerry man­age­ment in de­cid­ing on their six re­place­ments when the need arises.

Tony Archi­bold was the Kil­dare goalscorer in their win over Dublin last Fri­day evening in Tul­lam­ore with Padraig

Nash and goal­keeper Aaron O’Neill other huge per­form­ers in their win as the lat­ter did well to keep Dublin at bay in find­ing the net.

For those that were in­volved in the mi­nor match two years ago, you can imag­ine a de­sire to make amends for fall­ing vic­tim to a Kerry master­class will be a mo­ti­va­tional fac­tor although it isn’t quite the same Mi­nor side Kil­dare are com­ing up against this time.

What we can judge Kerry on in the main in the Mun­ster Fi­nal per­for­mance and they had the right an­swers when the ques­tions were asked but they are stepping out to a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment now some­what in head­ing to All-Ire­land level with­out the home comforts of Austin Stack Park.

The Gaelic Grounds is as good a venue as you could want from a Kerry per­spec­tive in terms of neu­tral­ity as the more open con­fines should suit them more than Cu­sack Park in En­nis did for the Un­der 21 side against Gal­way last year.

We’ve seen how much things can change from Mi­nor level though in last year’s highly rated Un­der 21 side not liv­ing up to peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions of All-Ire­land suc­cess, the phys­i­cal and foot­balling changes to play­ers ma­tur­ing from a de­vel­op­men­tal level such a big fac­tor in that.

Should the pres­sure come on this Satur­day though it feels like Kerry have the per­fect an­ti­dote in the knowl­edge Jack O’Con­nor has gained about Kil­dare in the past year.

If Kerry do play to their strengths Kil­dare have to pro­duce some­thing as spe­cial as they did against Dublin to come out on top. The Li­ly­whites do pos­sess the tools to trou­ble Kerry with their ath­letic and phys­i­cal build but if Kerry can move the ball fast and find the space for their for­wards to score then it should work in their favour.

This should be a lot closer than mi­nor level, but Kerry should still have enough to call on if the need arises this Satur­day af­ter­noon.

Ver­dict: Kerry

Kerry mid­fielder Mark Ryan in ac­tion against Lim­er­ick dur­ing the Mun­ster cham­pi­onship last month Photo by Diar­muid Greene / Sports­file

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