Weeshie's Week

Welcome headaches for Eamonn Fitzmaurice

June 16th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

As expected Kerrys unbeaten run against Tipperary stretching away back to 1928 continues, but it was not all plain sailing in sun splashed Semple Stadium last Sunday and indeed if the home side had been more accurate with their shooting the margin of defeat would have been much, much closer.  And Brendan Kealy's point blank save late in the second half from Ger Mulhaire when Tipp badly needed something to lift their sagging spirits was also a pivotal moment in the game.  Thirteen wides by Tipp against four from Kerry tells a story in itself and following the game Kerry manager Eamon Fitzmaurice was clearly disappointed with the performance of his side having expected much more following their week in Portugal.

Always confusing to judge Kerry on their first round championship outing of the season. Last year against Clare up in Ennis it took a Paul Murphy goal to settle the nerves in what was a rusty, ragged performance and last Sunday was something similar, however in fairness to Kerry they were between a rock and a hard place facing a fancied home side.  Tipperary are certainly on the rise and will trouble whoever they meet in the losers round so going in to the game last Sunday Kerry had so much to lose but as always rose to the challenge and at the end of the day they just did enough to advance.

It would be an exaggeration of course to infer on this showing that despite being All Ireland champions Kerry will retain the title again this year but there is, however, a big ratio between Kerry and the big occasion. And there are very few bigger occasions that a Munster final in Killarney and having Cork as opponents. This will certainly focus the mind of players and management for the next four weeks.  It's purely irreverent of course but intresting to note that forty years ago this year, 1975, when the golden age of Mick o Dwyer management began Kerry also faced Tipperary in their opening match in Clonmel the Kingdom got a great run for their money as they trailed beginning the second half. However as always the Kerry selectors made the winning move switching John Egan to the forty and the great man scored two goals and two points to settle the issue. We all know what happened later that year in the historic final against Dublin. Slow to start the campaign, great to finish is more often than not the story of Kerry football.

Last Sunday the home side had the start they so desperately needed and were a goal and a point ahead within four minutes and it looked even at this early stage that maybe, just maybe, the shock of the century was in store. However two rather fortuitous goals for the champions steadied the ship and it was then as always in these first round matches we saw the experience and composure of Kerry come to the surface.

The first Kerry goal saw Johnny Buckley, Colm Cooper and Brian Sheehan combine and Barry John Walsh who won a pile of possession reacted quickly in the square turning to slide the ball to the net along the ground.  Colm Cooper brought a huge roar from the Kerry supporters when he pointed in the 20th minute and then we saw the second Kerry goal. And this goal had so many familiar features about it, events occurring that we have seen so often in the past in relation to these players.

Jonathan Lyne who had a superb game at wing back went on a flying solo up the wing, delivered a big high diagonal ball into the Tipp square for Kieran Donaghy's benefit, the captain rose, the ball broke, and Paul Geaney reacted the quickest of all to rattle the net.

Here we saw in the space of just seconds the difference between the two counties. The diagonal centre, Kieran Donaghy's height and strength and the razor sharp reactions of the Dingle man to latch on to the ball as the home defender was flat footed.  Razor sharp reactions, in the tightest of spaces to get the score which sent Kerry on their winning way. In fairness to Tipperary playing their best football at this time they in turn reacted quickly to this goal. Steven o Brien their midfielder with a great future passed to Philip Austin and his piercing run through the Kerry defence set up the outstanding Michael Quinlivan to punch to the net.  A bit of a worry here as the Kerry defenders appeared very uncomfortable when players ran directly at them.

Just two ahead at the short whistle five successive points after the interval put paid to Tipp's challenge and the longer the game went on the more dominant the All Ireland champions became. Anthony Maher and Brian Sheehan were brilliant at mid field, Mark o Shea and Shane Enright in defence were excellent while the return of Colm Cooper brought a whole new dimension to the Kerry attack. But it's the players sitting on the Kerry bench that fascinates most of all. Amazing that just seven from last years All Ireland winning first fifteen began last Sunday.

The selectors have some very welcome headaches to contend with as the Munster final draws near. Donegal I believe are looking very ominous, Dublin are the favourites and Eamon Fitzmaurice will know exactly where his boys stand in the rating following the Munster final. Cork games in the championship, not the league are always a great barometer.  There will be skin and hair flying behind the locked gates of Fitzgerald Stadium as p[layers battle to win their places.

The treatment James o Donoghue received off the ball when he came on last Sunday was disgraceful raising the question as always what were the umpires doing with their hands clasped tightly behind their backs. And while I'm on it no kudos for the Munster council with the locked gates and thousands unable to get in. Bad planning from the usual reliable council. 

Fogra: Next Monday,6-8 pm on Terrace Talk, Radio Kerry, in a two hour special I will be looking back at East Kerrys historic first ever win in the County Championship, fifty years ago this year 1965.  Some of the players from that team will join me as will the trainor of the side Donie Sheehan. Mid Kerry were defeated following a replay.

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