Weeshie's Week

Defeating Tyrone was a massive boost for football in this county

August 25th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

When looking back at Kerry's two superb All Ireland semi-final victories against northern opposition in rain lashed Croke Park last Sunday I feel it is important to put into context the similarities in styles displayed between Jack o Connor's young men and Eamon Fitzmaurice's senior panel. There appears to be a distinct flair of Kerry football developing in this present era to cope with the changing face of Gaelic football and unquestionably the game today has changed beyond all recognition.  The advent of packed defences, sweepers and double marking of star players place huge demands in relation to preparation on players and management. 

And we saw last Sunday the hugely beneficial input o Connor and Fitzmaurice are having on Kerry players as they drive on in their efforts to retain their two All-Ireland titles, minor and senior.  Their overall approach is very similar, highlighted especial by every player when in possession. Easy and comfortable on the ball, the traditional Kerry skills honed to perfection, hand and foot passing to the highest level of perfection, of course everything will not go according to plan, patience when attempting to penetrate the massed defences, great fielding around the centre, again the traditional Kerry skill we have witnessed over the years.  Players coached and drilled to run into the open open spaces, pin point passing, great support play and beautiful score taking.

 In the most difficult conditions imaginable last Sunday the combined total of both teams was, 1-29. Among those scores some real gems, a joy to behold, from players such as Anthony Maher, Colm Geaney, Johnny Buckley, Michael Foley, Stephen o Brien and Andrew Barry.  And then you have evidence of the vast amount of time and effort devoted to both panels in relation to tackling  but without fouling, the most difficult and contentious aspect of our game. In my eyes a highly effective style of play has evolved over the past few years, and all for the better.

 Both minor and senior managers are similar in their approach to their philosophies on how the game must be played in today's world.  And its definitely all for the better. It's exciting times for Kerry football, Jack o Connor will bring his mantra to the Kerry under 21s next year, and the man chosen to replace him as minor manager must be someone who will continue this master plan from under sixteen right up to the very top. It's not all about winning All Irelands in my view, but passing on all that is great and good in Kerry footballers to the coming generations of players.

Make no mistake about it but defeating Tyrone last Sunday was a massive boost for football in this county. Like it or not the three defeats in 2003-05-08 suffered under Mickey Harts men in Croke Park had left a sour taste in the mouth. Another loss would be unbearable to many. This might not be admitted by some but like the Down defeats of the sixties and later, whenever the faithful Kerry follower come together to talk football Tyrone and Down invariable become topics. Now the Tyrone itch has been scratched, satisfied, put to bed, end of story. Not so however with Down, maybe in the near future.

Last Sunday's superb victory in what was a fascinating, absorbing game was copper fastened in the second half. The introduction of Paul Geaney at half time changed the style of the Kerry attack, similar to the change we saw in the re-played Munster final. Colm Cooper who had spent the first half so close to the Tyrone goal and had been swallowed up by defenders time and again moved out field more and his combination with James o Donoghue and the other forwards from outside was crucial. Brendan Kealy, s brilliant save from Mark Bradleys 44th min bullet of a shot was probably the defining moment.  The Kilcummins man reactions were razor sharp, a knee high shot; he was going to his left, had to re adjust his body and saved with his right hand. This save together with his second half brilliant stop in the Munster Final sent Kerry on their winning way.

Another crucial factor in that second half was the series of faulty kick outs from the Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan. From the re-start he was forced, due to the Kerry close marking to drive his kick outs into no man's land, the Kerry men snapped them up and three quick points resulted.  The half forward line was outstanding, notching up six points between them, Stephen o Brien, Donnacha Walsh and Johnny Buckley working like Trojans all day long.

 Buckley was magnificent; his work rate tireless, he has this beautiful seemingly slow easy style of play, selling dummies with that hop, a little shimmy and beautiful delicate kick. Great players always seem to have loads of room and time, the Crokes man has all of those and so comfortable is he on the ball he reminds me when playing on the biggest stage of all of a young lad out in the backyard at home playing with a ball and pretending to be Mickey Sheehy, Mick o Connell or Maurice Fitzmaurice. 

And then you had the subs coming on contributing hugely to the win, Barry John Keans late clinching point was taken with great aplomb, skill and speed, There was something special about this point, a message perhaps?. This young Kerry footballer with wonderful football pedigree bounding on to Croke Park, mad for action signifying to the side line men that he is ready to stake a place for the All-Ireland final?  

Of course there were problems and let offs, missed scores by Tyrone, we could have very easily conceded another penalty, Shane Enright was fortunate not to get a black card. As we witnessed against Tipperary and Cork when the Tyrone men ran at the heart of our defence at speed big gaps appeared. Lots to work on between now and the final. I am hoping for a Kerry/Dublin final, the age old battle, the city verses the country.  The county would be in a proverbial spin. Kerry minors going for first back to back titles since Tommy o Hanlon (cap) and Dr Jim Brosnan (trainer) did the trick in 1962-63. And finally let's hope the Kerry Ladies can beat Cork next Saturday and join the lads with a Croke Park date of their own.  Who said Kerry can't play in the rain?

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