Credit to Fitzmaurice for sticking to his guns with youth policy
KERRY'S comprehensive win over Cork last Sunday was all about collecting the two points so desperately needed as a trip to Tyrone approaches and you could literally sense the apprehension and urgency in the Kerry players as the first half unfolded.
Playing before the often critical home supporters it was well into the second half before the side began to play with a bit of freedom and relaxation. And it was the introduction of Colm Copper and Paul Galvin with fifteen minutes to go that finally assured the two points to Kerry.
The fact that Colm came on and played at center-forward is, for me, very significant and, maybe, signals the selectors plans for him in this position as the championship approaches. He ran the show from here setting up Kieran Donaghy for his first point of the league and his pin-point passes continually unhinged the Cork defence, while Paul Galvin looking fit and anxious for road finished one such move with a fisted point.
A good forty yards man can pull many strings and dictate the course of games. It's a vital position especially if you have a man who can supply the inside line with pin-point passes and Cooper on his day is the perfect selection for here.
While the return of the seasoned campaigners has made a huge difference in the last two games against Down and Cork, Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be more than satisfied with the continued improvement of those younger guns attempting to cement a place on the starting fifteen. Shane Enright, Johnny Buckley, Jonathan Lyne and Brian McGuire were excellent and looking down the line these are the men who are the future of Kerry football.
Fionn Fitzgerald, James O'Donoghue and Peter Crowley also saw action last Sunday so whatever way you look at it Eamonn Fitzmaurice is doing exactly what he promised when he took the Kerry reins: planning for the future and he must be highly complimented for sticking to his guns.
And then we had a superb display from Mark Griffin at full-back. It's an ill wind that doesn't blow some good and Aidan O'Mahony's injury has forced the selectors to place their faith in this young man in front of the excellent Brendan Kealy. A natural in this position, he has starred there with his school, with the Kerry under-21s and at present with his club.
He has wonderful positional sense, speed to get ahead of his man, strength, good hands and last Sunday thrilled the crowd with his series of dashing clearances. Of course, far bigger tests await the St Michaels / Foilmore man. The Tyrone game and Stephen O'Neill will test him to the limit and it will be fascinating to see if Kerry have uncovered a naturally born full-back, the first in my memory for many a long day.
Anthony Maher and Johnny Buckley are developing into a very influential pairing and a fascinating unusual little stat about Buckley, he won the throw in against Down at the commencement of that game, he did the same after half-time and repeated the feat last Sunday winning both throw-ins high over his head.
A victory over Cork, one more step along the way, lots of work to be done, Tyrone waiting, licking their lips in anticipation of banishing their deadly rivals to the second division. Omagh will be some test of this Kerry side.