Five things learned from League

Published 09/04/2014 | 05:36

Cork full forward Brian Hurley wins the ball ahead of Kerry full back Mark Griffin. Sportsfile
Cork full forward Brian Hurley wins the ball ahead of Kerry full back Mark Griffin. Sportsfile

1. STATS CAN BE MISLEADING. A couple of weeks ago, just before the last two games, we trumpeted the fact that Kerry had the meanest defence in the league.

At the end of the league campaign that stat still stands, Kerry conceeded fewer goals than anybody else – just six – and that coupled with the concession of just 94 points over the seven games is an impressive record on paper.

If you were in Austin Stack Park on Sunday you'd be very wary of the significance of those figures. Cork ran riot. Kerry's defence creaked and, let's be honest here, cracked. The full-back line looked particularly vulnerable.

On some days players have looked absolutely brilliant only to flatter to decieve the following day. Shane Enright was fantastic against Westmeath, less so against Cork. Others have been more consistent. Peter Crowley, for instance, but with only one competitive game between here and the Munster final in Pairc Uí Chaoimh only a fool would suggest Kerry have a settled defence.

2. QUICK REMEDIAL ACTION IS VITAL

Last Sunday Eamonn Fitzmaurice took a full fifty minutes to move Mark Griffin, who was clearly struggling, off a rampant Brian Hurley. Given the form Hurley was in and given the dominance Cork had further out the pitch it's doubtful it would have made any difference to the outcome, but it might have helped matters.

In Mullingar the week before the Kerry boss reaped the benefit of quick changes. Jonathan Lyne was replaced by Donnchadh Walsh before half-time; Daithí Casey came on for Bryan Sheehan at half-time and Anthony Maher came on for a misfiring Johnny Buckley.

Kerry won that game comfortably. Co-incidence? We think not. Then again Westmeath were such a poor side, beaten in all their seven games, that Kerry were always likely to win out in the end. Still the changes didn't do any harm.

3. THE MCGRATH CUP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK

This time last year Johnny Buckley was nailed down for a championship place. Now he's third in the midfield pecking order behind Anthony Maher and David Moran. It may be just that with Moran now back to full fitness he was always going to be up against it to retain his place, but that, we feel, doesn't tell the whole story.

At the start of the year while David Moran was making his mark in the McGrath Cup and, indeed, the early rounds of the National Football League, Johnny Buckley was ensconced in the Dr Crokes set-up as they prepared for the All Ireland semi-final.

Once he returned to the Kerry fold he found it very difficult indeed to dislodge either Maher or Moran. A partnership develops, players stake their claim, it's hard to change that. Think too of how Stephen O'Brien used the McGrath Cup to make a statement.

4. HIGH UP OR LOW DOWN, IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER

There was much talk a couple of weeks ago, when Kerry were losing those three early games on the bounce, about the management's policy of watching the game from a height instead of the more traditional place on the line.

After Kerry started to win a few game those decrying the practice soon forgot about it and the Kerry management team continued, largely to do what they had been doing. It was always a silly notion that it was responsible for all of Kerry's woes, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's for the best either.

Take last Sunday. Eamonn Fitzmaurice watched the game from the sideline, while four of his mentors, including Diarmuid Murphy, not a small man, were crammed into a little box adjacent to the pressbox.

We've been in that box, there's not a great view from it – especially if you're standing as the six foot plus Murphy was. Was that of benefit to Kerry on Sunday to have those men up there? We can't see how really, but neither can we see how it would have harmed their chances.

5. BLACK MENACE DIDN'T MATERIALISE

When was the last time you heard anybody talking about the black card? Seriously, it's just not been an issue. In the early rounds there was plenty of talk about the highscoring returns and the influence of the black card in that.

There was even a little talk about the loss of the great art of defending there for a while – frankly the idea of pulling and dragging, which is what the black card has cut out, as some kind of skill left us more than a little baffled – but that too faded and people have just got on with playing football.

In the next few weeks you'll hear plenty of people say that the jury is still out on the black card. That championship will be the true test of it. Again we're just not that convinced by the argument.

Is championship that different? Yes it's more intense and high energy, but it's still essentially the same game. The black card was in operation in the All Ireland club final and it worked out alright didn't it? Fret not the championship will be fine.

Kerryman

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