Not too many of Kerry's McGrath Cup heroes will feature on Sunday
Kerry's last meeting with Tipperary is hardly an accurate yardstick for Sunday's match in Killarney, but last January's McGrath Cup final is, nonetheless, the most recent encounter between this weekend's protagonists.
A wet, windy, cold afternoon in Tipperary town was Eamonn Fitzmaurice's first taste of silverware as Kerry senior team manager, but he would gladly swap that particular trinket for a win and a solid performance this Sunday.
Kerry are likely to start with just five or six of the team that started back on that late January day, which can either be interpreted as a poor return from the youngsters tried out through the McGrath Cup and the National League, or simply an affirmation that the old veterans still have what it will take to go all the way to victory in September.
If it ain't broken doesn't exactly apply here, given that it's 2009 since Kerry last held the Sam Maguire cup, but Fitzmaurice will have resorted to most of the old soldiers who have battled away in the green and gold for much of the last decade.
Of the team that started in Tipperary town four months ago there will probably be no place for Jack Sherwood, Mikey and Paul Geaney, Michael O'Donoghue, Barry John Keane, Patrick Curtin, David Culhane, Andrew Garnett, Barry John Walsh, Paul Murphy and Brendan Kelliher - all of who featured at some stage in that 1-12 to 1-5 win.
Fitzmaurice had primarily wanted the McGrath Cup campaign to serve as a bedding-in period - for himself and his management team, and the phalanx of new players he had brought along for the early season ride - and it seemed as if the McGrath Cup had served all parties well. Fitzmaurice sent out a well-balanced team that contained enough hungry young footballers to ensure Kerry claimed their fourth McGrath Cup title (third in four years) with plenty to spare.
Marc and Tomas O Se, Aidan O'Mahony, Anthony Maher, Bryan Sheehan and Darran O'Sullivan contributed the big game experience. Jonathan Lyne, Jack Sherwood, Mike O'Donoghue, Mikey and Paul Geaney brought the enthusiasm and hunger of guys trying to make an early and lasting impression on the new manager. Brendan Kealy, Shane Enright, Barry John Keane, and Patrick Curtin fell somewhere inbetween - no longer novices at this level but still having to prove themselves and break into the more established echelon of the panel.
Not unexpectedly, the O Se brothers, Maher, Sheehan and Darran O'Sullivan controlled matters when they had to be controlled, and provided the key plot points when the narrative had to be taken to a new place. O'Sullivan's goal in the 17th minute was the first such turning point. Opting to play with the strong wind in the first half, Kerry settled into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead before Paul Geaney played a smart pass to set O'Sullivan driving in at goal, and he smashed his shot past Paul Fitzgerald to push Kerry five points clear.
Tipperary huffed and puffed around the middle third and worked the ball into the attacking zone periodically but a combination of the wind and a basic lack of precision betrayed them all too often. Barry Grogan's 21st minute free was their second score of the half and they wouldn't score again until the 47th minute, when Grogan slipped over Tipp's first point from play.
Kerry had added points late in the first half from Maher, Mikey Geaney, Darran O'Sullivan and a defiant long-range effort from Tomas O Se in the 36th minute after Kerry had over-elaborated once too many times for the An Ghaeltacht man's liking.
Kerry led 1-10 to 0-2 when Grogan's third point arrived, which kick-started Tipperary's most productive spell. Liam McGrath flighted over Tipp's fourth point before substitute Hugh Coughlan was afforded too much space as he bore down on the Kerry goal. Coughlan fired a shot goalward but Brendan Kealy made a superb save to turn the ball wide for a '45'. And this is the enigma of Kealy. After making such a brilliant save, the Kilcummin man stood motionless as Barry Grogan's '45' sailed over the goalkeeper's head and came down behind him off the crossbar and over the line. A Kerry hand did go up in front of Kealy, which may have distracted him, but his uncertainty and lack of authority in those situations remains an area of concern.
Six points to the good, Kerry were still confident enough to send in Barry John Walsh, Andrew Garnett and young Paul Murphy from Rathmore im place of Keane, Sheehan and Lyne, and Paul Geaney's point in the 59th minute allayed any feint worries ofa Tipperary comeback. The final ten minutues saw a meek exhange of Grogan and Paul Geaney free kicks as the rain sheeted down on the newly crowned McGrath Cup champions.
KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O'Mahony, S Enright; J Lyne, J Sherwood, T Ó Sé (0-1); A Maher (0-1), B Sheehan (0-1f); M Geaney (0-1), D O'Sullivan (1-3, 0-1f), M O'Donoghue (0-1); BJ Keane, P Curtin (0-1), P Geaney (0-3, 1f). Subs: D Culhane for Sherwood (47); A Garnett for Sheehan (57); BJ Walsh for Keane (57); P Murphy for Lyne (58); B Kelliher for O'Donoghue (59)
TIPPERARY: P Fitzgerald; A Morrissey, P Codd, J Coghlan; B Fox, S Kennedy, C McDonald; G Hannigan, L Egan; S O'Brien, P Quirke, B Maher; L McGrath (0-1), B Grogan (1-4, 1-0 '45', 3f), C Sweeney. Subs: H Coghlan for Egan (ht), A Campbell for Kennedy (ht), B O'Brien for S O'Brien (53), B Jones for Hannigan (59), A Matassa for Sweeney (67)
REFEREE: J Bermingham (Cork)