Positive start just what was needed
Expert analysis from All-Ireland winner Sean O'Sullivan
Published 11/02/2017 | 00:00
Tralee to Letterkenny is a fair old spin! Our friends at Google maps calculate it to be a journey of over 433km. As the Kerry players settled in for a long trek down from the other end of the island on Sunday evening they would have done so with a quiet content at a job well done.
To borrow a phrase from across the Atlantic they had won 'on the road' and a very long stretch of road at that. Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his back-room team would have knocked a good dent out of the trip by getting the laptop out and reviewing what worked and what didn't.
Eamonn himself would have been happy to have finally broken his barren spell of not winning any of his previous first league games of the season. So all and all a satisfying day's work for all involved.
This was a victory built on sheer hard work and graft. Early spring football is not for the purists with teams still trying to get up to speed on fitness and still showing signs of lack of match practice.
It wasn't always pretty from Kerry but, barring a Donegal fight back in the last quarter where they kicked the last six points of the game, we were always in control and looked well ahead of our opponents in terms of preparation done so far in 2017.
Kerry simply outworked and outfought Donegal for large parts of the game especially coming towards the end of the first half and straight after the break. It was in these critical periods that they laid the foundation for the win. After 44 minutes they had 2-14 up on the board and it was threatening to turn into a real bad day out for the home side.
Yet for some reason we seemed to take the foot off the gas and allow Dongeal generate some momentum and throw whatever they had left at us. It made for a nervy finish and after what was a fairly rock solid display by our defence we ended up coughing up 1-17 which mid way through the second half just did not look likely.
This may have been down to some of our guys running out of steam after putting in a good shift. Eamonn ran the bench as well, which can sometimes lead to a little bit of disjointed play and confusion as to who is supposed to be doing what, but certainly this was the negative side to what was a very good day for many of these Kerry players most notably our young guns.
I know it is early in the year and early in the careers of some of the new lights on this team but credit where credit is due to a man they were excellent. For me the pick of them had to be Tom O'Sullivan at wing-back.
He has slotted into the number seven jersey as if he has been operating there for the past four or five seasons. He drove us forward at every opportunity on Sunday showing great leadership for such a young man. There was once or twice he took the wrong option, but that will come in time.
Behind him Jason Foley settled in well after a slightly nervous start but grew in confidence as the game went on. Not forgetting the older brigade and Killian Young showed what a class defender he still is by going back and putting the shackles on Paddy McBrearty when Kerry had to reshuffle the pack back there after Shane Enright left the field in worrying circumstances.
Jack Barry, who replaced Enright, threw himself right into the game and did not take a backward step all day. It is great to see that this crop of new players seem to have no fear of the big time and why should they?
They know what it takes to win in a Kerry jersey whether it is at minor or senior. Yes there is a difference in the levels, but that does not affect your mentality. These guys are winners, are used to winning and don't just want to continue to win but expect to.
David Moran looked strong and powerful and with him in that kind of form Kerry are a different animal.
The inside line of Geaney, O'Donoghue and Savage will get the headlines I'm sure and I will be the first to acknowledge three very good performances from the lads. They are our score getters and all contributed handsomely.
Paul is in devastating form right now and is a defender's nightmare. James looks like a winter of hard training is going to pay off with Jack improving all the time. However the line of the day for me was out half forward trio.
I mentioned earlier that this win was built on hard work and graft. Well Paul Murphy, Jonathan Lyne and Donnchadh Walsh epitomised what I mean by that. They never stopped running and all for the good of the team.
They made hard unselfish bursts all day long to be the outlet for our half backs and midfield. All three of them picked up breaking ball around the middle at vital stages of the game and as well as that they contributed on the scoreboard.
Throw into the mix the defensive duties they carry out and it really made for a very impressive outing for the three lads. In the modern game this line is so important and it looks to me like it may be time to go with out and out runners and workhorses to fill the 10, 11 and 12 spots.
Not saying that these lads aren't excellent and skilful ball players but they possess unnatural endurance when it comes to getting around the pitch and that is what Kerry will need as the championship approaches.
There will be a nice bounce to training in Tralee this week with All Ireland finalists Mayo coming to town.
I expect Kerry to start with the team that finished against Donegal depending on how Shane Enright is.
Two wins from two would be a nice start to the campaign.