THERE seems to be a school of thought out there that Kerry under Jack O'connor are a cautious bunch. That when they get into a winning position they have a worrying tendency to drift back and invite teams onto them, adopting a 'what we have we hold' strategy. Often to disastrous effect.
That might well have been the case in Croke Park on Sunday where twice Kerry let Mayo back into the game – at the end of the second half and again at the end of the second period of extra-time. There's been an attempt to link what happened against Mayo to what happened on All Ireland Sunday last September.
That link is both tenous and dubious. The only real comparison between the two is that on both occasions Kerry let a four points lead slip. After that there's no meaningful comparison to be drawn. Against the Dubs, Kerry lost their way because they became far too gungho, with wing-backs and corner-backs surging up the pitch only to turn the ball over.
What happened on Sunday is, arguably, a reaction to what happened in the All Ireland final last year. They learned their lesson from September, but they learned it too well.
It's admirable, in a sense, that Kieran Donaghy (by then operating with great effect at full-forward) was willing to work so hard and get back into defence, but at the same time he was the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
His terrible cross field defensive pass was the principal reason why Kerry didn't win this game, but to blame Donaghy would be wrong. His pass and his role in Kerry's downfall was symptomatic of the greater problem, rather than the root cause. As problems go this isn't a big one. It would be if Kerry weren't the type of side to recalibrate their game, but the fact they were willing, and eager even, to right the wrongs of September shows that they too will learn from last Sunday and right the ship yet again.
That's the thing about this Kerry team. They have so much talent and so much experience that they can adapt to various and changing senarios. Over the course of a decade, over the course of a season, over the course of a game. They showed as much on Sunday.
Mayo stormed into an early lead, they had the hunger, the intensity and, it seemed, the physical edge on Kerry. They went six points to one clear, but Kerry with their familiar blend of skill and calm weathered the storm and, despite not playing nearly as well as they can, had reduced the deficit to two points by the break.
Even when Mayo snatched the lead in added time Kerry had the wherewithal to work one final chance for Johnny Buckley. Unfortunately for Kerry the young Crokes man lacked the confidence to take (an admittedly difficult) effort on, instead passing to Paul Galvin, who wasn't in nearly as advantageous a position.
The fact that even at that late stage Kerry could have snatched a draw demonstrates that there really is no crisis in Kerry football as a result of the third defeat of a Kerry intercounty team in the space of a week (the seniors defeat following those of the Under 21s and the minors).
This was 'only' a league semi-final, afterall. It's better to learn a lesson such as this now than in a Munster championship semifinal against Cork, or worse still in an All Ireland quarter-final or qualifier. And make no mistake Kerry will learn. They always do.
Jack O'connor learned last year that he needed to rejig his panel and that's precisely what he's done over the last eight games. There have been some real finds. Peter Crowley and Brian Mcguire look ready to step into the championship breach – don't bet against both making the starting fifteen for the Tipp game despite the impending return of Tomás Ó Sé.
Shane Enright, meanwhile, has forced his way right back into contention after the last two weekends. He was near flawless in Croker once he got going after a difficult start. With Marc Ó Sé likely to be handed the number 3 jersey and with no sight, as of yet, of Tom O'sullivan he's got a great chance of landing the number 2 jersey (even if O'sullivan returns).
Barry John Keane has cemented his position as an option at least off the bench. He's a possible starter too, of course, especially if Kieran Donaghy is moved back to the full-forward line (which seems more likely than not at this stage).
Paddy Curtin, of course, has shown us more than we expected him to. At the moment he's Kerry's first choice number 15 and, despite, Kieran O'leary's and James O'donoghue's strong showings at the weekend, that hasn't changed.
This spring Kerry have adapted and developed game by game before our eyes. Youngsters like Paddy Curtin and Peter Crowley have grown as footballers. They've grown as men too. They don't carry themselves like rookies anymore. They have a certain confidence and swagger (without arrogance) about them that suggests they have what it takes to make it.
We won't know that for certain until they face the Rebels in Pairc Uí Chaoimh in June. Sunday's defeat hasn't changed that calculus.