Banty a win away from redemption
Published 29/05/2011 | 05:00
For all teams the first game of the championship is always the most difficult. There is a huge amount of excitement surrounding these occasions and it's hard to get into the swing of things and execute the plans that you've spent so long working on.
The start of the championship also brings uncontrolled aggression and this was evident from the six red cards issued last weekend. Having been in the situation myself so often I know the enthusiasm you feel for your first game is often overwhelming and can be badly channelled.
You will always have some first-round games that are foregone conclusions and the Tipperary-Kerry and Cork-Clare games were examples of this. From a player's point of view, it's a very difficult situation to be in because if you win a game well it doesn't really count because you are expected to win it, but win and play badly and you get a scalding.
Kerry did enough to win last Sunday but an awful lot of spectators after the game were complaining about our midfield. To be honest, I think whoever goes out to play there will find themselves in a good position because the talk around Kerry at the moment is that we simply don't have a midfield. This will take the pressure off the players immediately. Kerry should persist with Bryan Sheehan and Anthony Maher; they will be more than capable of doing the job.
Overall, I don't think midfield will be the problem area. I think the defence needs tightening up. At the end of the day Cork seem to have more aces than anybody and Kerry need to be prepared for that. Cork looked very comfortable against Clare and they haven't even shifted out of first gear yet.
The games in O'Moore Park on Sunday, meanwhile, were pretty dismal. Again I think it's very difficult to size up first-round matches but ultimately Laois did enough to get over the line. They will be better next time and will make it very hard for Dublin. The advantage of having played bad football is that they have one match under their belts without drawing any attention.
Mick O'Dwyer raised the warning flag two years ago when he caught Kildare on the hop and that was never going to happen again. Wicklow are no longer a team that are taken for granted. The element of surprise is gone and all teams that play Wicklow will be on their guard as Kildare were last Sunday.
Sligo, on the other hand, were caught out. They weren't prepared for Leitrim and now they have to go back to the training ground and learn from what happened. They need to up the intensity of their game if they want to progress this summer.
As always when the championship starts, there is an off-the-field talking point and this year Meath is the county that's the centre of attention. From what I've been told from people up there, the general consensus is that Meath should never have gone outside their own county to get a manager.
They had a bad run in the National League and all of the problems that Meath have at the moment are being channelled towards Seamus McEnaney. A good manager will be able to turn this around to his advantage; all it would take is a win over Kildare to change the pattern of this situation.
Bringing back Graham Geraghty was a good move. I'd go to war any day of the week with him. I'd prefer him to be on my side than against me; when it comes to football, the man has everything.
I don't think the players will have any problems with him. Geraghty is a Meath man, he wants to play for his county and I believe he feels that he has something to offer. If Banty uses his head, he will turn this around and beat Kildare. If he pulls that off, everything will be forgotten.
I was deeply saddened at the passing last week of Padraig Kennelly, a legend not only in his native Tralee but throughout Ireland. Padraig, as a professional photographer and journalist, was one of the most enthusiastic if not to say fanatical Kerry supporters I have met and he missed out on nothing in my experience both as a player and a manager.
I also valued his political advice. "If you want to get into the Senate," he once said, "you must drive to Dublin once a week and take a different road each time."
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