Frontline gaps yet to be filled by Kerry
S PRING is in the air, the sap is rising, Kerry take on Cork in Tralee today and all is right with the world! After a long winter of discontent as far as weather and politics go, it looks like the year has turned, though I might be premature as February and March, as we all know well, can bring harsh weeks.
Anyway, I take last Tuesday as the first day of spring and the blood will be up today when these age-old rivals square up to one another in the renowned Austin Stack Park.
There is no doubt that the ghosts of some of the great players of the past will look down benignly on today's events, probably sharing fond memories of titanic clashes in Tralee between the likes of Jackie Lyne and Tadhg Lyne of Kerry and Denis 'Toots' Kelleher and Nealie Duggan of Cork.
I am deeply worried about Kerry this year. Unless there's something coming down the tracks that I haven't perceived yet, the gaps left by the departure of the likes Tadhg Kennelly, Tommy Walsh and Darragh ó Sé remain as yawning and as unfilled as ever. It is all very well juggling around with a player here and a player there, but I feel deeply that Kerry need three additional frontline players if they are to be in the final shake-up in 2011.
On the other hand, Cork are on the up, not withstanding their early year defeat by Kerry in the McGrath Cup a few weeks ago. In 19-year-old Aidan Walsh -- who forms a strong partnership today with Alan O'Connor -- I believe they have a new Jack O'Shea at midfield. He is at an ideal age now to prove his prowess to the most critical spectators in the world in Tralee.
As I have pointed out before, Kerry are looking inadequate at midfield, and they will try different permutations of Anthony Maher, David Moran and Seamus Scanlon in an effort to get on top here.
What Kerry also need this year is some of those brilliant cameo moments that players like Seán Murphy, Dan McAuliffe, and Tadhgie Lyne used to deliver in the past to inspire the whole team.
One of those great moments that has gone into the annals came in the 1959 All-Ireland when the greatly fancied Galway team was confounded in the opening minutes when Seán Murphy from Camp whipped the ball off the toe of the highly-rated forward Hauleen McDonagh's foot as he was about to deliver the ball towards the Kerry goalposts. The roar of the crowd, massive and throaty, said all that needed to be said at that magic moment; the match was won and lost in those seconds as an inspired Kerry team went on to a great victory.
I think Kerry have the players to provide those inspirational cameo moments in the way that Doug Howlett does on the wing for Munster. We don't yet have New Zealanders on the Kerry team but we need to get the Howlett message.
Marc ó Sé is well capable of delivering such magic with his blocking -- he is one of the best blockers of the ball in the game and a great block can set the crowd tingling and get the rest of the team moving into the 'supernatural capsule' zone.
I am glad to see two young Dingle players, first cousins Paul and Daithi Geaney, on the Kerry squad. They have promise and both have sporting genes in their DNA -- Daithi being a grandnephew of the legendary 'Gega' O'Connor from Dingle, and Paul a grandson of the famous Kerry cyclist Paudie Fitzgerald.
At this moment, I do not greatly fancy Kerry's chances of winning the All-Ireland this year. But, paradoxically, in front of a big crowd in Tralee today I won't be at all surprised if they find the wherewithal to overcome Cork in the opening match of the National League.
And, who knows, maybe somewhere in the Kingdom from Tarbert to Dingle to Cahirciveen to Killarney to Tralee, there is the talent pool to produce another couple of great players and not to leave Colm Cooper, Tomás ó Sé and one or two others on the current team of undisputed greatness feeling quite so lonely.
Sunday Indo Sport