Colm O'Rourke: Tyrone siege mentality built on nonsense
Kerry have experience, talent and focus to beat emerging Red Hands, says Colm O'Rourke
The perfect antidote to the antics of Tyrone and Monaghan was last Sunday's hurling semi-final between Galway and Tipperary.
No verbal intimidation, no lying down, no feigning of injury. At times players were too honest, too brave and seemed unwilling to go down or even stay down when genuinely hurt.
So while Tyrone continue to treat anyone who questions their antics as the enemy, the rest of us were treated to a hurling game on the same field which brought into sharp perspective what proper manliness means.
It may suit Tyrone to peddle nonsense, that there is an agenda against them, that everyone is out to get them, that they are victims and whatever other angle that reinforces a siege mentality this afternoon.
Eventually the issues will have to be faced, rather than simply offering a blanket defence of various individuals based on their character, family involvement in the GAA, commitment and so on - none of which has anything to do with the present situation except their general attitude to the game and the opposition, where there is a big problem.
That is for another day. Now we have a match which Tiernan McCann will play in, and irrespective of the crime it is right that he plays. If the penalty for his actions should have been a yellow card then so be it. The rule needs to be changed but you can't change horses midstream.
McCann is a big player for Tyrone. His athleticism means he glides from defence to attack and he lays off the ball to team-mates in better positions. He, Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte have the engines to move back and forward all day and a lot of their good work is finished by Darren McCurry and Sean Cavanagh.
So the hard road has been good for Tyrone and the sense of being wronged will forge them closer and give a hungry side even greater incentive. They will not fear Kerry. In the last three meetings in Croke Park they have beaten Kerry, whether they like it or not - and they don't - fair and square. It reminds me of the politically incorrect song English soccer supporters had when they played Germany. "Two World Wars and one World Cup, doo dah," was part of it. Tyrone could change it to two All-Irelands and one semi-final. It grates with Kerry, so this is no ordinary semi-final for them.
Read more: Croke Park braced for long overdue fireworks
In the past Kerry were ground down by brilliant Tyrone sides. Tyrone are not nearly as good now but maybe Kerry are not either. The big difference now is that Kerry have completely reinvented themselves, and if nice football is not going to win then they move to a different approach, as evidenced by last year's final against Donegal. This was a classic case of needs must.
The old game was not going to work so the change to the supposedly modern game was adopted. The iron fist in the velvet glove. Kerry could be just as defensive and cynical as the next; their traditional game was dispensed with and I heard nobody from Kerry complaining. In fact many rejoiced in the way they won.
So this is not a game between the traditional masters of flowing football and the modern killjoys. In this case both teams will play whatever way is necessary to win.
Kerry have played to their strengths this year, especially at midfield where Anthony Maher and David Moran, in particular, have been excellent. Moran's fielding and long kicking show that there is still a place for some old style football. One thing for sure is that Niall Morgan, the Tyrone goalkeeper, will not accommodate the Kerry midfielders.
His kicking out is as good as the best and will keep everyone thinking. If a Kerry forward is half asleep he will be soon chasing his man with the ball. Monaghan made it too easy for Morgan and I am sure Kerry will push right up and try to force him into raffling his kick-outs into midfield. If they succeed in forcing turnovers then their forwards are individually better than Tyrone's.
I find it hard to believe that the team published by Kerry will start. A full-forward line with Colm Cooper and James O'Donoghue in the corners and Kieran Donaghy at full-forward would cause trouble on the ground and in the air. Yet it does seem that the Kerry approach is often either or, rather than little and large.
Again, Tyrone's record of dealing with Donaghy has been good and there must be question marks over the fitness and wellbeing of O'Donoghue. His complaint is rather typical of what a lot of lads carry into games. They can take all the hits on the shoulder but any pressure on the outstretched arm can cause big problems. If he is even half right he is most likely to bury the goal which Kerry need to get rolling.
This game is going to be of the incendiary variety, both on and off the field. Given the history, there will be a very tense atmosphere today. It will take a very calm, clever referee to keep it under control. Into the fray steps Maurice Deegan, a strange appointment given the way he dithers over decisions, and most infuriating with players is his tendency to try and be friendly.
The players just want a referee who lets play flow, gets the big decisions right and stays out of their way. A particular issue arose in the Monaghan game where Marty Duffy called back play on several occasions to give a card instead of letting the fouled player take a quick free and then come back and book a player at the next break in play. A referee who holds up play in this way ultimately rewards the foulers as everyone gets time to funnel back.
This will not be a turkey shoot for Kerry like the Kildare game - the attitude of Kildare and Tyrone is night and day. Tyrone will fight at every turn and hope it will cause a growing frustration in the Kerry ranks. If Kerry are not in front by half-time the nightmares of the past could resurface. Tyrone can attack at great pace and the Cavanaghs are usually to the fore, but they have not posed a major goal threat in most of their games. This is not boxing so today they are unlikely to get by on a points decision.
For the last few weeks Kerry have had to sit and wait and wonder. Is playing regularly better than preparing quietly? Under Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Kerry are likely to be fully primed and sufficiently fearful to get the best out of themselves. Nothing concentrates players as much as the thought of losing. Kerry know that only too well with Tyrone as the thought became reality three times in the recent past.
Those games do not matter today and it looks to me that Kerry have a more talented, experienced side who may be fortunate to be meeting an emerging Tyrone a year too soon.
Sunday Indo Sport