Eoin Liston: Clare are a means to an end as Kerry eye Dublin revenge
Published 28/07/2016 | 02:30
Everyone is bemoaning the fact that Kerry face Clare again but this is a completely different game and I expect a completely different Kerry performance.
Kerry are wounded and dangerous and they're nearing peak fitness with their whole year geared towards the end of August and a possible meeting with the Dubs. And that's not far away at all.
It's one thing coming in with momentum like Clare and another thing altogether coming in hurting like Kerry. I'd rather be with the fellas that are hurting any day.
Fellas will be bursting to nail down a place and show Eamonn Fitzmaurice what they can do; their whole focus all along would have been, 'Look lads we just need a go at Dublin again' and if they do the business on Sunday they'll get that.
With due respect to Clare, this game is a means to an end for Kerry and I'm expecting a ruthless streak given the torturous hardship they've been putting their bodies through since their league final reversal.
Management won't admit that but that's the way the supporters will be looking at it - 'Let's get it out of the way, let's be ruthless and get the job done as fast as possible' with the Dubs waiting for us.
The wagons are circled, they've taken criticism for their All-Ireland final performance last year and I expect many lingering questions to be answered in Croke Park. Not all of them just yet but some.
Has our kick-out strategy improved? Are we going to have pace in the middle third? Are we going to be stopping the runners coming from deep? Is our first touch going to be better?
Their eyes have been fixed on Dublin since last September, it burned them. That will drive them to a new level. When you're champions you forget the energy that hurt gives you and by Jesus the whole focus will be 'give us another shot at them'.
They'll be willing to sweat blood having stewed over it all winter, they'll be sick and tired of looking at the game, the '76 All-Ireland final and '77 semi-final was like that for us.
Preparation is much better when you feel like you're after letting yourself, your family and your county down, they've a serious point to prove and will kill for another cut at the Dubs.
Fitzgerald Stadium is a no-go area at the moment but the 'Gooch' and Michael Geaney should be back soon and I can hear the noises in there from my own experiences with 'harder, harder, harder' echoing in my ears.
Lads will be driving each other for the extra inches on every little detail.
Team selection will be interesting but this team probably won't resemble the team that could play Dublin.
I know there's a lot of Kerry folk saying, 'Why don't they go with the team that might be playing Dublin?' but why show your hand and that's the management's call.
It would be an unmerciful shock if Kerry were beaten but watching Clare the last day you had to be impressed.
They had great energy in their running game but I'd be worried about their conversion rate.
Their scoring percentages are just too low. They're getting the shots away but most are from bad angles when off balance and they're only hitting one third of them. That's the difference with a Division 1 team.
They've improved no end since June 12, however, and the momentum, energy and confidence is with them. They'll be sharp but their goals have been achieved, and they're in bonus territory now.
They're feeling good about themselves but that's often not the best way to go into a game like this although natural leaders like Gordon Kelly and Gary Brennan will be making sure their feet are on the ground.
I saw both up close with the International Rules and they could play with any county at any level.
Gary has the engine, the after-burners, the vision, the skill, while he can kick and field.
And Gordon, what a hard man. You'd love to be taking him into the trenches.
That man has two hearts but even that won't be enough as Kerry set off on their road to redemption.