Thursday 25 May 2017

Eoin Liston: Dubs still team to beat despite all Kerry's positives

Many people believe that Kerry's David Moran was their best player at the weekend
Many people believe that Kerry's David Moran was their best player at the weekend
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

There are so many positives for Kerry to take from yesterday's All-Ireland quarter-final victory over the Lilywhites.

The main thing is the strength in depth that they have in the forward line, with Darran O'Sullivan scoring 2-1 from the bench and Barry John Keane getting 1-3 after his introduction.

Kieran Donaghy picked up a groin injury in training and tweaked it during the build-up so the captain played no part and they still scored 7-16.

Colm Cooper started his first game of the Championship and scored 2-3. He looked like he was never away and it was a joy to watch him doing those things, that only he can do, again.

Hopefully, Donaghy will be fit the next day and I really hope that we get to see him and Cooper play together again from the start. It gives Kerry options and a completely different dimension.

Stephen O'Brien knew that he had to set down a marker after getting his place back and he got four points in the first half when the game was still there to be won.

It's no slight on David Moran, who many people believe was Kerry's top performer at the weekend, to say O'Brien was my man of the match. I cannot praise him enough.

In the middle of the field Anthony Maher and Moran dominated proceedings and dictated the way the match unfolded. Tommy Walsh came into the game in the second half and showed what he is capable of in the middle too, winning some great possession.

They had 20 possessions inside the '45' during the first half, generated 16 shots out of this and got 10 scores, which was impressive.

There should be no one getting carried away though, manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice will know that there is still a lot to work on.

The defence wasn't tested in any way by Kildare and it's an area that has caused concern in the past. In attack they were also turned over seven times and hit seven wides in the first half. Those aren't statistics that will win you games against better teams. This was Division 1 against Division 3 and it panned out exactly as we thought.

Kildare did well to beat Cork in their previous game, yet when the intensity increased they weren't able to execute the skills under pressure. That's the difference between the best teams and the rest.

Kerry had two goal chances and they weren't able to take either of them. Lilywhites goalkeeper Mark Donnellan made a brilliant tackle on James O'Donoghue to stop the first and credit to referee David Coldrick for correctly spotting it wasn't a penalty.

Colm Cooper played in Paul Geaney with a fabulous pass for the other chance, but Geaney let it slip as he turned. Greater efficiency is needed in these scenarios.

That's why Darran O'Sullivan impressed me so much when he came on. His pace remains electric and that's the one thing that you can't defend against.

He was clearly trying to impress the management having had to spend so long on the bench. He set up the first goal for Cooper and then got two himself.

For all the positives, I certainly wouldn't have Kerry as All-Ireland favourites. Dublin are still the best team I've seen in the Championship.

This was the first time that the Kingdom have hammered a team this year - Dublin have been doing it all season.

The Dubs might have conceded 2-15 against Fermanagh, but it was a result that was never in doubt.

Fermanagh's first goal, the first the Dubs conceded in this campaign, should have been a free out and it kick-started a little bit of a revival after the game was over.

Pete McGrath's team should be very proud of the way they played and the fact that they didn't just roll over when they were 10 points down like a lot of other sides do when they're getting it from all sides off Dublin.

The Dubs though really impressed me again when this game was still a contest in the first half.

The play of Paul Flynn, Ciaran Kilkenny, Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan up front; their movement and the way they stroke the ball around is magic.

In the half-backs Cian O'Sullivan, Jack McCaffrey and James McCarthy all have incredible pace. Brian Fenton really caught my eye and he's going to form some partnership with Michael Darragh Macauley.

As well as fantastic footballers, they are a team of athletes and it will take a tremendous side to beat them this year.

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