Saturday 1 October 2016

Eoin Liston: Gooch needs the game-time - he should start on Sunday

Published 11/06/2015 | 02:30

Colm Cooper
Colm Cooper

I have no doubt that Kerry will beat Tipperary this weekend. Kerry have a few injuries and there may be a little bit of tiredness in the legs after a tough week's training in Portugal but they will definitely take Tipp.

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Thurles is a big, open pitch and that's the sort of environment that will show up any weaknesses. Tipp have made great strides and they deserve credit for that. They will have a few weak links in their team, though, and these will be exposed.

The last time these teams played the Kingdom won 2-13 to 0-8. That was in 2013 and that's too big a gap to make up in two years.

So what is the thinking of Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his management team this week? Well, they'll be very concerned about getting that performance out of their team and to improve on any weaknesses they have seen in their own game.

Those weaknesses, as I see them, are turning the ball over too easily, poor defence and a kick-out strategy that needs working on.

I expect Brendan Kealy to start in goals. To my mind he has one of the best kick-outs in the game, but it isn't utilised in the same way that Dublin use Stephen Cluxton's restarts.

If you can make the kick-out contest 70-30 in your favour, why would you allow it to be 50-50 by kicking the ball straight down the middle? I think that's something that Kerry would have worked on in Portugal.

It's about knowing where to stand before the kick-out, who makes the run and where to be when the ball lands. All of that can be practised and run through step-by-step.

Brendan Kealy expected to start in goals for Kerry this weekend against Tipperary.
Brendan Kealy expected to start in goals for Kerry this weekend against Tipperary.

In the 2014 National League, Kerry had one of the meanest defences in Division 1 despite getting a hammering from Cork. By the end of this year's League, they conceded more than anyone else in the top flight.

One of the reasons for this is that they turned over too much ball and this would also have received attention at the recent training camp.

Kerry won't be at full-strength this weekend and there are injury worries over players like Paul Murphy, David Moran and James O'Donoghue.

Aidan O'Mahony, Marc Ó Sé, Colm Cooper and Donnchadh Walsh played little or next-to-no football during the League and will be hoping for game-time on Sunday.

The only time I didn't start a game for Kerry after I made my debut was in 1990 after Mick O'Dwyer stepped down as manager. I had wanted to retire, but I was persuaded to stay on and I went away to America to play football early in the year.

It was a bit of a grey area at the time - a year after the Tony Keady affair in Galway - and I ended up getting a suspension.

I was available for the game against Clare in 1990, but I think the management were disappointed that I went to America and that I had been suspended for half the year so they left me on the bench.

I was disappointed because I knew I had to sharpen up my skills and get used to playing with the lads around me. Aidan, Marc, Gooch and those lads will be all the same, wanting a chance to get into the summer groove.

Gooch, in particular, should start because he's played so little football since he blew out his knee in February 2014. He needs to get back up to championship pace and start doing those things he does automatically, rather than having to think about them.

At the other end of my career, I made my debut in the 1978 Munster final against Cork, but I should have played in the semi-final against Waterford a few weeks before.

Those were different times though and the night before the Waterford game I had to play for my club, Beale, against Gneeveguilla in East Kerry, which really was the school of hard knocks. They wouldn't call it off even though I was picked to play at midfield alongside Jack O'Shea the following day and, of course, I sprained my ankle.

I was 20 going on 21 and the disappointment was intense because of how much I had been looking forward to my debut.

Back then we looked forward to playing Clare, Waterford and Tipperary. We knew we were going to beat them, but we were like coiled springs because we knew there was so much at stake - places for the Munster final against Cork. It was our biggest game of the year because if we lost it the season was over.

There was pressure on us and it all came from within because we wanted to be on the pitch for the bigger games. It was a chance to prove yourself and for the team to work on patterns of play.

Kerry will know that if they get a performance out of themselves they'll win on Sunday so for players it's about making sure the manager picks them for the Munster final against Cork.

The news has filtered through too that Kieran O'Leary is out for the season with an achilles injury and that's a real shame for him after putting in so much hard work all year. He wouldn't have been starting most days, but he would have been a great option to spring off the bench so he'll be a loss for Kerry this summer.

 

We have to stamp out the scourge of sledging

Sledging was something we heard all about following the Donegal-Tyrone game last month and we may well hear more about it after Donegal-Armagh this weekend.

The worst that was ever said to me was when I was a young fella. I was lying on my back in a game against Galway with the full-back standing over me and he said he'd knock my head off if I went through again.

Football was a far dirtier game when I started playing it, but most of it had been cleaned up by the time I had finished and there's nothing sporting about getting an elbow into the face when you're running through.

There was more sportsmanship and fair play then though. I would rather be hit than have someone saying things about my family trying to wind me up. It's horrible and it turns my gut when I hear about it.

It disgusts me and it's up to the GAA to make an example out of any player caught doing it. It's mean-spirited and has no part in our games.

The lads doing it are just making eejits of themselves.

Players on the receiving end of verbal abuse currently have to figure out their own way of dealing with it. It was a similar situation in my day with hitting off the ball - if you were getting no protection from the officials you had to stand up and protect yourself.

That's changed now because there are cameras all around the ground. Even if you get away with it, you'll probably be caught by the television cameras afterwards.

It's up to the umpires, linesmen and referees to police sledging and make sure this scourge is stamped out.

Real aggression is going for the ball as if your life depended on it and in last year's All-Ireland semi-final replay between Kerry and Mayo we saw how a game should be - fellas willing to put it all out there just to get their hands on the ball.

Irish Independent

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