Saturday 22 October 2016

Eoin Liston: Kerry can't afford to leave Kieran Donaghy isolated up front

Published 30/07/2015 | 02:30

Kerry captain Kieran Donaghy lifts the cup
Kerry captain Kieran Donaghy lifts the cup

Can the same thing that happened to Cork last weekend happen to Kerry on Sunday? Of course it can because it has happened before.

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In 2001, Kerry were All-Ireland champions and only managed five points in the semi-final against Meath. In 2010, we were Sam Maguire holders too and lost to Down in the quarter-final.

There have been plenty of other games where the Kingdom were expected to win easily and they only just got away with their lives, like Longford and Sligo in '09 and Westmeath in Mullingar a few years ago.

Often times it's down to complacency and it can happen to any team. Can it happen to Kerry? Of course it can. Will it happen this weekend? No.

This team are rested and ready. They got the kick in the backside they needed against Cork in the drawn Munster final, when they were blessed to get away with a draw, so they are well forewarned. If they do lose to Kildare at Croke Park, there can be no excuses.


I expect the selectors to stick with more or less the 15 that started the 1-11 to 1-6 replay win over the Rebels two weeks ago, bar maybe one or two changes, and to me that's important because at this time of year a settled team is what's needed.

This also means that they have decided on the type of football they want to play. Do they want to play it long and direct to Kieran Donaghy, or do they want a slower build-up with low ball into Colm Cooper?

It's clear that they have gone with the former and that's all well and good, so long as players out the field don't just take the lazy option and hump high balls into the edge of the square. They have to do it right - clever diagonal balls to give the man something to run on to.

As Donaghy proved the last day against Cork, he's also very good at winning the low ball when he makes the runs out to the wings.

When I was playing and I won that sort of ball there was always two or three lads busting a gut to get to me so all I had to do was pop it out to them. That wasn't always the case for Kieran last Sunday week and once he got possession he was bottled up because he was isolated.

That's an area where the work rate must improve for Kerry. Kieran hasn't been setting the world alight this season, but that's not his fault because the quality of ball and the work rate of the forwards around him hasn't been good enough.

Management and players like to know that they have a plan A, B and C that work. The Gooch is clearly Plan B at this stage and it's brilliant to have such a truly great player on the bench who can come in and completely turn a game.

But surely there's room for Cooper and Donaghy on the one team. I've said it before - start him in the corner with James O'Donoghue on the wing, rotating the two of them in and out.

I know Gooch won't be happy with having to sit on the bench. He'll feel that he needs to get game time so that he can get back to his magnificent best.

Five of the forwards are certain - Donaghy, O'Donoghue, Paul Geaney, Bryan Sheehan and Donnchadh Walsh with Gooch, Stephen O'Brien, Johnny Buckley, Tommy Walsh, Barry John Keane and Paul Galvin battling it out for the last spot.

With one eye on the future they may give the nod to Michael Geaney because he is the sort of player that will work his socks off, getting back to help out in defence.

In midfield, Anthony Maher and David Moran are a great partnership, while Aidan O'Mahony was a real addition to the defence the last day, sweeping up and bringing a physical presence. This was reflected as the team only conceded seven scores.


I would hope in the last two weeks that Kerry have emphasised defence and getting the kick-outs right because these are the areas where there was most need for improvement. To compete with the likes of Dublin, these have to be working properly.

Kildare are now better than they team they were when the Dubs destroyed them earlier this month. They have won three qualifier games, they've showed that they've learned lessons and they've displayed huge energy and work rate.

The way they've turned things around is a credit to their manager Jason Ryan. When they are allowed to play their football, using their short handpassing style, they can be extremely effective.

But I'm interested to see how those skills hold up when they're put under the sort of pressure I expect Kerry to exert at the weekend. Ultimately, this is the All-Ireland champions against a Division 3 team.

Irish Independent

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