Three questions facing Kerry ahead of All-Ireland quarter-final
The Munster champions will start as raging hot favourites against the Tribesmen in Croke Park, but many are predicting a close encounter. Here are key questions facing the Kingdom?
Just where exactly are this Kerry side?
After an indifferent league – including a hammering in front of their own supporters against Cork – they followed this up with a decidedly average championship performance against Clare. The banner men went on to demonstrate they are a vastly improved side, but the lethargic display had many pointing to a home win for the rebels in the provincial decider.
The Kingdom totally dismantled their near neighbours, but because of the nature of the Cork collapse, it has been difficult to gauge the true level of this new-look side. The backs were comfortable, midfield was dominant while James O’Donoghue was in scintillating form with eight points from play.
The truth may be that they are better than their league form suggests, but perhaps not quite as good as their winning margin the last time out suggested.
Will the re-enforcements be required?
Much has been made of the inexperience within the squad, a consequence of a raft of changes in personnel with so many of their All-Ireland winners calling time on their inter-county careers. Add the absence of Colm Cooper and it is easy to understand why there had been such pessimism surrounding Kerry’s chances this year. Indeed, of the team that started their last All-Ireland victory in 2009, only Marc O’Se, Killian Young and Declan Sullivan are selected to start against Galway, though Aidan O’Mahony and Donnchadh Walsh made substitute appearances.
Should the going get tough for some of the new crop, then the bench has a formidable look to it. Darran O’Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy will feature at some point, while Kieran O’Leary and Barry John Keane are other options in attack.
David Moran is an able replacement in the middle of the pitch while Peter Crowley is perhaps a little unfortunate to miss out in defence.
Even Dublin would be impressed with such artillery held in reserve
Will Kerry catch even more breaks around the middle?
Anthony Maher and Bryan Sheehan will line up in the middle with David Moran in reserve if required for the Kingdom and they will face a formidable presence against Fiontan O’Curraoin and Tomas Flynn.
The advantage of Eamon Fitzmaurice is having Johnny Buckley on the 40, who will essentially be playing a similar role to that of Aidan O’Shea, a natural midfielder placed in the forward division and easily inter-changeable with Sheehan.
Despite a slow start at midfield and fall-off in performance once the Cork result was wrapped up – dominance in the middle sector laid the foundations for victory.
During the first-half when the Kingdom overran their opponents they won 11 out of 15 kick-outs, helped in part by Cork’s continued strategy of going down the middle.
A similar kick-out strategy could work in the Tribesmen’s favour, but the Kingdom have the greater options and flexibility in this sector of the pitch.