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Kingdom midfielder sure side has learned lessons from last year’s Down fall

IN modern football lore, a theory exists stating that the best time to get Kerry in the championship is the All-Ireland quarter-final. More specifically, the thesis concludes that Kerry are at their most vulnerable in the last eight, after they have won Munster.

It's not that the Kingdom are so plump from their provincial feasting that they represent a big and easy target, more that they find it harder to cope with the extended break post-Munster than most other counties.

It's been almost four weeks since they beat Cork in Killarney but just four days since the draw was made and they knew when, where and who they would be facing.

Last year, they suffered a similar affliction and Down saw their chance, knocking the spots of an admittedly understrength Kerry selection to put them out of the championship.

“The scheduling is wrong because there is such a big gap between the games,” stated Kerry midfielder, Bryan Sheehan.

“I suppose the one thing (that Kerry learned from last year) would be that there were two rounds of club championship games played in that time. A lot of players picked up injuries. I was one of them so I missed probably two weeks of training coming up to the Down game.

“That upsets the pattern because there is three or four lads missing training and you can't get a competitive training session. I suppose we took our eye off the ball in that sense.

“But look, you learn from your mistakes. We're definitely not going to make that mistake this year.” It would be a massive overstatement, however, to attribute Kerry's surprise defeat solely to the scheduling of local clubs’ fixtures.

Firstly, Down were superb that day. They were in flying form and never doffed their caps to the Southern aristocrats like many have in the past.

SUSPENSION

Also – and if it's worth saying once, it's worth saying a hundred times – Jack O'Connor couldn't call on either Paul Galvin or Tomás Ó Sé for that game, suspension having ruled both out for their quarter-final.

True, neither were there for the Munster final and given that both are back now for Sunday's clash with Limerick, the odds are piled in the Kingdom's favour.

That said, is it expecting a bit much for both to wield their customary influence after such lengthy periods in sideline limbo?

“I don't think that you can expect too much because they are two of the best footballers in the country and any team in the country that would be without the two of them would suffer,” reckons Sheehan. “It is great to have them back.

“Paul's great ability, and I don't believe that he gets the credit he is due, is in winning that ugly breaking ball.

“He is like a magnet to it, he is just so good. And Tomás as well, they are two very big leaders on the team and they help organise us around the field.

“They are always talking to players and it is that leadership as much as anything that makes them so good.”

Another reason why Kerry are unlikely to be as vulnerable on Sunday as they evidently were last year is the draw.

You couldn't but argue that this year, they have been granted the soft tie of the round against a Limerick team over which they have an overbearing stranglehold.

Weighed against the alternatives being Kildare or the winners of Tyrone/Roscommon, their long-oppressed neighbours certainly represent the lowest hanging fruit in the quarter-final draw. Nevertheless, Sheehan describes their Munster annihilation of the Shannonsiders a “freak” result and points to the powerful momentum they have garnered in beating Offaly, Waterford and Wexford.

“Anything can happen,” he stresses. “It is a funny game and if you are not prepared right you will be turned over no matter what level you are playing.

TUNED IN

“It is about us getting our heads right, boys getting tuned in.

“It is an All-Ireland quarterfinal, regardless of who it is against.

“You have to get your own house in order and that is what we have to do.”

They have learned that the hard way but history shows, no one is quite so dangerous at this time of year as a Kerry team with their house in order.


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