ANY KERRY fans that made the trip to Thurles yesterday will go home very happy after witnessing a very impressive performance from the All-Ireland champions. I said last week that I was slightly concerned over a few different things. One aspect I was worried about was Michael McCarthy's match fitness after he played no part in the league.
But Mike answered me emphatically with a truly superb performance at centre back. It shows you how brilliant a footballer he really is and, to be honest, his performances defy logic when one considers his lack of playing time and winter training.
Obviously, this was the first championship match we played without Darragh Ó Sé and there was plenty of talk about this in the build-up. However, we were dominant in this sector and Michael Quirke really stepped up and had an outstanding game. Anthony Maher also came in and did very well for the last quarter.
Despite this, and it is one of the few negatives from the performance, we still found Tipperary very hard to shake off. I felt we possibly played too much football through our halfforward line in the first half, in that we were not direct enough with the ball into our forwards.
This is not to take away from John Evans and Tipperary as they really worked us until the last quarter. There was only four points between the teams with 15 minutes to go and it could have been a very different game if Tipp had put away one or more of the four goal chances they created. Indeed, Barry Grogan, who had a fine game, opted to go for a point when a goal was on in the second half and that could have really changed the course of the match.
Once again, the high ball into our square caused us problems and it's something we don't appear to have rectified. I am sure that Cork will be watching and will try to target that weakness. But these are things which can be worked upon and there is plenty of time to get it right before the semi-final in three weeks’ time.
I also said last week that I wasn't at all worried about our forward line and yesterday proved why. Kerry scored 2-10 in the second half and 2-13 from play overall, and that is a phenomenal return against any opposition.
Kieran Donaghy was back to his brilliant best and his two catches in the second half were worth the admission fee alone. In that second period Kerry settled in quickly and it paid massive dividends. Gooch and Donaghy linked up superbly and they were a joy to watch.
Donnacha Walsh was also impressive, while the captaincy appeared to bring the best out of Bryan Sheehan. He looked very sharp and he was making clever runs to lose his marker, something he has been criticised for not doing in the past.
I also thought the Kerry team looked fitter this year than they have in recent years at the same stage of the season. The halfback line of McCarthy, Killian Young and Tomás Ó Sé was bursting forward at every opportunity to help out the attack and their movement can confuse opposition.
It all makes for a terrific game in front of what will no doubt be a full house in Killarney in three weeks. Kerry are obviously hoping to go the direct route this year by winning the Munster championship and, after this display, I am more confident that they can do it.
On a side issue, I have to admit I was very disappointed with the decision to implement a new interpretation of the hand pass rule. County teams should not be subjected to this kind of thing in the weeks before the championship. That is what the league is for and I would be very interested to know why the GAA has made such a decision at thislate stage.