Joint-manager Long says the already qualified League finalists will make seven or eight changes to the team to play Galway next weekend
If one looks over the last four National League seasons, this present Kerry management has lost a total of two games: the Division Two league final against Meath in 2021 and the loss to Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Friday, St Patrick’s Day.
That’s not a bad record you might say, and coming in Friday’s game against Cork it was winning streak managers Darragh Long and Declan Quill would have liked to keep going. But really, whilst they would have liked to have slayed Cork to continue their unbeaten run in this year’s league, the result didn’t make a jot of difference to Kerry’s already assured place in the league final.
It is obvious that Kerry have one eye on Croke Park for their April 15 final (their opponents are yet to be decided) and the legs were pretty heavy on Friday. That sharpness and ravenous hunger just wasn’t there, and they have clearly gone into a block of hard intensive training. Already though, Darragh Long is looking ahead to taking on Cork again in the Munster Championship
“We’ll be ready for Cork on the seventh of May when it matters,” Long told The Kerryman. “We’d love to have played them in round one to five and then everyone would know where you are. We made seven or eight changes for Friday and we wanted to win the game and we wanted to perform, but there was awful heavy legs there yesterday because we trained so hard during the week.
“I suppose there might have been a bit of a hand break by some of the girls with a view to injuries and sometimes it’s hard for a girl to get an upcoming final out of their heads, but look they gave today’s game their best shot, but Cork were just that bit sharper.
“We might have had an extra couple of goals in the second half but we didn’t take our chances and I suppose we had inexperienced girls in with already inexperienced girls. I suppose it’s a juggling act at the moment with Lorraine (Scanlon) and Siofra (O’Shea) playing in the basketball play offs and you want to give them their best chance with that. The main thing is that we came out of the game with no injuries.”
What will be of concern for the Kerry management is their struggle on restarts with the failure to win their own kick-outs, in particular, something that they will need to address. The lack of movement out the field for Ciara Butler’s restarts made life very difficult for Kerry’s goalkeeper.
“Our difficulty from kick-outs was a collective,” stressed Long. “We weren’t at the standard that we were at previously but we’ll get there again. Look though, that was Cork’s strongest team out, with the exception being Erika O’Shea who didn’t play.”
On the positive front Kerry gave a good run out to their panel and Long was full of praise for a couple of girls that came into the side.
“Aoife Dillane played really well. She was probably our best back and did a lot of good. Amy Harrington also did very well on her starting debut, and particularly in the second half; she can be very happy with herself. Niamh Ní Chonchúir and Síofra made a huge difference when they came on. Niamh is in the form of her life and it’s great to see it,” the Austin Stacks man said.
Long didn’t know who Kerry’s league final opponents will be when he spoke to The Kerryman after Friday’s game, with Galway not playing Mayo until Sunday.
If Galway beat their Connacht neighbours they will be in the league final against Kerry. If Mayo beat Galway then Galway will have to beat Kerry to make the league final. If Dublin beat Waterford next week (which they should) and Galway lose to both Mayo and Kerry then Dublin will be Kerry’s opposition in the final.
Darragh Long said that whether Galway needed to win against Kerry, or if it was just going to be a dead rubber, his side would prepare for the game the same, either way.
“We’ll make seven or eight changes again for the Galway game. We’ll need to get thirty minutes into what we think will possibly be our league final team because you’ve a three week break then. That’s going to be our mentality, but we need to see a bit of a performance after yesterday.
“Some of the standards that we set weren’t hit and that’s the disappointing thing. We’ll certainly be looking at an improvement in our performance against Galway. It really needs to be better, and we’ll carry that forward then to three weeks time,” he said.