With the Munster championship a non event, much will rest on how well the Kingdom bridge the four week gap to the quarter-finals
Kerry had an emphatic victory over Limerick in the sweltering heat in Fitzgerald stadium on Sunday. From the outset one could tell that Limerick were looking to try and contain Kerry and keep the score respectable instead of going out and giving it a proper go.
They filtered a lot of bodies behind the ball, but struggled badly to get any cohesion going up front when they did manage a turnover or won a kick-out. Their half-forward line was non existent for much of the game and the gulf in class was evident for all to see.
The fact that none of the starting Limerick forwards managed to score from play tells its own story. The game won’t have done Kerry too many favours ahead of a four-week break in the lead into the quarter-finals.
The players will be happy with the performance and result, but will be well aware that there will be more intensity in training and in house matches over the next couple of weeks than there was in Fitzgerald stadium on Sunday.
Jack O’Connor publicly came out during the week stating that there was no real positive to winning a provincial title and going straight into the quarter-final and it is certainly something that the GAA have to look at.
Whoever Kerry meet at that stage will have had a decent test if not two since Kerry’s Munster final which isn’t ideal to say the least.
Looking at the game itself Kerry will be happy to have kicked 1-28 no matter the opposition. Kerry were quite clinical in front of goals especially in the second half when the game opened up, registering no wide in the second period which bodes well for the bigger tests that lie ahead.
Killian Spillane had a great game in the corner kicking 1-3 from play in a man of the match display. He has bags of talent as most Kerry supporters know all too well. Hopefully that performance will kick start a massive summer for him and he will bring that type of performance on a constant basis.
With Killian, Paul Geaney and Tony Brosnan contributing 1-10 from Kerry’s full-forward line, it certainly gives Jack a welcome headache in relation to team selection as he looks forward to the All Ireland quarter-final.
David Clifford will come back into the team once fit and depending on the opposition Kerry may only look to play two inside so competition in training in the coming weeks is going to be huge.
Micheál Burns had a good last 20 minutes kicking a couple of scores and will be another man pushing hard for game time in four weeks.
Kerry weren’t really tested at the back on Sunday, but once again will have been happy to get through the game without conceding a goal or even a goal chance of note. The starting six at the back against Limerick may well be the men that Jack will trust for the rest of the Championship.
They gelled well together during the league and you can see their confidence as a defensive unit is growing all the time. No man is being left isolated with space in front of him like in previous years.
Other teams will have their homework done though and will see the job Tadhg Morley is doing for Kerry this year, dropping in and helping out the full back line when required.
They may try and play one of their most dangerous forwards at 11, get him on as much ball as possible and force Tadhg to do a man marking job and not allow him to protect the full-back line like he has been doing.
Hopefully Jack and the management team will have a plan in place if this scenario does pop up.
One thing that Kerry will have to work on over the next few weeks is converting their goal chances. They had 4/5 decent opportunities on Saturday and only took one and it is something they will have to be more clinical with against better opposition later in the year.
Colm Cooper touched on it on the Sunday Game pointing out what the Dubs did to Kildare in the first 25 minutes of the Leinster final scoring five goals and it is something that they will be working on in training.
Later in the championship when Kerry may well come up against a more packed defence they mightn’t get too many goal chances, but taking the one or two that come their way could be the difference between winning and losing a tight game.
Kerry’s preparation over the next few weeks in the lead into the quarter-final could well define their year. It was interesting to hear that they played a challenge game against Roscommon a week before the Munster final.
Usually that weekend would be used to play an in-house A versus B game. Both have their merits. I know from a players point of view, especially the subs, they would probably have preferred to play the A versus B game.
I always saw it as an opportunity to put myself in the shop window for the upcoming game. As a defender if you were marking one of the starting forwards and did a good job you were doing your cause no harm at all.
They were always fierce games and any year we went deep into the championship there was some very close games with the B team actually beating the A team on a few occasions.
It gave the management team some headaches, but also meant that as a squad we were in a good place as their was great competition for places.
Jack may well try and get another challenge game in before the quarter-final or even a weekend away to some place like Fota Island. Spending time away together like that as a squad was always great for building camaraderie amongst the group as well as a getting a block of work done both on and off the pitch.
Kerry will feel that they came into the All Ireland semi-final against Tyrone a bit undercooked last year and they will be doing everything in their power to ensure that not the case this year.
After the game Saturday it is still very hard to know where exactly Kerry are at. A good test in the quarter final may be exactly what they need heading into a possible showdown with Dublin, who looked back to their best on Saturday, in a semi-final.