Sheehan loss tilts balance Rebels' way
The midfield battle could prove decisive, writes Páidí ó Sé
The big talking point in Kerry last week ahead of the Munster semi-final against Cork today was the injury to Bryan Sheehan. Who they get to take over his kicking duties will be interesting. Colm Cooper is very dependable kicking out of his hand on the right side of goal but what of the other side?
Sheehan is proof you can't do without a consistent place kicker and Kerry have been fortunate to have had the luxury of good ones over the years.
What I find hard to digest is the trend for goalkeepers to take 45s and frees and don't be surprised if we see that today. Kicking the ball from the ground is a skilled art and its demise is one of the changes I dislike in the modern game. Players don't feel it's necessary to practise it. If you have a good striker of a placed ball, it's a surer way of scoring than from the hand. Bryan has more shots in his bag in that sense than any player and he will be a big loss from that angle alone.
Seamus Scanlon is back in midfield in his place. Kerry had a steady partnership with Sheehan and Anthony Maher but Scanlon is energetic and willing. He also brings plenty of experience and plays a lot of ball. During a match, Scanlon handles the ball more than most players I've seen.
Midfield will be crucial today and if Kerry could near enough break even there it would be a good day's work. Alan O'Connor had a good league campaign for Cork and now Conor Counihan has moved Aidan Walsh back to partner him, Maher and Scanlon have it all to do. I'm inclined to give a slight edge to the Cork lads.
It's a big day too for Peter Crowley as he was one of the players I thought played below his best against Tipperary. Kerry will really find out about their new men today. The heat of a championship match in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is a real test of emerging players.
In the past, Cork have failed dismally to cope with the Kerry forwards on the big days. They haven't stopped Colm Cooper and the O'Sullivans from scoring and today, hopefully, they will also have to contend with Kieran Donaghy on the edge of the square.
Having said all that, Cork have the advantage in this game so I'm giving the nod to them.
What struck me looking at the Armagh team for their clash with Tyrone is that there are no players left from the 2002 All-Ireland winners. It's a virtually new side again. Armagh had a mixed league campaign. They played very good football when they came down to Tralee and beat Kerry but regressed afterwards. They suffered from not having the Crossmaglen players available and the league didn't paint a true picture of Armagh in my opinion.
Mickey Harte is building a new squad again and he is trying to do the same thing as Seán Boylan did with Meath and develop a new crop of players to win another All-Ireland. Their Division 2 final against Kildare threw up a crazy statistic of 335 handpasses and this match is likely to be played in a similar style.
Both teams have players capable of taking scores from out the field but they have a completely different attitude with their blanket defence and slow build-up. Harte baffles me with the type of football he plays and his use of support players. They usually have 13 players in their own half and only two players up front and their attacks come in waves.
The northern football teams know each other and their styles of play so well and I think this game will be very different to the one in Páirc Uí Chaoimh but Tyrone will shade it for me.
I watched the drawn Wexford and Longford game last weekend and I couldn't understand how Longford let Adrian Flynn kick that many points from play. Longford had the winning of it and it was their inexperience that cost them. The game should bring them on a considerable amount.
However, if they want to win today they need to get more out of David Barden and they have to put the Wexford half-backs on the back foot. The best way of doing this is to take the ball at pace, get a few scores up and show the Wexford defence that their job is to mark their men and not to be bombing upfield getting scores.
Meath should overcome Carlow today but I was surprised that they were giving high fives after beating Wicklow. That trait was uncommon in Meath and it must be galling for former players.
Sunday Indo Sport