Monday 23 October 2017

10 key issues that could decide the Munster final replay between Cork and Kerry

Cork may feel more aggrieved - but both have plenty to ponder

Cork's Donncha O’Connor attempts to get past Darran O’Sullivan, Kerry (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)
Cork's Donncha O’Connor attempts to get past Darran O’Sullivan, Kerry (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

An epic game, another resounding embellishment of the much maligned provincial championships, some redemption for Cork after such a blizzard of criticism and question-marks over what exactly is Kerry's best formation.

Brian Cuthbert cut the more disappointed figure but when the dust settles he'll enjoy the challenge of setting things right just as much as Eamon Fitzmaurice promised he would after Sunday's drawn Munster final.

We look at some of the considerations for both management teams over the next 12 days.

Five key issues for Cork:

Persevering with Paul Kerrigan as sweeper

Paul Kerrigan's black card in the 22nd minute denied Cork an opportunity to see out a tactic that looked to be working well in the opening period. Kerrigan is one of the quickest players around and after a nomadic existence in attack he showed glimpses that his new role may be quite to his liking.

His disruption of first James O'Donoghue and then Stephen O'Brien (that may have been a free against him) showed an ability to get in among opponents and break up attacks.

He also possesses the acceleration to quickly clear the danger zone and one burst eventually led to Brian Hurley winning a free for Donncha O'Connor to convert. Despite limited road-testing, it's a policy worth persisting with.

Getting more out of Brian Hurley inside

Cork opted to run at the Kerry defence in a way that they aren't entirely comfortable with (the second half of the drawn All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo springs to mind). A side-effect of that perhaps was a dearth of ball that Brian Hurley could run on to and ask more questions of Kerry's full-back line.

Sometimes he dropped deep but not to any great effect. As it was Shane Enright had matters under control. But with space and the right ball, Hurley is a handful and his ability to kick points from tight angles under pressure must see more play revolve around him.

More alertness around Kieran Donaghy

Donaghy didn't get his hands on much ball and Eoin Cadogan was very solid in direct opposition but the quiet unease he caused had an impact around him.

Too often for Cork's liking, Kerry players were able to read the breaks off him better. Stephen O'Brien, James O'Donoghue and Paul Geaney all created opportunities by being smarter around their target man.

Is James Loughrey the best man for James O'Donoghue?

Loughrey manfully took up the role and did reasonably well early on but there were signs in the second quarter that O'Donoghue had the beating of him and with the game under his belt the current "footballer of the year" will be that bit sharper and even more daring.

The options are limited. Michael Shields didn't have any success in last year's Munster final, Cadogan is required for Donaghy, Barry and Brian O'Driscoll are required for to get Cork forward. Would it be too much of a risk to delegate 19-year old Stephen Cronin, who performed so well on Sunday, for such a difficult task?

The need for Paddy Kelly

Kelly came in after Kerrigan was black-carded and brought a different dimension with his 'head up' playing style. He's a calming influence in possession and rarely chooses the wrong option, his loss through injury over the last couple of summers being keenly felt.

Five key issues for kerry:

Colm Cooper - twist or stick?

It's almost a moral question for everyone else but a pragmatic one for Fitzmaurice and company. A Munster final in Killarney with Cooper sitting on the bench just didn't seem right.

Has he done enough though in his 27 minutes to warrant inclusion the next day? He scored a point but was often peripheral.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice gave no hint that Cooper had carried a slight ankle injury into the game as was speculated on beforehand. The temptation to set him free in Killarney will be there but the suspicion is he will be held in reserve again to see can he make a bigger impact.

Maher the man for Alan O'Connor

It took Anthony Maher some time to find his bearings after his arrival for the black-carded David Moran in the third quarter but he eventually did settle.

In some ways his displacement from the team was even more surprising than Colm Cooper's but given the physical edge that Alan O'Connor was able to give Cork, Maher's game may be best suited to dealing with that type of influence, allowing David Moran to link the play more. But the quality of Bryan Sheehan's free-taking and foot-passing was so good at times in his 60 minutes on the field that it demands his inclusion, possibly at centre-forward.

Sacrificing the saviour

Fionn Fitzgerald pulled the trigger to save the day for Kerry but when they review their defence for Cork's goals Fitzgerald appears to be caught out for the first two with Donncha O'Connor slipping him a little too easily for the first one and then getting away from him for the second.

Paul Murphy got just a few minutes at the end after his recent shoulder problems but two more weeks his own particular brand of aggression may appeal.

Retaining Kieran Donaghy

Some questions about Donaghy after Sunday but his presence alone pre-occupied the Cork full-back line sufficiently to allow others to thrive around him. So much came off him that wasn't capitalised upon.

The temptation may be to return to the system that floored Cork in last year's Munster final, Paul Geaney and James O'Donoghue operating in a two-man full-forward line, but that surely requires too great a sacrifice at this stage.

Tracking the runners from deep better

Kerry haven't and didn't deploy a sweeper, preferring to keep defensive shape by retaining sufficient numbers back at all times. But the manner in which the second and third goals were conceded by runners coming from deep demands serious correction.

Irish Independent

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