Friday 20 September 2019

Colm O'Rourke: 'Confident Kingdom must now face the tough questions'

Knock-out matches are what we need at this stage of the summer, writes Colm O'Rourke

Kerry’s Seán O’Shea celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry’s Seán O’Shea celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

If this game was going to advertise Kerry's All-Ireland credentials then their supporters should resist the urge to rush to the local bookies to back their team. They performed like a side who always felt that they were going to win and there was little urgency in their play for most of the game.

In truth, Kerry won as they liked without having to go up through the gears.

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The Meath performance was similar to those against Donegal in the League final and Donegal and Mayo in the championship. They were competitive for three-quarters of the match and finished the first half very strongly. Yet when it came to the business end of proceedings Meath were like a horse in Galway that could not get up the hill. They flattened out and Kerry strolled through the last 10 minutes.

At least Meath's kick-outs were not as big an issue. Marcus Brennan kicked both long and short accurately and there were few dramas in front of the Meath goal from re-starts.

The first quarter was exhibition football from Kerry. A collective groan went up when it was announced that David Clifford was not playing. The Meath supporters wanted to see him in the flesh just as much as the visitors. Yet it did not seem to upset Kerry, who drove over points from distance and angles. At one point early on I wondered could they miss.

Seán O'Shea was causing most of the trouble and Paul Geaney was slickness personified, although he could have set up an easy goal by passing across the goal instead of going himself from a narrow angle.

David Moran rules midfield and the benefit of a good kick-passer was much in evidence - he kicked long and short and always to his own man. When Kerry pass and move they look the real deal, but it was only in bursts and from early on it was obvious that at least some of their players were minding themselves, making sure they were not going to put life or limb on the line for what in effect was a dead-rubber contest.

There was more intensity in the play behind the goals when the ball went over the bar or wide as a swarm of kids fought hard for every ball. There were plenty of black card offences committed and when these kids spilled out on to the pitch at half-time for their kick-around it showed exactly why the GAA is such a wonderful organisation.

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Those youngsters will have great memories of the match, irrespective of the result, and will want to come back. The GAA sells a dream at games like this and the Meath County Board deserves great credit for having the pitch like the greens at Augusta and then sharing it with the children at half-time. The next Meath hero cut his teeth last night behind the goals.

On the pitch there was more stupidity with black cards. A player can drag an opposition player all they want but like rugby, if you physically hold them up then it is a yellow card rather than black. How stupid is that? Then we had two more blacks for checks off the ball which caused great frustration to the players involved. They were never blacks but there should be growing concern about the number of players who are throwing themselves on the ground either feigning injury or looking for an opponent to get a black. They need to be dealt with after matches.

So the show rolls on. The Super 8 has not been a success and the only team that has got momentum from it is Mayo. Of today's two matches, one is a dead rubber and the other features two teams who won't want to risk injury a week before the semi-final. Surely knock-out matches are better than this?

On the evidence of this, Tyrone will not fear Kerry. The Kingdom will be better than this but the big fear is that they are overly reliant on two young players up front, O'Shea and the player who left the longest shadow by not playing, David Clifford. Kerry were also wobbly at the back and the next set of forwards they meet will be a lot better than Meath's.

Yet Kerry will show up in Croke Park next Sunday thinking they can go all the way. It is great to have that confidence but the real test of their skill, passion and most importantly a heroic refusal to give in - as exemplified by Tipperary last Sunday - is yet to come.

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