Tuesday 19 March 2019

Dearth of Kerry goals no concern for Keane

Kerry manager Peter Keane is happy that his players are keeping the scorebaord ticking over. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Kerry manager Peter Keane is happy that his players are keeping the scorebaord ticking over. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kerry's dearth of league goals is not a matter of concern for their manager Peter Keane as they pursue a record-equalling sixth successive league win in the same campaign when Mayo visit Tralee tomorrow night.

Not since 1965 have Kerry won six in a row in a league campaign but their impressive start under Keane has taken them to the cusp of a league final.

And while their solid defensive work, after the concession of 10 goals in last year's campaign, has been highlighted there has been a side effect at the other end where Kerry join struggling Division 4 side Wexford as the lowest goal-scoring county in the four divisions with just one, courtesy of Stephen O'Brien against Dublin, in five games.

Keane has said his initial emphasis has been on making Kerry a harder team to beat.

"When we started out we just wanted to make Kerry a team that is hard to beat," Keane said.

"The league can be difficult because you don't get a lot of time to do work with the lads between the games. Because of the travelling involved you might only get one field session done."

"It's just about getting a structure in place and working on different aspects of it, bit by bit, so it's all just building blocks right now.

"As for scoring or creating goal chances, I would not say that it doesn't matter, of course you would like to be getting a couple of goals, but I would not say it's concerning either.

"We are averaging 16 points a game which is very pleasing in some of the conditions we had to play in, so I am happy that we are keeping the scoreboard ticking over."

Some of Kerry's most prolific goalscorers have been on the sidelines for part or all of the campaign.

Paul Geaney played in the opening three games before a back problem ruled him out of the Galway and Monaghan games while David Clifford and James O'Donoghue have not seen any action. O'Donoghue could make his return this weekend while Clifford isn't far off either.

Kerry have failed to beat Mayo in their last four home league games - three losses and a draw - and have to go back to 2009 for their last win.

Tommy Walsh's resurgence after a three-year absence has been one of the features of Kerry's campaign, with his mark-taking providing a potent weapon.

Keane felt Walsh's championship form in Kerry last year with Kerins O'Rahillys made the former AFL man impossible to ignore.

"I felt looking at him, if he had a great county championship he had something to offer. When I sat down with him and we had a chat before we got involved in it at all, there was obviously things we had to do and we did them and he is progressing very nicely. I thought he was worth a shot."

Even though the mark will not be in play in the championship, Keane doesn't expect to see any change to Walsh's approach.

"He has good hands. If there is ball going into him whether it's above him or in front of him, he is winning the ball.

"So obviously there will be drier ground later on the year when the mark won't be there so he won't be alone up front, he will be able to pass it off to a man in a better position.

"If you look at it, when we started there was a big exodus of seasoned campaigners like Kieran Donaghy, Darran O'Sullivan, Donnchadh Walsh and Anthony Maher.

"That was a big void and if we were going to bring in a lot of new young players, you needed some maturity around which the likes of Jack Sherwood, Mark Griffin and Tommy provide.

Keane says reaching a league final, a probability at this stage, would be a bonus, not a goal.

"You might find it hard to believe but our main goal was to put a team together and find out where we are at.

"Reaching the league final - sure if we get there it's a bonus. You do not start out at the beginning of any year with talk of winning a league because you are preparing a team for further down the road."

Irish Independent

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