Tuesday 20 August 2019

Dick Clerkin: 'Tommy Walsh’s old-fashioned horsepower will be needed for Kerry’s final push'

Peter Keane with Tommy Walsh. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Peter Keane with Tommy Walsh. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Dick Clerkin

Dublin couldn't have asked for a sweeter way to secure an unprecedented five-in-a-row, as a victory over football's aristocrats would serve as the ultimate ignominy for their traditional rivals Kerry.

Bookending Dublin's five-in-a-row with defeats in 2015 and again on Sunday fortnight would be too much for Kerry fans to bear. Heaven and earth will be moved in the Kingdom over the coming weeks to try and prevent it coming to pass.

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The romantic nostalgia to this year's decider will go into overdrive in weeks ahead. Heffo's Army, and Offaly in '82, will bedfellow with 'Startled earwigs' as the sub-plots and past rivalries between both teams get dusted down and relived.  'Up for the Match' could become a two-day festival on the grounds of Montrose.

For myself, and the majority of footballing fans, Kerry's victory on Sunday will have been welcomed. Not because I have anything against Tyrone, as I have enjoyed watching them on numerous occasions this summer. It is just that they wouldn't have had a chance in hell of beating this Dublin team.

Slim

Kerry do, however, albeit a very slim one. Kerry will need to score at least 20 points against Dublin, and hope King Con and Co have a rare off day in front of the posts. A blazing shoot-out is the only way Kerry can beat Dublin. They need to play open, front-foot football like they did in Sunday's final quarter. Whatever about minding Dublin's strengths, they need to play to their own to have any chance.

For all the talk about Kerry's new wave of talent, arising from their semi-final contest two of their elder statement will be pivotal to their chances. Team-mates from way back in 2008 when Kerry last won the All-Ireland U-21 title, in three weeks' time, David Moran and Tommy Walsh will incredibly play in an All-Ireland final together for the first time.

Moran came on for Walsh as a substitute in their 2009 victory over Cork. Moran will have to dominate for a full 80 minutes, whereas Walsh will have to hope he can make a similar impact to what he achieved for Kerry to have any hope of overcoming Dublin. Moran's task is unquestionably more daunting.

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In the 2015 All-Ireland final, Brian Fenton announced himself on the national stage with a tour de force performance that won him both the man of the match award and an All-Star later that winter. In the same game, Moran as Kerry captain was unceremoniously taken off with 20 minutes to go. The Raheny colossus has gone on to dominate all in his path since that contest, whereas it has taken five long years for Moran to rediscover the form that saw him win an All-Star in Kerry's 2014 All Ireland-winning season.

As the two outstanding midfielders in the country, Moran and Fenton will line up against each other in Croke Park as the 2019 midfield All-Star pairing-elect. It's the Jacko v Mullins equivalent for the modern era. Both players possess the full array of skills in their armoury.

High fielding, accurate long-range kick-passing, and keen eye for a score. Their battle will be worth the ticket price alone.

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Andy Moran of Mayo in action against Ciaran Kilkenny of Dublin during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Tommy Walsh and Andy Moran are two of the few remaining survivors from the noughties decade. Both players entered the fray at the 50-minute mark at the weekend; however, the respective experiences of the two long-standing forwards couldn't have been more contrasting.

By the 50-minute mark on Saturday evening, Dublin's blitzkrieg had already laid waste to Mayo. All Moran could do was search for survivors. 

Walsh came on to try and inject some life into a Kerry team who had trailed a more incisive Tyrone in the semi-final. Within minutes of his introduction, he had set up a score for Moran, and for the remainder of the game provided a constant outlet in a rejuvenated Kerry attack, in which Clifford, Geaney and O'Brien excelled.

With little game-time all summer Walsh was fast becoming an afterthought on the Kerry bench. His return to form, will have given Kerry fans a badly-needed shot of optimism for the task ahead.

Fleet-footed youngsters with buckets of All Ireland minor medals are all well and good, but if Kerry are to have a chance against Dublin they will have to bring some old-fashioned horsepower to the party. Walsh has a hefty V8 under his bonnet that will add a physical dimension to Kerry, so long as the game is still a contest by the time he comes on.

Reality

Any call for Walsh to start the final, must be greeted with a harsh dose of reality. Having played little championship football all summer, it is unrealistic to for Walsh to last a full 80 minutes of an All-Ireland final against one of the most physically demanding sides in the history of the game. His last full game in Croke Park was in 2009! A bit of perspective please.

Peter Keane now has an impact sub option of a level he wouldn't have considered prior to the semi-final win. When he makes the call to bring him on in three weeks' time, he will just have to hope that he doesn't suffer the same fate as James Horan did with Andy Moran. Something tells me he won't.

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