Friday 18 October 2019

Donnchadh Boyle: 'All eyes on Kerry to prevent the drive-for-five turning into a massive anti-climax'

Kingdom boss Peter Keane still has to work out his best team. Photo: Sportsfile
Kingdom boss Peter Keane still has to work out his best team. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Earlier this week, Sean Cavanagh suggested the five-in-a-row could be a "procession". Tomás Ó Sé insisted that the odds on already-strong favourites Dublin had to shorten considering the slip-ups experienced by last year's other three All-Ireland semi-finalists in recent weeks.

Even former Dub Senan Connell agreed that June had been a good month for the Blues' tilt at history.

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With the exception of Donegal's good form, they all agreed that the road was opening up for Jim Gavin's men. Instead of becoming more possible, the prospect of a Seamus Darby moment in 2019 - or even a stiff test of Dublin before they etch their names in history - was looking increasingly remote.

"Right now you'd be thinking the pathway looks that little bit easier for them than last year," Ó Sé commented.

"They seem to be getting their dander up and it doesn't matter about the opposition. They seem to be zoned in."

However, when assessing All-Ireland credentials, all three left an asterisk beside Kerry. In the race for Sam Maguire, they remain the wild card, led by their poker-faced manager Peter Keane.

As it stands, Kerry are unknown and Keane is unknowable. And you get the impression he's quite happy to have it that way.

After their win over Tyrone in the first round of the league in January, Keane spoke of "trying to find someone to drive the bus to Cavan" for the following weekend. When asked about Dublin at the launch of the Munster Championship, Keane commenced a story about his father teaching him to drive.

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"We were driving out the road, from Cahersiveen, and heading out to Valentia Island," he recalled. 

"We were at The Points Cross and I started asking a question about a road that was about two miles out. And he chewed me, and said, 'We'll worry about that when we get there . . . at the moment we'll worry about this.' 

As Ó Sé said: "He's a typical Kerry man, I wouldn't believe him if I was talking to him. But he makes you believe that he's telling you the truth."

Kerry have local business to take care of tomorrow night. They'll be expected to win, but the manner of that win that will be closely analysed.

There was little in the win over Clare to suggest they were ready to pull up trees, while injuries to key players like Paul Murphy meant Keane was denied a chance to look at his best combinations.

That day Shane Ryan had taken the No 1 spot with Dr Crokes' Shane Murphy no longer part of the set-up.

When you consider that Éamonn Fitzmaurice handed out 11 championship debuts at the start of last summer, Kerry have a lot of players still looking to put down roots.

Jack Sherwood played much of the league at full-back but Tadhg Morley was pressed into that role against the Banner.

There's more juggling to be done, too. Gavin White, an All-Star nominee last year, came on at half-time while his Dr Crokes club mate Micheál Burns also appeared as a sub midway through the second half.

And there'll be more moving of the pieces this weekend, too, with Jack Barry expected to be available again while the luckless James O'Donoghue battles with a hamstring injury after looking to be in good form early on in Ennis.

The good news for Keane is that, assuming they win against Cork, he'll have another three championship matches to find the mix he needs.

Under normal circumstances, at 6/1 to win in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork would be worth a punt, but like the Leinster final on Sunday, this is a football rivalry in name only.

Cork tore into last year's fixture and hit Kerry for two goals early on, but it was all downhill after that and scored three points in the final hour.

And the slide has continued. In 2020, they'll spend the spring in Division 3. In recent weeks, there have been good reports from challenge games, but they would hardly be a reliable marker for form.

For Kerry, a win where they dominate proceedings for longer than they did against Clare would be progress. They let three early goal chances pass against the Banner.

For most onlookers, this provincial decider will only go one way, but it will be another chance to see if Kerry can join Donegal and offer some kind of a test for Dublin. Or else the greatest achievement in football will be a long procession and a huge anti-climax.

Irish Independent

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