Wednesday 21 February 2018

Eoin Liston: Bring Walsh in from the cold to raise heat on Rebels

Kerry's Tommy Walsh
Kerry's Tommy Walsh
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

It was great to meet Billy Morgan and Dinny Allen after the Munster final in Killarney last Sunday, even though the pair of them were traumatised.

They felt that Cork were by far the better team and had done more than enough to beat Kerry, but still ended up with only a draw.

I suggested that they'd need counselling, but I didn't feel I was the right man to give it to them so I left them to it. They were right, though: Cork should have won.

I was fearful before the game that the Rebels would have their homework done and they did. They showed that they had learned the harsh lessons of a few heavy defeats to Kerry and Dublin over the past 15 months.

Tactically they had it spot on and credit for that has to go to manager Brian Cuthbert and his management team. Defensively they were well set-up with Paul Kerrigan and Fintan Goold dropping to offer extra cover.

They had runners coming from deep and their deployment of Barry O'Driscoll at wing-back was brilliant. They were the more motivated team; they needed a performance more than Kerry did.

Their confidence will now be high; they have shown weaknesses in this Kerry team and they'll know what they have to do to win the replay on Saturday week.


I have long said that Cork have the players and that they should have won more. They should have beaten the All-Ireland champions and now they have to show consistency to prove that they are contenders themselves.

I think that Eamonn Fitzmaurice will admit that he was outfoxed on the line for Kerry and he'll be just as motivated as his players to get it right in the replay. I have every confidence that he will do just that.

Colm Cooper has to start. I heard that he wasn't going well in training and that's why he was dropped, because Eamonn has always said that he picks his team based on what he sees in training.

This can be an excellent policy, but it's a system that doesn't always work. Are there seriously six better forwards than Cooper in the panel? Sometimes even if a special player is going badly, you have to show complete loyalty - that way you can allow him to get his confidence back and you don't have to change a winning team.

What happens if James O'Donoghue has a bad week in training? Is he dropped? The best teams play together week-in, week-out and that allows players to become completely comfortable with each other.

Gooch doesn't necessarily have to spend all of his time on the '40' and it would be no harm to see him switching in and out with O'Donoghue - it would conserve his energy and keep the Cork defence guessing.

Kerry are going to have to improve their defensive system urgently. They've struggled at the back this year, having been one of the meanest teams around in 2014.

The amount of space that was in front of Shane Enright and Marc Ó Sé was criminal. They need protection because I remember myself that there's nothing a forward loves more than space in front of them to attack the ball. They must start playing less as individuals and more as part of a system.

The Kingdom can take some consolation from the fact that after giving Cork a 1-1 head-start they out-scored them 1-9 to 0-4 in the rest of the first half. They'll be thinking 'if we just played like that for a bit of the second half we'd have won'.

From just ten attacks after they break they scored 1-6 and that's a brilliant return against a defence that made it so hard for them.

It was worrying that O'Donoghue, who has taken 16 shots against Cork and scored with 15 of them over the past four seasons, didn't see the ball for 20-plus minutes.


The ball going into the forwards has to be much improved, much more like the brilliant pass that Ó Sé stroked in for Gooch's point.

The area Kerry have to improve on most though is the middle third in general. There can be no way that Alan O'Connor can be allowed to boss the game again.

Tommy Walsh must feel he's a long way down the Kerry pecking order; he'll be very disappointed that he wasn't called upon at any stage. I believe he might be the man, with the strength and mobility, to take O'Connor on.

Cork won nine of the 13 breaking balls in the middle third the last day and that gave them a platform to hurt Kerry in defence. Their half-backs caused so much trouble and our own weren't a threat.

Kerry need increased aggression around this area, they have to get their match-ups right, they must be more ruthless and the kick-out strategy has to be improved.

If they can do this they can continue the misery for Dinny and Billy in Killarney.

Irish Independent

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