Thursday 22 March 2018

Eoin Liston: Kerry have every incentive to break Tyrone's resistance

Kerry are going to have to be wary of players like Seán Cavanagh
Kerry are going to have to be wary of players like Seán Cavanagh
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

The fear of losing to Tyrone in Croke Park on Sunday will make sure that Kerry aren't caught off guard.

The preparations will be meticulous, the tactics will have been worked on and every player will be totally focused on the job in front of them.

Kerry beat Tyrone in an All-Ireland qualifier in Killarney three years ago and you could see by the celebrations after that match what it meant to the players.

We are still hurting from the traumatic defeats of 2003, '05 and '08 and because of that no one from the county will be over-confident this weekend.

The Kingdom won four All-Irelands in the last decade to Tyrone's three, but, to many, they are still entitled to call themselves the team of the decade because they beat Kerry those three years and we never beat them.

That still sticks in a lot of people's craws and that spills over into the team. This is what happened in 2012 in Killarney and they will have to repeat the result in Croke Park to really exorcise that Tyrone ghost.

Make no mistake, Mickey Harte is one of the greatest managers the GAA has seen and he will be bringing all of his knowledge and experience to bear, which is worth four or five points to his team in a match like this.

His teams have relentless work rate, their movement is intelligent, they have wonderfully athletic players who are flexible and, a bit like total football, can play anywhere on the field, and they have all the skills, which speaks volumes for their underage structures.

Kerry are going to have to be wary of players like Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Seán Cavanagh (right), Darren McCurry and Niall Morgan.

For them there is no such thing as a lost cause and across the whole side there is no such thing as the Disease of Me, which is a thing that can have a terrible effect on a team.

Kerry have worked a lot on defence this year and you can see how they have improved at the back. Those improvements are going to be tested to the limit on Sunday.

Cork showed that we can be suspect when teams run at us and the Rebels scored goals this way. Running the ball is Tyrone's main form of attack and they do it better than anyone - they move the ball quickly, they have runners on the carriers' shoulder, they draw fouls, they're a great team at switching defence into attack lightning fast and they turn a high percentage of attacks into shots on target.

Tyrone have come in for a huge amount of criticism since their All-Ireland quarter-final win over Monaghan at the start of the month and that is like fuel to them - have no doubt that this is driving them on. It will make their desire to win even more ferocious.

There was only a kick of a ball between them and Kerry in terms of relegation this year, Harte's team going down to Division 2, and they outscored the Kingdom 17 to 15 when they drew in Omagh in the National League.

But they are far from the finished article. They haven't won an Ulster title in seven years, they were relegated in the league, they are suspect to the high ball into the square and there are doubts about the fitness of Joe McMahon.


A big thing that Kerry have to do is push up on their kick-outs. They simply cannot be allowed to take soft ball from their own restarts. If the pressure is put on, they'll have to go long and they'll crowd it to an eight-man midfield, but Kerry still have the advantage here with fielders like Anthony Maher and David Moran.

If they can win the ball here, with so many Tyrone players swamping the middle, it is an ideal opportunity to launch a quick attack and exploit the space in their defence.

I think Kerry have more variety in their play. They can kick the diagonal ball into Kieran Donaghy on the edge of the square and they can play it up the wings to Colm Cooper and James O'Donoghue, if he plays, and they'll have a look at him in training tonight.

They can also run at Tyrone with men supporting off the shoulder, creating overlaps and drawing fouls.

The key is not to be forced into taking shots from 50 yards, but to recycle the ball back around. That they managed just 11 scores against Donegal's blanket in last year's All-Ireland final shows the importance of this.

Kerry will also have to keep their discipline, and this will be tested. If they can do all of these things, and I think they will, I predict a four-point win.

Irish Independent

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