Saturday 26 May 2018

Eoin Liston: Time still on our side as plotting starts for date with All-Ireland destiny

Tipperary full-back Alan Campbell with his parents, Tommy and Patty, after the Premier County’s win over Galway. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Tipperary full-back Alan Campbell with his parents, Tommy and Patty, after the Premier County’s win over Galway. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

You have to judge Kerry's All-Ireland credentials on what we've seen thus far this year and while yesterday's display didn't set the world alight and didn't leave anyone quaking in their boots, we still have the footballers to lift Sam Maguire.

I've absolutely no hesitation in saying that. Maybe we weren't driving back home brimming with confidence after disposing of Clare but there's another four weeks to prepare for Donegal or, most likely, Dublin. Plenty of time to up the ante.

The good was good and the bad was bad. We did what we had to do and the game was over ten minutes into the second half. Brian Kelly's kick-outs were spot-on in the first half although there were a few dodgy ones after the break.

The defence was solid in general even though Clare had no luck in front of goal. They hit the crossbar, the post and had shots blocked down. Eleven scores is a huge improvement at the back but, worryingly, Clare isolated us in one-on-one or two-on-two scenarios early on.

The Donegals or Tyrones of this world would never allow that and defenders should never be exposed. They should always have the upper hand in terms of personnel and this left me wondering, who was our sweeper? Who should've been back there providing cover?

The good teams prevent situations like that from materialising and we must do likewise. I'd still be a bit concerned if teams run at us and I didn't see a system in place. That can't be the case the next day or we'll get a rude awakening. Hopefully they've been keeping it under wraps.

Questions remain over our two young wing backs, Brian Begley and Tadhg Morley. I've no doubts about their ability but Kerry supporters don't know how they're going to react the next day. They haven't seen enough of them at this level.

They've performed well but they'll be learning on the job. Do we know if they're up for it? They're definitely players for the future but the question is, are they players for four weeks' time? I think they'll answer us all in style.

Perhaps it's a good way for Kerry to be coming into the last four. There's going to be no one blowing us up, they'll be coming in with no big performance under their belt but hell-bent on producing one.


Up front I wonder can we put enough scores on the board against a tighter defence? James O'Donoghue still looks a bit rusty and we need the 'Gooch' back fully fit so those A v B training games in Killarney throughout August are massive.

Likewise, getting the tactics and the match-ups right. We do have footballers good enough to win the All-Ireland but it's going to come down to getting everything spot-on, making sure we have plan A, B and C.

There's a lot of work to be done for us to be going in confident because the delivery of that final pass was slightly off yesterday. It was a funny game, it was flat and dead even though Clare tried everything in the opening stages.

But when David Moran got on top in the second quarter we won it 1-5 to 0-1 and that allowed us to play at our ease. Our physicality was impressive though. Strong in the tackle and turning over ball after ball, we need to repeat that hunger - while Barry John Keane was excellent again off the bench.

He's in super form and deserves serious consideration for a starting berth but no designated long-range free-taker is an issue. Frees from 40m to 60m are the match-winners - or losers - because that's where the top teams foul you, not in the inside line. We have to be nailing them.

Did our half-backs offer enough going forward? Who are our best two midfielders? Do they know the best 15 or are they hiding something? More questions than answers but credit where it's due, we did what we had to do.

But the Croke Park show was well and truly stolen by Tipperary. You'd have to take your hat off to them and it's a fantastic achievement to reach a semi-final for the first time in 81 years. They have been a breath of fresh air.

When asked at the start of the year no one could have predicted they'd go on a run like this and end up where they are. Liam Kearns and his predecessors deserve huge credit.

They have some lovely players. Peter Acheson, Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney, all fostered through the underage ranks, all play with a tremendous freedom of expression. Galway needed to back up their Connacht final win but couldn't as Tipp made hay on their full-back line.

In fairness to Cork on Saturday, they gave a performance but when the game was there to be won there was only one team winning it. Held scoreless for 20 minutes they were like a team that was happy to give a performance but didn't have that belief to actually win the game.

Donegal choked the life out of them and without being too critical of Cork, because they've taken enough punches recently, how was Paddy McBrearty afforded the space to kick seven points from play?

Fair play to Donegal though. They know they can defend and they know if they play Dublin they'll have to attack to so they committed more bodies forward and got the rewards. There are consequences, however, and Cork went through them like a knife through butter which we're not accustomed to seeing.

That won't happen the next day though in a war of attrition. It'll be interesting to see how Dublin's attack fares against a packed defence. Donegal will try to hang in there for an hour and then see what happens.

Mayo looked back to their best at times and back to their worst at other times. Where was the ruthlessness when well ahead? There's questions marks over them but there must be a huge display brewing and they're going to need it against Tyrone or it's lights out.

Irish Independent

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