Sunday 19 January 2020

Eoin Liston: We were bullied last year but we won't be bullied this time

Peter Crowley, Kerry. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Peter Crowley, Kerry. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Eoin Liston

Jim Gavin has said he's expecting a big Kerry challenge on Sunday and I guarantee you he won't be one bit disappointed. I've waxed lyrical about the Dubs all year and rightfully so - they're an exceptional team and deserve to be clear favourites given they've had the Indian sign over us since Stephen Cluxton's famous free in the 2011 All-Ireland final.

It used to be the case that if I got €1 for every time someone said, 'Jaysus Bomber, ye broke our hearts', when I went up the road to Dublin that I could have retired many moons ago, but the shoe is on the other foot now.

This Kerry team and their supporters are a wounded animal and they'll put their bodies on the line to make sure they're the last team standing. They have a cause and carrying that hurt will make a massive difference.


Last year it was evident from the off that the Dubs wanted it more. You could see it in the 50-50 clashes, their work-rate on and off the ball and their tackle count, but Kerry should be able to turn the tables on those fronts. Don't tell me that Dublin have trained as hard as Kerry or they have the same hunger. When you're beaten it stings and Kerry are fitter, more motivated, better prepared and organised than 12 months ago. I expect massive improvements this weekend.

Only half of last year's team will start and that brings the freshness we need. The kick-out strategy has been worked on for a year, we won't be just hoofing it out and there'll be no underestimating Brian Fenton this time.

The ball will be kicked out before you know it to put Dublin on the back foot and I see our defence starting with our full-forward line. Some times they'll retreat to the '45, then they'll step up on the kick-out.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice has also practised with sweepers which Kerry never really did before and there's going to be more aggression in the tackle to get turnovers. Our tackle count will come from a hunger which only this Kerry team could have.

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Our management have learned lessons also and I think our match-ups will be spot on. I expect Shane Enright to take Bernard Brogan, Peter Crowley to pick up Diarmuid Connolly, David Moran assigned to Brian Fenton with Killian Young on Paddy Andrews, if he is picked to start.

I also can also see Paul Murphy being detailed on Ciarán Kilkenny. Having watched Dublin again and again for the last 12 months we know them inside out, all the homework has been done.

Kerry have a great history of learning from defeats and last year will really have hurt the players and management that they didn't go gung-ho to win. We weren't adventurous. We went in as All-Ireland champions and were found wanting but Kerry will give it a right go this time.

Everything that Kerry football stands for is at stake here and we're going to see something different. I remember the hurt my colleagues had in 1977 after losing two years in a row to Dublin and this team have the same yearning for redemption.

Dublin have their heel on our throat and we will fight tooth 'n' nail to make sure they don't press down on it. I think we'll have three or four styles of play, particularly in the full-forward line, which will be called upon at different stages depending on how things are going.

If the first style doesn't work we'll have another one, and another one, and another one after that. Physically, mentally and tactically we will leave everything out there and I'm not buying the argument that we don't have pace around the middle third either.

We've addressed that issue and we'll have legs there with the likes of Tadhg Morley, Brian Begley, Crowley, David Moran and Darran O'Sullivan. None of them are short of speed.

The bench will be a potent weapon also with a host of match-winners to come in and make the desired impact. Having Bryan Sheehan, the Gooch, Marc Ó Sé and Barry John Keane, to name a few, in reserve is a nice luxury.

We were totally off the mark last year but were still within a goal of them. This time we'll really test Dublin's fitness because we have worked ferociously hard. Fear is not an issue either and they have a serious chance of stopping the Dublin juggernaut.


To Kerry people this is huge. I played four All-Irelands against Dublin and never lost to them and I can see the hurt in the current players. I know it's there. Everyone knows what football means down here; we've been on the hind tit with Dublin for a while and it's time that was put to bed once and for all.

When Dublin play well there's no doubt they're the best team out there but it isn't all about talent at this stage. Every team has talent but it comes down to hunger and want. That's why it's so hard to win back-to-back titles and the Kerry lads will make that lung-bursting run a lot quicker than last year.

There'll be total disregard for their health. We were bullied last year and we won't be bullied this time, Kerry need this victory more than Dublin do.

Irish Independent

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