Monday 26 February 2018

Fitzmaurice has some work to do in his quest for perfect Kingdom

Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

Having taken the time to have a second look at Kerry's defeat of Tipperary, I've come to the conclusion that it is a case of much done, more to do.

It is far too simplistic to describe it as a vintage Kerry performance by looking at the margin of victory and the fact that they scored 2-19 to Tipp's 0-8.

There is no doubt all the basics were there. The use of the quick free was implemented well and the forwards worked very hard without the ball. There was great variety in the kick-outs, which allowed us to dominate possession, while the half-backs were given licence to attack.

Indeed, the general performance of the half-back line was encouraging, with Killian Young really showing signs of getting back to his best. The discipline of the side was excellent in terms of not getting involved in any silly stuff with officials or off-the-ball scuffles.

However, there were too many frees conceded inside the Kerry half. These came about when the defenders were left without protection.


If there are more bodies flooding back it makes it very difficult to isolate any individuals and this will eliminate the concession of some of those needless frees.

Tipp failed to capitalise on this but a better team will. Also, we turned over far too much ball. In the first half alone, we gave away 12 balls which were largely down to sloppy play. No disrespect to Tipperary, but they are not a top side and they hadn't got Kerry under enormous pressure, so those errors must be addressed.

The likes of Donegal, Tyrone and Dublin will destroy a team if they are presented with so much turnover ball as they thrive on the quick counter-attack. But that is something Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be working on a lot over the next few weeks.

While the transition of the ball from defence to attack was at times top class, on other occasions it was pedestrian. I would much rather see a higher intensity when moving up the field. A player should be moving at 100 miles an hour.

Also, Kieran Donaghy needs to be used more. If the right ball is going into him, he is incredibly difficult to handle and with the quality of kickers in the side, there should be no excuses for not getting good diagonal passes into him.

Tipp didn't flood many bodies back, but when Kerry come up against teams that do I would like to see them push right up into the opposition half. People have an impression that a crowded forward line can't score, and when there are 11 or 12 defenders against four or five forwards, it is hard for the attack to operate.

But if there are as many attackers as defenders, then it makes it easier as there are more options. Also, if possession is lost, opponents will have to work very hard to gain momentum when moving forward as they will have to come through a lot of bodies.

However, these issues are easy to iron out and I have full faith that Eamonn will have his system of play perfected should they be involved at the business end of the summer, with the likes of Donegal and Dublin.

The Dubs, at times, were in breathtaking form in the National League. They move the ball at pace, have excellent variety in their play, while the movement in the forward line is superb.

Stephen Cluxton's ability to score long-range frees is obviously a big plus but the quality of his kick-outs is phenomenal – he rarely doesn't find his target. Crucially, they are no longer dependent on the Brogans for scores.

We saw Bernard getting substituted in the league final – something that was unthinkable before now. But even with the likes of Paul Mannion, Ciaran Kilkenny and Paddy Andrews, I feel the continued absence of Alan Brogan is a big headache.

He is the player who makes them tick, a fabulous natural footballer. Dublin fans should worry more about the other end of the field, however. Their free-flowing, all-out attacking style means that there is always a chance to get exposed.

Pat Gilroy had his defensive unit perfected and Jim Gavin will need to get back to that or develop one of his own. But they will have too much for Westmeath today, and it might not be until the latter stages of the summer when these issues come to be a problem.

Irish Independent

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