Saturday 18 November 2017

Five key questions Kerry must answer to slay All Ireland champions Dublin

Big decisions ahead as Fitzmaurice seeks to avert more misery in Capital

Kerry will be tempted to play Kieran Donaghy at full-forward in the absence of Rory O’Carroll. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry will be tempted to play Kieran Donaghy at full-forward in the absence of Rory O’Carroll. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Eamonn Fitzmaurice has never shied away from making big selection decisions during the last four years that could be perceived to have been against the grain.

But as Kerry seek to overturn a record of four successive defeats in major Croke Park semi-finals or finals, the need for deep thought among the management has never been greater for them.

What they must do is come up with something different from the league final in April and last year's All-Ireland final.

Read more: Gavin expects semi-final to go right 'down to the wire'

Here, we look at some of the major considerations that have faced them since the old rivals were confirmed as the second semi-final pairing.

1. How to use Kieran Donaghy?

A critical question for Kerry. The thinking is that Dublin should be vulnerable to aerial attack in the absence of Rory O'Carroll, but apart from a bit of damage done by Donie Kingston in the Laois game, some difficulty caused by Westmeath's John Heslin and an odd isolated catch by Meath players that came to nothing, there has been no evidence of threat.

Donaghy always has the capacity to do something different, though. It's something of a myth anyway that O'Carroll had his measure in past championship games.

In 2011, Donaghy came off a poor run of form and had by far his best game of the season in the All-Ireland final; he was a late entry into the 2013 semi-final but made an impact on introduction to last year's final and might well have been awarded a penalty and a free.

He has spent most of this season at midfield "putting miles in the legs" but after the league final defeat to Dublin, Fitzmaurice suggested that move was partly because of the difficulty he has in winning frees when he's inside.

His contention that he was subjected to "rape and pillage" at one stage last April now prefaces a potential return to the edge of the square here.

He might be named at midfield but longer spells inside are inevitable.

Kieran Donaghy keeps a close eye on Podge Collins. Photo: Ray McManuas/Sportsfile

2. Twist or stick with the Paul Murphy plan?

So far so good on this one. Kerry's use of Murphy in the half-forward line has not taken anything from their attack, as some of his creative touches and the quality of his goal against Tipperary in the Munster final have illustrated.

But is it taking from a defence that clearly needs shoring up on the evidence of a league final four months ago, their last really strenuous test when gaps were exposed?

Murphy adds abrasiveness to that middle third where Kerry will obviously focus on but if they opt for a 'man-to-man' approach, his value in that regard can't be ignored.

James McCarthy, Dublin, in action against Paul Murphy, Kerry during the National League final. Can Kerry and Murphy turn the tables on McCarthy and Dublin this time around?
Paul Murphy in action against Dublin

3. Hold Colm Cooper in reserve?

By Sunday it will have been eight weeks since Colm Cooper saw any competitive action. Considering that he was withdrawn with injury 20 minutes into the Munster final against Tipperary, that amounts to just 90 minutes of frontline activity since April.

Even Cooper may need more time on the field than that to ready himself for a game of this magnitude, and with James O'Donoghue back and Paul Geaney in top form, the logic of holding him for the last 20 to 25 minutes increases, especially in light of how Dublin have got away from Kerry in the last 10 minutes of the 2013 semi-final, 2015 final and league final in April.

Colm Cooper will play for Kerry again next year

4. Back to some experience in defence?

The big casualty from the league final has been Marc Ó Sé, with the concession of four points to Bernard Brogan and the steal off him by Brogan for the Eric Lowndes goal.

Aidan O'Mahony hasn't finished either of the last two Croke Park championship games because of black and red cards. Yet the temptation could be to draw on the experience of O'Mahony.

Kerry's Marc Ó Sé will make his first start of the campaign against Down

5. Potential for a 'springer'?

'Bryan Sheehan for goals' has already been well aired, the captain even donning a pair of gloves at last week's open training session to give it some faux credence.

Read more: Sheehan: I don't see how Dublin can be hungrier than we are

But how implausible was it really to have your most clinical place-kicker, who might struggle with the pace of this game, on the field in this capacity?

The distance Sheehan gives from frees is superior to just about everyone else in the game but finding a place for the St Mary's Caherciveen man now would take some balancing.

The Sheehan line isn't the only floating in Kerry. Mark Griffin, Brendan O'Sullivan, now recovered from injury, and even Mark O'Connor have been touted for midfield, while Johnny Buckley's 1-7 for his club last week has also raised the possibility of his inclusion.

However, the nature of this management has been to stick with tried and trusted methods and players.

Irish Independent

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