'I can't see Kerry having an impact' - Tomás Ó Sé on why he can't trust the Kingdom
TOMÁS Ó SÉ reckons you cannot fully trust this new and exciting Kerry team until they face a proper test.
He is even more unsure whether Cork, despite rumours of rude challenge match health followed by their hammering of Limerick, will provide that in tomorrow evening's Munster SFC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
As a Kerry legend long domiciled on Leeside, Ó Sé is well positioned to comment on both. First up his beloved own. "Right now," he cautions, "I can't see Kerry having an impact that major on the championship."
How so? "This Kerry team has to win the big games," says the Irish Independent and RTÉ pundit, speaking at this week's Benetti Menswear GAA Ambassadors launch.
"I know Eamonn Fitzmaurice mentioned it, 'Oh, you have to give them time to bed in' ... but they're not afforded that time in Kerry. Every year they want to achieve and if you're not, then there's an issue.
"Kerry played very well against Dublin (in the league). I do think that Kerry would struggle against the likes of a Galway, a Tyrone, a Donegal, because I think they struggle breaking down those defences.
"It actually suits them to go against the Dubs, man on man. I think Kerry would have a better crack off them than playing the defensive teams.
"But then Kerry can't break down a defensive team like Dublin can; they struggle. They'll get better at it and they will eventually master it but I don't think they have it mastered (yet)."
Ideally, Ó Sé would love Kerry to face a competitive Cork tomorrow and win by five of six points, where the defence delivers a solid performance under pressure. This would guarantee a home fixture to kick-start the Super 8s.
The bigger riddle is whether Cork can push them, having collapsed to a 17-point defeat last summer.
"I watched them a couple of times during the league and, Christ, they looked clueless," Ó Sé claims. "They tried to, obviously, play a defensive game . . . when other teams started picking them off, like Galway (against Roscommon on Sunday), it just fell apart. Like Tyrone against Donegal, it just fell apart for them.
"They changed it up," he continues. "And then after a terrible league, going down to Division 3, you hear rumours they're flying it in challenge games . . . beat Dublin, beat Donegal, beat Galway, lost to Carlow strangely. And then they rattled Limerick.
"Sure, I can't predict what Cork are going to do on Saturday night. I do believe, and I've said it for a long, long time, they're better than what they're producing. And if they do produce what they're capable of? I still think if Kerry perform, they'll beat them but it should be a lot closer than it was last year.
"The big thing for Cork, like Roscommon (on Sunday), if Cork go down five or six points, seven points, do they have the bottle to answer back? And I haven't seen it in the last three or four years out of them."
By the same token, the five-time All-Ireland winner wasn't bowled over by Kerry's up-and-down semi-final display in Ennis. "They could have tattooed Clare in the first 10-15 minutes, could have been 3-8, 3-9 up," he says. "But I think they were exposed in the second half in terms of just manning up around the middle eight."
Harking back to their rollicking league win over Dublin in February, he says: "There was a great buzz and they played serious football. Where were Dublin at on the same night? I'm not sure . . . but on that night you'd have said Kerry were on the right track.
"Yet, the way it panned out against Mayo in the league," he adds, "the first game in Tralee, then above in Croke Park, doubts started coming into my head."
KERRY (v Cork): S Ryan; J Foley, T Morley, TO'Sullivan; P Murphy, J Sherwood, G White; D Moran, J Barry; D O'Connor, S O'Shea, S O'Brien; D Clifford, P Geaney, D Moynihan