Wednesday 15 August 2018

Kingdom need to make a case for their defence

Kerry goalkeeper Brian Kelly makes a close-range save from Shane Walsh as Galway created a number of goal chances in Tralee on Sunday. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Kerry goalkeeper Brian Kelly makes a close-range save from Shane Walsh as Galway created a number of goal chances in Tralee on Sunday. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

A portion of the Galway backroom team gathered at the back of the stand in Tralee's Austin Stack Park last Sunday.

The went about the usual business of backroom teams nowadays, analysing play, looking for chinks in the opposition as well as deficiencies in their own play.

Amongst their number was Paddy Tally, a man who has carved out a formidable reputation as a coach and to whom much credit has been given for Galway's miserly defence this term.

After all, his St Mary's team that shocked UCD in a Sigerson Cup final 12 months ago were a picture in defensive organisation, making it easy to draw parallels as Galway completed a fourth consecutive shut-out in the league.

The Tribesmen have now gone 280 minutes plus injury time without conceding a goal. That sort of defensive security is the perfect compliment to their undoubted talent in the forwards.

Tweak

"We were relatively tight last year," manager Kevin Walsh commented afterwards. "You are trying to tweak things. When you have younger lads coming in from U-21, there is little things which you are trying to tweak which they may not be used to at underage which can be difficult. In fairness, the young boys had a big impact on today's game. They've brought freshness too."

So Galway are the league's pacesetters and, thanks to their defensive solidity, could be on their way to a league final.

That statistic stands in sharp contrast to Kerry's experience in the league so far. Last Sunday they conceded their seventh goal of the campaign to date. To give that stat some context, three teams across the four divisions have conceded seven goals. The other two are Louth and Offaly, who are rooted to the foot of Divisions 2 and 3 respectively.

And in truth they could have conceded a few more goals last Sunday. As things turned out, Kerry had a late goal chance to grab a draw but Eamonn Fitzmaurice accepted afterwards that his side wouldn't have deserved it. Galway really should have been out of sight at that stage.

They had at least four good goal chances over the game. On two occasions, Brian Kelly made good stops. On another, Seán Armstrong butchered a simple handpass that would surely have led to a goal for Shane Walsh.

Full-back Seán Andy ó Ceallaigh also rumbled through the middle of the Kerry defence, something that was a feature of a number of Galway's attacks on the day. However, his composure deserted him and he didn't even manage a point when he was one-on-one with Kelly.

And that Galway often didn't have to produce anything to brilliant to create those chances will be a concern for Fitzmaurice as they head to face All-Ireland champions Dublin on Saturday night. Considering the form the Dubs are in, they can be expected to be much less charitable than Galway were.

Of course, it's too early to be judging Kerry. This time 12 months ago they looked shaky but wound up winning the league in what amounted to a very rare defeat for Dublin in the decider.

And it has to be factored in too just how much experimentation is going on at the moment.

Of the six defenders that started last Sunday, only two of them - Shane Enright and Peter Crowley - started the All-Ireland semi-final replay defeat to Mayo last year though Paul Murphy was also on the field, nominally as a forward. Murphy operated as a half-back last Sunday and was one of the Kingdom's most effective players.

In front of them, Kerry fielded a new-look midfield partnership of Jack Barry and Barry O'Sullivan while some of the forwards were also largely inexperienced if talented, including the likes of Micheál Burns, Seán O'Shea and David Clifford.

The likes of Tadhg Morley, Jonathan Lyne and Killian Young are set to come back into the shake-up along with the experience of David Moran, Johnny Buckley and others.

Kerry will improve as they always do when they serious stuff comes into view. But there's work to be done.

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