Sunday 17 December 2017

Modern football better than it was when I played - Sheehy

Sheehy: Higher intensity
Sheehy: Higher intensity
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's almost three decades since Mikey Sheehy departed the big stage. In fact, 29 years have passed since he walked off Croke Park, never to return as a player.

That last gallop came in the 1986 All-Ireland final. They had beaten Tyrone but only after a scare. Sheehy gathered his eighth Celtic Cross but the days of squirrelling away trophies and medals would stop there with Cork's emergence as Munster's top dog.

"That was my last game there," he recalls. "A game that we should have been beaten in as well, possibly! They were (seven) points up at one stage.

"Funny enough, during that particular game, I'd say it was the one thing that they hadn't prepared for … I think they went seven up early in the second half and you could see it in them, they were kind of shell-shocked, and we got a couple of scores and prevailed in the finish."

The Tyrone strand continued to run through his football life thereafter. When helping out Charlie Nelligan with the Kerry minors in 1996, he encountered a young manager named Mickey Harte.

"The first experience I had with Mickey Harte was '96, I was involved with Charlie Nelligan with the Kerry minors, and they beat us in Parnell Park after a replay in the All-Ireland semi-final.

"I don't think they won that year, but he won at least one if not two minor titles. So you could see he was the man who was going to turn it around." Much has changed since Sheehy's last dance. Kerry-Tyrone games are part of a rivalry rather than a novelty.

The style of football has changed too, though not necessarily for the worse. There's a defensive emphasis but there are still plenty of scores.

"Funny enough, and this is not because I'm involved, I actually quite enjoy it," said the Kerry selector. "Okay, the league football - that particular game was probably a game that you would write off, the Dublin-Derry game. Even crowd wise, the crowds are as big as ever going to games. I mean, it's a known fact, watching some of our games (from the '70s and '80s) and I've seen some of them myself, and they're horrific games! The 'Golden Years' … they're dreadful games, they're slow games.

"It's not that (they were one-sided), it's just they were slow. You see, there was no quick free in those days. The ball was put down and, Jesus …"

Sunday will be played at a far higher intensity than when he last ran out at Croke Park. Kerry ran out comfortable winners back in '86 when a Tyrone side in new ground couldn't see the thing out. That won't be a problem this time around.

"If I was able to look into a crystal ball, it's a difficult game to call," Sheehy says. "I saw the game against Monaghan, and a lot of people talk about Tyrone and their defensive system - which is a very disciplined system - but people must realise they're racking up big scores too."

Irish Independent

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