Tuesday 24 October 2017

Options stack up for Kerry as Savage makes his case

Kerry1-13 Cork 1-9

Cork’s Peter Kelleher bursts through Kerry duo Mark Griffin, right, and Tom O’Sullivan in Mallow yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Cork’s Peter Kelleher bursts through Kerry duo Mark Griffin, right, and Tom O’Sullivan in Mallow yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

As the clock ticked down to half-time there was a little cameo along the sideline that encapsulated the mood for much of this match in Mallow.

Mark Collins, not one to run into trouble too often, found himself corralled by one of Kerry's bright young stars, Brian Ó Beaglaoich.

The An Ghaeltacht man, just gone 20, was ravenous in his pursuit of his opponent and secured possession.

It probably wasn't the type of enthusiasm you would expect from Kerry players in pre-season competition, certainly over the last three years. However, a mood of change has been sweeping through the Kingdom that began last season and it is manifesting itself in such application on an afternoon like this when not too many are watching.

Missing

You can build an audit of regular players missing, but they are regular only in the context of last year - Shane Enright, David Moran (originally selected but forced to withdraw with a back injury), Anthony Maher, Paul Murphy, Darran O'Sullivan, Paul Geaney, Stephen O'Brien and the Dr Crokes players, probably Kieran Donaghy and Bryan Sheehan, probably not Aidan O'Mahony.

Kerry’s Jack Barry spills the ball under pressure from Cork’s Sean Powter. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry’s Jack Barry spills the ball under pressure from Cork’s Sean Powter. Photo: Sportsfile

How many can be certain of places in the months ahead? Some, but definitely not all.

No Kerry player needed the reminder of a comprehensive victory over Tipperary last week by their U-21 squad to appreciate what's coming thick and fast behind them.

Brendan O'Sullivan made a welcome return from a long inter-county lay-off after making an impact during last year's league, when he came off the bench after only 13 minutes for Donnchadh Walsh, who appeared to have dislocated a finger.

Jack Savage spent much of last summer warehoused in Fitzgerald Stadium, where he trained without featuring on match days.

Ian Maguire of Cork in action against Michael Geaney of Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile
Ian Maguire of Cork in action against Michael Geaney of Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile

However, when his time came here he made certain to exploit it, whipping over five first-half points before adding another off the throw-in at the start of the second period.

He should have added more, too, dropping two more shots short and clipping a post with a third. He'll rise through the ranks this season and embellish the strength of the Kerry squad to the point where the quality of their best 30 players should get close to parity with Dublin.

Whether their best 15, or even 21, can enjoy that status remains to be seen. To bridge that gap they'll need players like James O'Donoghue firing again.

For the first time in three years O'Donoghue is actually having a pre-season - the frustration of two shoulder operations that clearly didn't allow him to build sufficiently on 2014 looking like it's behind him.

He looked eager here, constantly running lines of support to blend so well with Savage and Barry John Keane in a front line that was too hot for Cork to handle.

James Loughrey stood firm, but there was only so much he can do when they're coming at him in waves.

Cork sought to use the imposing Peter Kelleher on the edge of the square, but they got little out of that tactic and instead were left to rely on the resourceful Niall Coakley and sub Gary Murphy, who came on for the second-half and scored three points.

Cork boss Peadar Healy figured there were 16 to 17 players unavailable, among them Paul Kerrigan, Colm O'Neill and Aidan Walsh, plus Michael Shields and Tom Clancy, who both withdrew beforehand from the selected team.

They played with more energy after the break and were a lot harder for the Kerry attack to break down.

At midfield, Ian Maguire and Ruairí Deane had their moments - though in Deane's case he didn't always make the best decisions .

Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be happy with the contribution of Jack Barry, who won a penalty for O'Donoghue to convert in the 21st minute, after O'Halloran dragged him down, and set up both points off the throw-ins.

Fitzmaurice acknowledged that the addition of another game between now and their opening league match against Donegal in Kerry - they play Limerick in next weekend's McGrath Cup final - was welcome and admitted he has never had it so good in the previous four years in terms of playing resources.

And O'Donoghue finally hitting open road without interruption has sharpened his enthusiasm, his manager felt.

"He's had a frustrating couple of years with injuries. It's good for us and it's good him to be back early in the year. He's only mad for football now, mad to get going," Fitzmaurice said.

"The thing he loves most is playing matches. He had to do an awful lot of one-on-one rehab work. It isn't that enjoyable. He's delighted to be back in the fold."

Scorers - Kerry: J O'Donoghue 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), J Savage 0-6 (1f), BJ Keane 0-2 (1f), T O'Sullivan, B O'Sullivan 0-1 each.

Cork: N Coakley 1-5 (0-3fs), G Murphy 0-3, B O'Driscoll 0-1.

Kerry- B Kelly; J Foley, M Griffin, K Young; B O Beaglaoich, P Crowley, T O'Sullivan; J Barry, T Morley; J Lyne, M Geaney, D Walsh; BJ Keane, J Savage, J O'Donoghue. Subs: B O'Sullivan for Walsh inj (13), G Crowley for O Beaglaoich inj (44), R Shanahan for Foley (50), C Geaney for O'Donoghue (66), A Spillane for T O'Sullivan (67), D Daly for M Geaney (68).

Cork- K O'Halloran; J Loughrey, C Histon, J McLoughlin; S Cronin, C Dorman, M Taylor; I Maguire, R Deane; S Powter, M Collins, B O'Driscoll; N Coakley, P Kelleher, K Davis. Subs: A O'Donovan for Histon (20), G Murphy for Powter (h-t), R O'Toole for Maguire (49), D O'Driscoll for Davis (60), E Lavers for Loughrey (67).

REf - D O'Mahony (Tipperary)

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport