Wednesday 24 January 2018

Rebels' strength in vital areas gives them edge over old enemy

Kerry's defensive and midfield concerns tilt the balance towards Cork, says Páidí ó Sé

Paidi O Se

I don't think I've looked forward to a Munster final as much as this one in a long time. Even though there's a release valve there with the back door, there has been a huge demand for tickets. Today will be a great occasion and hopefully we'll have a fine day in Killarney.

Cork have achieved what they wanted so far this year with the least amount of effort, and Kerry come into this game pretty fresh. They had a good deal of the summer to themselves last year and managed to get full value out of the league this year without a major effort. Neither side had to work too hard in the early championship games, so today is the first test of their credentials.

I'm told Kerry's training has been quite intensive, with the football aspect especially good. But there are stories coming from Cork too of a lot of players fighting hard for a jersey. They have a top-class panel, more so than Kerry, and that is always an advantage when training for big games.

There's a couple of certainties today in my mind. Kieran Donaghy will play on the edge of the square with Graham Canty pitted against him, and I imagine John Miskella will be put on Declan O'Sullivan. It will be very interesting to see who Kerry play on Donncha O'Connor, Paul Kerrigan and Daniel Goulding.

Tomás Ó Sé is a huge loss for Kerry and that will be found out today. The great Joe Barrett said it takes many types of players to make a team. You have to have the goalkeeper, the full-back with the great kick-out, the high-fielder, the place-kicker. But you're going nowhere without having a blackguard or a scamp.

And looking at the six Kerry backs today I'm not too sure that we have that calibre of player, somebody to turn up the heat on the Cork forward line. The one reservation I'd have of the Kerry defence is that they lack that bit of devil.

You're dealing with a Cork full-forward line of Goulding, O'Connor and Kerrigan. Then in the half-forward line you're dealing with Paddy Kelly on the '40' and probably the best young forward in the country in Ciarán Sheehan -- he is energetic, with great heart, and will take fierce marking -- with Pearse O'Neill on the other side. The Kerry half-back line of Killian Young, Aidan O'Mahony and Eoin Brosnan will be flat-out today.

At the other end, we all know that even with limited amounts of possession, the Kerry forwards are lethal. But I actually believe that the Cork defence are going to have more success on the Kerry forwards than the Kerry backs are going to have at the opposite end. Pound for pound, as a unit, the Cork forwards will probably give a better return on the scoreboard than Kerry. And we haven't come to the middle of the field yet.

We're going to see Alan O'Connor and Aidan Walsh at midfield for Cork. From what I'm hearing, a lot of the tactics in training with the Kerry set-up at the moment involves breaking the ball in the middle of the field and putting it up for grabs.

In my time either as a player or a manager, I've never heard of two Kerry midfielders being told to go out and break the ball because they're not capable of catching cleanly against their opponents. And that seems to be a ploy for today's game. I would use the reverse tactic, a completely different psychology. I'd tell Bryan Sheehan and Anthony Maher,

both men well capable of catching high ball, that if they get the opportunity of challenging for clean catches early on, to go for it.

There's nothing that will lift a team more than somebody catching clean ball in the middle of the field. It creates electricity all over the park. So I hope this tradition of Kerry football surfaces today.

There's very little between these two teams, but I'm giving the nod to Cork on the basis that they seem to be the more in-form team at the minute. I think that looking at them overall they seem to have more of a punch than I see in Kerry.

But Kerry proved in extra-time down in Cork last year that they can produce something very special, and today is the day to do it in Killarney.

At the moment the Cork defence look like they will have more success and that's the key. That along with the midfield situation. But I'm putting it up to the Kerry midfielders -- maybe they'll prove me wrong.

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