Weeshie's Week

Defeat to Cork and the long road through the Qualifiers beckons

June 12th, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

It was always going to be a massive task travelling to Cork last Sunday and when Brian Sheehan was declared unfit during the previous week it really made the job much more difficult. One of the top free kickers in the country and awarded an All Star for his all round midfield displays the St Mary's man's absence of course was a huge blow to Kerry. Many people I haven spoken to have laid huge emphasis on this, however I believe this aspect of the loss should be viewed in complete isolation and if the day comes when Kerry rely solely on one man to win big games as a result of his place kicking then you are in big trouble. I cant understand in this day and age when the game is as close as possible to professionalism and players train as never before that a team has to rely on their goalkeeper to kick long range frees. Since the rule was introduced allowing players kick frees from their hands I have seen a massive decline in the art, and it is a beautiful art, of free kicking both at club and intercounty level. It was really hit and miss to expect Brendan Kealy step in and kick those 45s for the very first time in a big championship game.  You have substitutes to cover every line of the field, surly all teams should have one or even two men to step in when the need arises who are expert to kick a ball with great degree of accuracy off the ground from distance. In the Kerry team of the sixties/early seventies, three men on the one team, Mick o Connell, Mick o Dwyer and the late Eamon o Donoghue were deadly accurate from all angles and distances and fourth member of that double All Ireland winning side, Donie o Sullivan was the longest kicker of a dead ball this county has ever seen.  

There will be, and already is great weeping and gnashing of teeth all over the county and beyond as a result of last Sundays defeat. This is always the Kerry way. The post mortems are in full swing and many pundits are already writing the epitaph of many of the Kerry players. I was one who went for a Cork victory here in this column last week as I yearned for a display of flair, style, fast forward football from the word go to keep Cork on the back foot. That did not happen and it was Connor Counihan's men who began the game in flying form.  The fact that they lost Fintan Gould and Pierce o Neill from their starting fifteen made little or no difference to the winners. Their bench is one of the best in the country and when you can bring on highly experienced players such as Ciaran Sheehan, Nicklaus Murphy and Daniel Goulding it tells the whole story. To put this into further perspective as to where Kerry are at, if Colm Cooper and say Declan o Sullivan had been withdrawn from the Kerry team just before the throw in huge experience was one factor Kerry did not have in the subs.

The alarm bells were ringing following the Tipperary first round game and many of the failings we saw that day were evident again last Sunday. The attack is lacking cohesion, imagination and flair and the fact that three of the starting six forwards were substituted speaks for itself. The sight of Kieran Donaghy and Paul Galvin two of the county's greatest player in recent years being called ashore begs a different question. Not alone did both of them look listless and sluggish during the game but in truth any of the remaining forwards could also have been substituted.  The Cork half back line of Graham Canty, Paudie Kissane and Noel o Leary dominated matters in front of their goal and Kissane's magnificent point from away out the field in the 44th minute was in my opinion laying down the final marker. The longer the game went on the better Cork became, they looked stronger, and fitter, fresher and most importantly they were now playing with patience, skill and a little bit of ignorance.

And yet despite all the doom and gloom about the Kerry display they could and should have had two goals in that opening half. Would we have had a different result?   Kieran Donaghy should have found the net himself in the 16th minute instead he passed to Colm Cooper whose effort was quickly smothered by the Cork defence. Then a fine move between Darren o Sullivan, Peter Crowley and Colm Cooper saw Donaghy left with just the goalkeeper to beat but Alan Quirk saved bravely on the goal line.  Kerrys goal scoring ability's have dried up of late and when you recall these two chances mentioned here you have to wonder is it as a result of  good defending or a slowing of thought and action on behalf of the Kerry players?  

So it's now the long road through the qualifiers if Croke Park and the quarter final is to be reached.  Jack o Connor and his men will have a amount of soul searching to do in the wake of last Sundays disappointing display. Can they recover?  You can be sure of one thing, the wagons will be circled by team and management, Jack o Connor is not a man to shrink a challenge. The blood letting will go on far and wide among the passionate knowledgeable Kerry supporters and we will await the draw for the qualifiers with huge interest. There are a lot of team's in there who Kerry will beat either home or away. The interduction last Sunday of Johnny Buckley, Paddy Curtin, Barry John Keane and in particular James o Donoghue added a little bit of enthusiasm and freshness to the side. However they were never going to be capable of stopping the Rebel drive to victory. James o Donohue's ability to penetrate the Cork rear guard with his speed off the mark was one of the high lights of the game from a Kerry perspective.

There are worrying signs of decline in some of these Kerry players. Is the mileage and injuries over the years beginning to take its toll?  Only time will tell. The qualifiers might not even answer this, a Croke Park quarter or semi final will.  On the other hand Aidan o Mahoney and the O Se brothers showed no sign of slowing up in this recent defeat and they are around a long time. Defeat at the hands and feet of Dublin, Mayo and now Cork in our last three big games cannot be ignored, it might now be the time to go for more emphases on youth and throw the handle after the hatchet.  And the final word, as the fellow said, "It's now all down to the luck of the draw".

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom