Class will always out
by Weeshie Fogarty
While it was not as spectacular, dramatic, exhilarating or free flowing as the win over Armagh, it was, for the Kerry team and management, a job well done and objective achieved as the Kingdom reached yet another All-Ireland final. The third and decisive meeting with Billy Morgan's men proved a tough, dour and uncompromising encounter and Kerry were well-deserving winners at Croke Park on Sunday.
Jack O'Connor's record since he took the reigns has been as good, if not better than most Kerry trainers in my lifetime following the Kingdom. As it is now the man from Dromid Pearses will lead his men into a third successive final and the county, a fourth in the last five years. Add on a couple of National Leagues and a few Munster championships and you are close to greatness. In any man's language this is a magnificent achievement and whenever he decides to hang up his whistle the man coming after him will have the most unenviable task of all.
Let me add straight away that I am fully aware that a final has yet to be won. Nevertheless lets bask in the county's 53rd All-Ireland senior football final appearance. O'Connor's hand-picked team of sideline generals have been exemplary in their decision making since they took the hot seat and despite some questionable decision making earlier this year have called all the right shots. Ger O'Keeffe and my own Killarney Legion club man, Johnny Culloty add the guile, experience and, indeed, the calming hand necessary in the white hot atmosphere of big championship games. And then there is trainer Pat Flanagan. Readers of this little column will be fully aware that he plays a hugely important part in what has been happening during Jack's term in office. This county owes a great debt of gratitude to the Waterford native. The boys have been in superb shape since the Munster campaign. Fit, focused, eager for the fray and most importantly of all, fresh. Without freshness this Kerry team many who have huge mileage up on the clock would not be in the final. I just wonder, was it ever the intention of the management to make the Munster championship a priority? Did last year's lesson from Tyrone change the approach this year?
It was always going to be tough, hard and dour. Meeting for the third time in a championship and the fifth time this year isn't good for man or dog and real-ly the fixtures should be re-organised to make sure that teams do not meet as often as this in future. Just imagine the scenario if these two sides met three times again next year in the championship, or the year after. Safe to say there would be wigs on the green. Suffice to say, familiarity breeds contempt and I bet if there was a straw pool done of players from both counties they would endorse the fact they are sick of the sight of each other.
Kerry were everybody's overwhelming favourites heading for this semi-final and events turned out more or less as predicted by most observers. While Cork did start very brightly once the Kerry midfield got to grips with their opponents, the fat was in the fire for the Rebels and the longer the game went on the better Kerry got. And one vital aspect to this latest scalp for Jack O'Connor was the fact that Kerry completely dominated their opponents in the more physical side of the exchanges. This Kerry side has really blossomed in the last three games and when push came to shove in this latest battle of the Munster neighbours, Cork simply could not match Kerry for strength, fielding and for picking up the breaking ball around the middle of the field. This was vital and an aspect of the game where Cork had been well on top in Munster.
In my opinion it was at midfield that the foundation was well and truly laid for this win. While Tommy Griffin gets through a lot of great work it was his partner Darragh O'Sé who once again steered Kerry to victory. O'Sé was superb, completely outplaying Nicholas Murphy and the Gaeltacht star left the tall rangy Cork man in no doubt who was the boss on this occasion as he out fielded, outfought and out muscled Murphy who had come into this clash with a huge reputation. All the talk of course is about Darragh's magnificent fielding this year. He is now, and rightly so, being compared with Paddy Kennedy, Mick O'Connell, Jack O'Shea, John Dowling, Seanie Walsh and others. However for me one of his greatest assets is his uncanny positional sense. It's all very fine been a superb fielder but Darragh can also read the game so well now that he is always in the right place at the right time. This is a gift that only the most highly experienced players in all sports can perfect and the Gaeltacht man has literally perfected his positional sense. It's a joy to watch him in action.
And what about Seamus Moynihan? We could write a thousands words and more on this son of Kerry. He continues to astound. Recently I rated him as one of the best Kerry ten footballers I have seen in 51 years. I now rectify that. He is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest five Kerry players I have had the privilege of seeing in action. And to add to this he is one of the greatest top three most consistent I have ever seen. We will never see his likes again. All the greats will be remembered for their own extraordinary talents, so will Seamus. He and all the backs were excellent on Sunday, frighteningly committed and one brilliant and brave block down late in the second half as a goal looked certain by Kilcummin Mike McCarthy typified all that is good in defending. As a unit they were vastly improved from Munster.
The forwards took their 16 points in fine style. This Cork defence is as tight as any in the country and to rattle up a big total such as this argues well for the final, and it is our scoring ability that will I expect bring home the laurels. I sincerely hope we meet Dublin in the final. With Mike Frank back in the scoring grove and his confidence soaring, things are looking good. Gooch is looking as dangerous as ever and the big basketball player is giving him all new options. The weight of expectation has been lifted from his light shoulders.
We will not even start on about Kieran Donaghy - a story for a future week. Suffice to say that this exemplary young man from the Austin Stacks club is such a breath of fresh air to the scene both on and off the field. He reminds me of our great Olympic oarsman Paul Griffin and the Australian Kerry hero Tadge Kennelly. One remark by a friend during the week summed up Kieran's magical transition the full forward - "there is no such thing as a bad ball, into him." He is, at present, unmarkable. A little reminder, Bomber scored 3-2 in a final. There is always someone else with a better story in Kerry. This is part of what makes Kerry players strive even more for greatness and keeps the old feet firmly on the ground. Great stuff.
I expect the same half forward line to start in the final. Sean O'Sullivan is showing some lovely touches - he was always going to do this once he got a decent run. And while Paul Galvin's work rate is huge, he might curb his over enthusiasm a little bit. Some times he walks a very narrow line. Eoin Brosnan did his main job to perfection, he stopped the Cork centre back Ger Spillane from making those defence splitting runs which has been causing so much trouble to opponents. This hurt Cork.
Finally there has been a lot of mutterings coming out of Cork about Kerry tactics. Well, we have been the one county, more than any, that have suffered from a variety of all kinds of different tactics down the decades. Down in the 60s, Dublin at various stages, Cork themselves at times and Tyrone with their swarming play in recent years, not forgetting the Seamus Darby incident and our Offaly 1982 defeat. And if we go back further in time, we could lay out many more. I for one would not like to hear any Kerry official or player coming out and insinuating that a referee or tactics were the cause of a defeat. Kerry down the years at time got hammered, went away, sat down, changed plans and came back stronger in the true sense of the word. Once bitten, twice shy seems to be the Kerry motto.
Note how Kieran Donaghy's move to the full forward has solved the swarming problem - a lesson in solving your own problem and not blaming the opposition. There was one incident in Sunday's game that I can point to which was the only real one I would say was wrong. Michael Shields was blatantly hit in the back by a Kerry man in the first half, now the player was injured and had eventually had to retire. Well the referee is there to take action whether he deems a tackle such as this a yellow or red card. Bannon did nothing to protect the Cork player in this instance.
Irrespective who we meet in the final - please let it be Dublin - it's scoring that will decide the issue and I firmly believe that our scoring unit of six is just coming to the boil at the right time. Class will out.
- Weeshie's Week (325)
- Brendan O Sullivan (19)
- Championship (71)
- Clubs (8)
- County Championship (21)
- Dr Eamonn O Sullivan (6)
- Early GAA in Kerry (2)
- Famous Games (8)
- GAA (75)
- Kerry Captains (10)
- Kerry Colleges (3)
- Kerry Football Families (13)
- Kerry Footballers (31)
- Kerry Trainers (10)
- Memories (48)
- Miscellaneous (51)
- National League (27)
- On The Ball (15)
- On the Ball (2)
- Other Counties (7)
- Other Sports (40)
- Refereeing (2)
- Stats (1)
- Tributes (60)