First win for Kerry in the National League against Down

March 19th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

Two invaluable national league points collected last Saturday against a very disappointing Down side will set Kerry up nicely for another as always mouthwatering clash against Cork in Tralee next Sunday. And thankfully from my viewpoint anyway the game is on in the afternoon and not under those accursed lights which in my opinion take away the real sense of occasion and limits the spectator's enjoyment  of the occasion, before, during and after the game. Of course many supporters are in favour of evening games but as a traditionalist "under lights" will never be my cup of tea. Two in the one week, under twenty ones and seniors was quite enough for me.  It was a must win match for Kerry last Saturday and after just fifteen minutes the returning Declan o Sullivan had set the tone of a very good first half display for the home side. With Anthony Maher and the excellent Johnny Buckley winning the mid field battle we saw the Kerry full fordward line plied with plenty of possession and unlike previous games the ball was won independently inside and Declan o Sullivan in particular with Kieran Donaghy and Darren o Sullivan proved if proof was needed that physical strength and experience are vital essential to days game.

O Sullivan is one of the best ball winners Kerry have had over the past decade and his return to the corner forward position was instrumental in winning scoreable frees and also he himself chipped in scoring two lovely trade mark points in the first half. In defence Marc o Se was outstanding and his sallies up field as he glided past opponent's time and time again was one of the highlights of the evening. Mark Griffin impressed greatly when introduced for the injured Aidan o Mahoney and if he continues to get better he will be a huge bonus for the selectors, Jonathan Lyne is settling in nicely in his unfamiliar role as wing forward and his excellent use of the ball is a feature of his play. Brian McGuire had an excellent outing and capped his evening with two points, one in each half.  While the first half was very enjoyable as both sides adopted open attacking styles the second half was forgettable, Down changed their tactics, introducing the appalling fourteen man swarm behind the ball and as the half wore on Kerry also retreated to the very same defensive swarm tacit. It made for poor viewing and following the game despite the fact that colleagues attempted to persuade me that this is the way modern football is played, for me its simply the fear of failure, with all the emphasis on stopping the other side from playing. It's a pity that all managers do not advocate open free flowing attacking football, we will learn much more next Sunday as the Rebels come to town.

At the conclusion of my column last week I wrote as I previewed the Munster under 21 game, 'a betting man would put his few bob on Cork with home advantage, but do not rule out a Kerry win". I was expecting it to be tight and close and it was exactly as we forecast, however the laurels went to the home side by that one point in what was a thrilling encounter. Last year the two counties also met in this championship and the result was similar, a Cork victory, and last Wednesdays clash proved very comparable in many ways. It will be of very little consolation to the players and the men in charge, Dara o Se, Harry o Neill and Noel Kennelly  that they put up the proverbial "great show" because they more that anyone realize that defeat literally spells the end of their year. They had prepared the boys to the very best of their ability and to quote one selector before the game. "we have left no stone unturned in our preparations". Similar to last year when Eamon Fitzmaurice got the very best out of the players so it was also with Dara o Se last week. He also in my opinion got the very best out of his squad and while you can improve players in all aspects of the game you can not give them extra strength and bulk over night. And it was here in my opinion that Cork had that extra inch which carried them past the winning post, just as what won it for them in extra time last year in Tralee.

When push came to shove at the very death and it was a case of next score would win, that vital difference, experience and strength decided the issue. Time up, Kerry attacked, Connor Cox who had a superb final quarter tried a speculative shot from far out, the ball dropped short, Cork were back in possession and as they had done all evening counter attacked in a sweeping move. The ball was worked up field with great precision by Alan Cronin, big full forward Luke Connelly, Damian Cahillane, and then Jamie Wall who set up substitute Jamie Kiely for the decider. Cork had eight of last years winning side on the field and the experience gained on their way to the All Ireland semi final was a vital ingredient in those pulsating closing moments. Experience lost, this is the greatest disappointment in being knocked out so early in this competition. These young men would have learned so much about Kerry tradition, football, and the art of wining from the men in charge if only they had progressed. The two Kilcummin lads, the Murphy's, Shane and Kieran were superb, James Walsh, Sean Keane, Shane o Callaghan and Gavan o Grady will all be heard of again, nevertheless the bottom line is, for the third year in a row Cork were the better side.  And finally it must be remembered failure to score a point from play until the three quarter mark of the hour was another huge factor in Kerrys defeat.   Either Cork or Tipperary will go on and improve even further as the year unfolds. 

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