Kerry will win because our mentors will have the players fully ready for the fray

July 27th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

As Eamon Fitzmaurice and his selectors continue preparations for the final three game assaults to retain the All Ireland title their main objective will be, as far as possible to send out a settled side next Sunday against Kildare. And here I am referring to a team as close as possible to the last fifteen which started that re-play in Killarney.  I would imagine the fifteen men we see lining up for the throw next Sunday will be very close to the side that started and won that epic rain drenched Munster final against Cork. 

When it comes to this stage of the championship and Croke Park is the venue then only the very best players will see you safely through to the semi-final. Kildare will prove very stiff opposition and the reason I and everyone else confidently expect the holders to advance is because the Kerry mentors will have their men prepared and ready for the fray in the best possible way, both mentally and physically. But mentally most of all. 

Kildare will be treated with the greatest possible respect, and the word respect is what counts here, not fear or trepidation but the utmost respect for the Lilywhites. The big challenge for Kerry, not alone this year but so often in the past is being mentally tuned in despite the tag as raging hot favorites whenever they face so called weaker counties be it in Munster or Croke Park. And this once again is the exact position Eamon Fitzmaurice finds himself in as he faces Kildare. It's a no win situation. A loss would send shock waves around the GAA world, a victory, well, just as the multitudes expected.  

The biggest decision following the two Cork games the selectors will have to ponder on for next Sunday is the full forward position. It's very simple really, play Kieran Donaghy there or begin Paul Geaney with James o Donoghue in one corner and Colm Cooper in the other.  The perennial question, the continuous high ball or the more precise low ball thus changing the whole trend of play. We saw this when Kieran was substituted in the Cork re-play, plan B. Last year Star was sprung from the bench and changed the course of history. Should he start or be held in reserve. Answer, horses for coursers, managerial decisions. No more room for errors as we saw in the team selection for the drawn Cork game.

And it is here at this stage of the championship in my opinion that the manager is under the greatest pressure of all. There can be no room for slip ups, defeat is simply not an option, a win for Kildare, hammered by Dublin in Leinster would be simply shattering for everyone involved, and supporters included, and hasten the retirement of several players. On the other side of the proverbial coin is the opposite situation, going in as underdogs. For example meeting Dublin anytime, Donegal last year, and Cork last year, the experts always divided in their forecasts. In those instances the Kerry players and management of course expected to win but, and this is the bottom line, the burden of overwhelming favorites was not an issue.

Despite being involved as analysts on Radio Kerry I always make a point of studying the famous so called body language of managers and selectors on the side line during the heat of battle. Look over at the Kerry manager and there's the Finuge man, demeanor barley changing from minute one to ninety. His expression doesn't change nor that of the men surrounding him. The one person he seems to talk to most during a game is his trainer Cian o Neill or maybe one of his selectors and no situation changes the temperature around those men.

 The North Kerry man begins cool, stays cool, and ends cool and in his after match interviews, Eamon is completely unflappable, precise in his analysis and is never one for ducking and dodging the awkward questions.  He will have studied Kildare to a tee, and have the lads prepared in all aspects of what can be expected. He and his side line generals will have laid plans for the style of play we will see, burnt the midnight oil studying the DVD of the Cork/Kildare game, expect something different, there will be no slip ups here.  

I am not one bit surprised Kildare beat Cork, they are always capable of turning on the style once ever so often and really they played some great football last Saturday evening in Thurles. They move the ball with great precision, are very patient in their build ups and defend with twelve and thirteen men behind the ball and are physically strong. The had a great spread of scorers, nine in all in in the Cork victory, and in Paul Cribbin, Peter Kelly, Niall Kelly, Padraig o Neill and Eoghan o Flaherty they have men as good as any county left in the championship.

The Kildare manager Jason Ryan is a shrewd operator and will have his lads well up for the challenge and he knows that going in as underdogs will suit his side down to the ground. They are on a roll since their defeat by Dublin and just looking at their scores in their three qualifying rounds will prove ample warning for Eamon Fitzmaurice that Kerry will have to be at their very best next Sunday.  1-15 against Offaly, 2-24 against Longford and 1-21 last Saturday against Cork who put the Kingdom to the pin of their collective collars in Munster. This is top class scoring in any man's language and they are well used to Croke Park. Nevertheless Kerry will be most peoples fancy, and to be defeated at this stage by a county, (with no disrespect to Kildare), who will be playing in division three of the league next year would be a major disappointment.

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