Kerry success being built on tough and tenacious defence

September 2nd, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

The one thing that has been predictable about Eamon Fitzmaurice and his fellow selectors since they took the reins of this Kerry team is their unpredictability in relation to team selection. Eamon has made it quite clear from the very start that the first fifteen would be chosen on form shown in training. Now far be it for me to question this strategy for the simple reason that we are not privy to study exactly who is going well in training as it takes place behind closed doors. And while I would have been one of the early sceptics in relation this closed door policy it is I believe  proving beyond any shadow of doubt the only way to prepare in today's world for the big championship games we are privileged to follow as the boys attempt to win back to back All Ireland titles.

Nearly all the panel have been afforded some game time in the run to the final but just five players, all in defence have been on the field for the throw in of the ball for all Kerry's five championship matches to date. Brendan Kealy, Shane Enright, Jonathan Lyne, Killian Young and Marc o Se. Brendan Kealy grabbed his opportunity with both hands when last year's winning goalkeeper Brian Kelly was injured as the league began. The Kilcummin man is having a dream year and while his second half save against Tyrone had a massive bearing on the semi-final result his 30th min save at the score board goal in the drawn Munster final against Cork in Killarney was in my opinion even better and again saved the Kerry bacon. We watched him that day throwing himself up and back to his left as he literally finger tipped the ball from entering the top corner of the net. The high cross shot going away from you is one of the most difficult saves for any goalkeeper to accomplish.

Tarberts Shane Enright continues to improve with each passing game, he has gained huge confidence, and his close tight marking has been a feature of the Kingdoms run to the final. The selectors have shown great patience and trust in this young man and while at times he may be a little rash in the tackle, his learning curve continues to rise. Indeed it must be fair to say also that it is more difficult and might take longer for some players from a team in the lower divisions of the county league to adapt to the pace and intensity of training and top championship matches. This is where the knowledge, patience, experience and top coaching abilities of the side line men really shine through. Shane had something special, someone spotted it, persevered with him, coached, advised and brought him to peak physical fitness and now he is reaping the deserved rewards. How many more Shane Enright's are out there in our county, just waiting for that opportunity?

Likewise with Killian Young, another ever present, the Renard man made his debut in 2006 and has won most honours the game has to offer. He was always one to watch following his selection as Young Player of The Year in 2007 and despite some serious injuries in the past Killian has been in tremendous form this year. Incidentally only two other Kerry men have won the young player award, Mike Frank Russell in 1997, and Tommy Walsh in 2008. Cillian o Connor of Mayo is the only person to have been honoured twice with this prestigious award. A strong all action defender Killian is at his best driving forward, as hard as bell metal and by virtue that he has been pencilled in for all Kerry's games this year shows exactly what the selectors think of him. He must be flying in training.

It comes as no surprise that my own club man Jonathan Lyne is a consistent starter, with his family back ground and football pedigree it was only a matter of time before the Cleeney boy staked a claim as a first team starter. Made his debut in 2012, standing six foot one he has great speed and driving forward out of defence he rarely wastes a ball. Still learning his trade under Eamon Jonathans superb marking abilities are a big part of the Kerry defensive set up. The Lyne's of Cleeney one of Kerry's legendary football families. The story continues.

No need to eulogise the greatness of the fifth constant starter. Marc o Se will, I fully expect, make his 86th championship appearance in the final. Just two behind his brother Thomas in the record appearance stakes this remarkable athlete is defending the Kingdom square since his first appearance at corner back  in 2002 against Limerick, (Kerry won 0-14 to 1-7). A class act, beautiful balance, great hands, so comfortable on the ball, Marc o Se for me is the near faultless footballer and the perfect role model. When he goes he will be sorely missed.

Finally my opinion on that dreadful very late off the ball tackle by Tyrone wing back Ronan McNabb on Colm Cooper in the semi-final.  Very little condemnation about what was one of the most dangerous incidents I have seen in Croke Park in a long time. Put this into context with Tiernan McCann's hair dive against Monaghan and all the controversy that dominated the newspapers, airwaves and chatter of supporters the length and breadth of the country. A storm in a teacup in comparison to what we witnessed last Sunday week. It should have been a straight red card for the Tyrone defender. No if's or buts.

 He sized up the Kerrymen, ran a good distance to get to him, crashed into Colm when the ball was well gone and literally took him out of the game. Yes he did get up after treatment but the result of that crowdedly attack could have been much worse. There is a massive difference between hits on a player with the ball, he is always braced for this, and the man after getting rid of the ball, who always has his eyes on the flight of the departing ball and is wide open and helpless to defend himself. Censure and blame was very slow in coming from all quarters unlike other minor matters which occur. This was a deliberate act on one of the game's greatest players.  It was a throw back to what I often witnessed in the fifties and sixties. There is no place in the game for late deliberate tackles such as this. It was shocking to watch. Thankfully Colm did not receive any serious injury. 

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