National League

The variables and the unknowns are the real beauty of the League

January 31st, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

KERRY return to Croke Park, the scene of one of their greatest recent disappointments, next Saturday as the National League kicks off. The events of the closing minutes in last year's All Ireland final will be fresh in the minds of players, management and supporters as the sides take the field. It's a good start for Kerry and this match, despite whatever result transpires, will help banish some of the lingering memories of that late, late Dublin goal and a point in the September final. I don't believe, however, the result of that game will have any bearing whatsoever on next Saturday and we will see a completely different style of play from both sides and different line outs.

Indeed, the League as a whole is all about 'line outs'; it's all a guessing game for followers and the media. What young players will be on the Kerry side? How many of the long serving men will make themselves available for the opening games? These are just a couple of questions that will occupy us over the next few weeks.

There are some very intresting fixtures ahead, with our fixtures against Dublin, Cork, Down and Donegal the ones I look forward to most of all. Dublin and Cork for the obvious reasons of age-old rivalry, and especially Cork as we will have an opportunity of forming opinions as to their strength or weaknesses. Down because they always bring out something special against Kerry. And then we have Donegal. There was more talk about their fourteen man defensive tactics last year than any of the other 31 counties. What will Jim Mcguinness do this year? Will he employ the very same negative style that had the purists up in arms last year? The National League game against should give us a great idea. Mayo, Laois and Armagh should also be cracking games.

However, for Kerry followers there is only one team that counts. Every time Kerry has won the League under Jack O'Connor they have also won the Championship. A good League run appears in latter years to be the prelude to a good Championship campaign. Cork and Tyrone in latter years have also won both in the same year.

Look at Dublin last year. While they were beaten by Cork in the League final I have no doubt that their unbeaten run to that final was a major factor in their All-ireland win. Building a team is one thing, but building a panel good enough to win the All-ireland title is the number one objective. Jack O'connor will be aiming for a good league run and with semi-finals back on the agenda a spot here would be invaluable. Win or lose that semi-final.

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