National League

A lot of work to be done by the Kerry sideline men

February 14th, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

A week is certainly a long time in football and following Kerry's very encouraging win over Dublin in Croke Park I think it might even be an understatement to declare that a victory over Armagh last Saturday in Tralee was expected to be well on the cards.  However this was one of the most disappointing league displays that I have seen from Kerry for a few years and for what ever reasons the team were so slow coming out of the traps that Armagh had secured a firm grip on the game early on and really never looked like relinquishing the lead and securing the two very valuable points. This game was decided in the first fifteen minutes as the visitors jumped into a fully deserved 1-3 to no score lead and unbelievably for a side playing at home Kerry were scoreless up until the 18th minute.

The Armagh goal came from a high ball across the face of the Kerry goal, Armaghs outstanding centre forward Brendan Mallon ghosted in behind the Kerry defence and gave Brendan Kealy no chance with a low shot to the keepers left. Now the second Armagh goal it most be noted also came from another high ball which the Kerry defence failed to cope with, a mix up between Mark o Se and Brendan Kealy, they did not appear to get their calls right, saw the Northerns towering full forward John Kingham finish to the net.  Kingham had caused some problems all night and while it was Kerry some years ago who reintroduced the big full forward in the guise of Kieran Donaghy I believe we are going to see a lot more of the big man around the square this coming year as counties strive to get over the swarm, packed defenses.  It might be the right time now to try a few different men on the verge of the square in preparation for the championship.

The Kerry tactic of the high ball into Kieran certainly did not work and Armaghs young full back Brendan Donaghy, a superb prospect, had the better of his namesake all through. The big Stacks man is going through a sticky patch at the moment, however as the year progresses and the grounds harden up he will play a vital part in Kerrys push for honors. All players at some time or another have bad patches and Jack o Connor will be well aware the Stacks man is vital to his plans in the long term.
Just three points on the board at half time from Kerry was a very poor return and to see that just one point came from play and that from mid fielder Brian Sheehan shows the lack of power and penetration in the forwards. While James o Donoghue had an excellent outing and at times Barry John Keane, both young men did not have the strength and power of slip around their markers. This will come in time and both are excellent prospects. Brian Maguire and Shane Enright are also coming along nicely. The Armagh goal referred to above just after half time was really the killer blow but in fairness to Armagh when KERRY began their fight back following the interduction of Declan o Sullivan who won an amount of ball the winners kicked three superb points from play from the 20th to the 25th minute and once again it was centre forward Brian Mallon who had a hand in all three.  The winners were simply the better team all through and with these three points proved that they were well capable of upping their game when the need arose. On the night Kerry could not match them in this regard and for some reason or another never really clicked and were simply struggling all through. 

In fairness to the home side however the goal so badly needed would just not come and the disallowed Darren o Sullivan goal in the second half for an alleged illegal pass by Kieran Donaghy was the final throw of the dice and indeed I must say I was baffled by some of the referees decisions, on both sides let me add, and his interpretation of what was or was not a foul in the tackle was bizarre at times.  Darren was  very close to netting also in the second half when he got his fist to a high ball but a defender came from no where to grasp the ball as it was about to flash just under the cross bar. It was that kind of a night.
Armagh certainly had their home work done on Kerry and following the game I did an interview with selector Breandan Pol O Garmaile and he revealed some very intresting facts re their preparations', he said. "We had watched the Kerry / Dublin game the previous week and decided to concentrate on reducing Kerrys attacking strengths. Firstly preventing Darren o Sullivan's runs as much as possible by giving Declan McKenna the job of covering him at all times, and also we had noted that Brian Sheehan comes forward a lot to take the passes and he had fourteen shots at goal against Dublin so we also concentrated on limiting his runs forward". So now we have an idea why the sting was taken out of the Kerry attack. He also mentioned which I found fascinating that he had been studying discussion boards on the internet in relation to the game and noted the Kerry supporters posting comments were very dissatisfied with Waterford's Maurice Condon having been appointed as the referee. While this statement had no bearing on the result it revels the behind the scenes work some teams go to for even the tiniest little piece of information. He also said the while the Crossmaglen lads were still to come back they were short five other forwards who would all be pushing for places. The team had travelled to Tralee on Saturday and the players had gone for bed rest between 2-5 pm.

So a lot of work to be done by the Kerry side line men. They will have learned a lot from this defeat, its early day yet of course and there is a lot of experimenting going on, nevertheless what is needed now together with everything else is patients as the selectors continue to sift, alternate and try out the various players who have yet to prove themselves as definite championship prospects. The make up of so called spine of the team, up the centre, is far from decided and will take the remaining of the league to decide who plays best in what position.  Sure isn't this what the greatness of Kerry football is all about. Without poor displays by our men at times life would be very boring indeed

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