National League

The Kingdom hasnít gone away you know

April 9th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his side line general's will feel very well pleased with themselves following the long trip to Omagh last Sunday and at the end of the day it's a case of mission accomplished, league over, consigned to the history books, and its full steam ahead for the championship. And the big talking point in the very modern but cramped media centre in Healy Park Omagh following the full time whistle was the fact that Paul Mannion's last minute point for Dublin against Donegal had saved Kerry from the ignominy of relegation to the second division of the league and Donegal would take their place for the big drop. And lets be clear about this, relegation, despite what was said to the contrary would have a been a bitter blow to Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his beloved Kingdom, and when you look at the force of the counties in the top two divisions you will realize much the greater challenge Kerry will face again next year which in itself will help significantly in the continued development of the younger Kerry players. One glance at the counties competing in those different divisions next year will copper fasten the fact that the first division is the place to be and the probable All Ireland champions will come from here. So next season Kerry will play Dublin, Cork, Tyrone, Mayo, Kildare, Westmeath and Derry. Donegal will play Down, Laois, Galway, Louth, Armagh, Monaghan and Meath.

Last Sunday's first half display was a joy to watch. Everything about Kerrys play was the complete opposite to all that terrible swarming, crowding, and putrid soul destroying football we have been watching in many of the league games to date.  Tyrone were literally played off their very own pitch as Kerry from one to fifteen moved the ball with speed, precision, pin point accuracy and rattled up the massive tally of 1-13 before the short whistle. It was scintillating stuff and reminded one of Kerry's brilliant first half display against Dublin in the All Ireland quarter final back in 2009. Kerry scored 1-24 that memorable afternoon in Croke Park. Tom o Sullivan scored his only championship point that day and eight of that team were in action last Sunday. Of course we take into consideration Tyrone had qualified for the league semi-final and their ambitions might not have been as focused as their opponents nevertheless they met a Kerry team who literally reached a new level of perfection.

And it all hinged on a number of factors. The return of all the so called older players who displayed an unbelieveable unrelenting hunger for the fight, the weeks training and playing football in the sun had certainly been put to great use as the team moved with perfect harmony. And finally the decision, first unveiled in the Cork game, by the mentors to move Colm Cooper to the centre forward position proved to be the final part of the so called jig saw. The Croke man simply as they say "ran the show' from the forty brilliantly orchestrating every move upfront and accurately spraying a litany of pin point passes all over the field. And it was his play that brought the very best out of the full forward line.

The two corner men, the o Sullivan's, Darran and Declan and full forward Kieran Donaghy were plied with a continuous supply of ball as they ran incessantly into open spaces, as all good thinking forwards should do, and each deadly accurate pass gave them every opportunity to win possession ahead of their direct opponent. And the result, a massive eight points from play from the inside trio. While Paul Galvin did not get his name on the scoring list he subscribed greatly to the success and he won a massive amount of breaking ball and ran himself into the ground. The two new comers, the Killarney townies Johnny Buckley and Jonathan Lyne were combination faultlessly with the older players while Killian young and his defenders had their best outing to date. And what remains to be said about Marc and Tomas o Se. Where would we be if they were absent? And without the necessity of over elaborating just let me say Thomas o Se is one of the best six Kerry defenders I have ever seen. Blessed with sublime, skill, style, balance, fitness, vision, the will to win, and being the highest scoring half back in the history of Gaelic football (1-1 again last Sunday) Thomas o Se is the quintessential Kerry great. All budding defenders in the county should study him closely.    

But what about the second half. Eleven points up at the break and winning the game by just one will raise serious questions. Of course there was a very strong wind and this helped Tyrone greatly in their fight back and its human nature when you are so far ahead your efforts will falter a little. The home venue was also a issue as was the fact that the team had that flight to the son and a long bus journey to Omagh. Weariness certainly set in as Tyrone staged that furious fight back during that last hectic quarter.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice has achieved what he had set out to do, uncover new talent for the panel, not just the first fifteen, and more importantly he has very nearly, despite a terrible start to the league settled on his championship starting fifteen. This is probably the most gratifying aspect of the league campaign. You must begin the championship with a settled side. Now with what we saw last Sunday, and I refer to the starting fifteen, add in Brian Sheehan, a top fre kicker is a must, Aidan o Mahoney and a full fit Eoin Brosnan together with Donnacha Walsh, Brian McGuire, James o Donoghue and the other blooded new comers and the panel appears to be in good health. They will all be needed when we hit Croke Park for the later stages of the All Ireland. White hot championship encounters, every opponent at the very peak of physical fitness, the wide open spaces of Croke Park, Dublin, Donegal, Kildare, Cork, Mayo waiting. No one said it would be easy.       

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom