| 12.7°C Dublin

EXCLUSIVE After impressive league campaign Kerry are now coming after the Dubs

Close

David Clifford of Kerry, in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone, was brilliant in the Kindgom's hammering of the Ulster county. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

David Clifford of Kerry, in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone, was brilliant in the Kindgom's hammering of the Ulster county. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Diarmuid O'Connor has been a real find for Kerry at midfield. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Diarmuid O'Connor has been a real find for Kerry at midfield. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

/

David Clifford of Kerry, in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone, was brilliant in the Kindgom's hammering of the Ulster county. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

There is something of the Covid Leaving Cert student about this Kerry team. The league were the mock exams and based on their displays they head into the summer championship with a bag full of A1s or H1s or whatever they are called now! They are top of their class.

Using the predicted grades metric, the Kingdom enter the championship in buoyant mood, confident they can slay the demons of their humiliating defeat to Cork last year and scratch their seven-year All-Ireland ‘famine’ itch.

However, the championship, particularly in a straight knockout format, is the old, traditional Leaving Cert so there may be plenty of potential twists and turns on the road ahead.

Across all divisions Kerry concluded their four games (three group and semi-final) as the top scorers – hitting a massive 13-69 (averaging 27 points a game) while David Clifford was the league’s top marksman – with 6-22 (including 4-12 from play).

At times during the first half of last Saturday’s destruction of Tyrone they were unstoppable. Their movement, pace, understanding and execution totally carved open the Red Hands’ defence.

Of all the championship frontrunners Kerry looked to have gained more from the league campaign – the form of their forwards is outstanding, in the combination of Diarmuid O’Connor, especially, and Adrian Spillane they look to have happened upon their midfield partnership, holding David Moran back for the hugely important impact off the bench.

In wing-forwards Paudie Clifford and Dara Moynihan, they arguably have their new Paul Galvin/Darran O’Sullivan dynamic but it is in defence that they will have their greatest concerns.

In March of last year renowned coach Donie Buckley departed the Kerry management set-up and this might lurk over the Kerry defence until they deliver the big prize in Croke Park.

Close

Diarmuid O'Connor has been a real find for Kerry at midfield. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Diarmuid O'Connor has been a real find for Kerry at midfield. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Diarmuid O'Connor has been a real find for Kerry at midfield. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Breaking their league displays down into all the separated quarters of each game (halves divided by water breaks) it is the game against Dublin, despite all their high-scoring pyrotechnics in other contests, that will provide most food for thought.

In the second quarter against the Dubs they played with an element of fear for the reigning All-Ireland champions.

Dublin sensed this and outscored Kerry 2-5 to 0-3 in this quarter to lead by six points at the half-time interval, it was an advantage they extended to seven on the restart.

But it was the level of their intensity and will to win in the remainder of the third quarter, and into the fourth, where Kerry showed they are really geared up for the championship challenge.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

During this period they forced Dublin into uncharacteristic errors and put them totally on the back foot.

The expectation levels are building in the Kingdom that Kerry are coming for the Dubs. Although there is a nervousness within the Kingdom, which comes to the fore when former Dubs players get criticised for hyping up our rivals in Kerry!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! The evidence though is there that Kerry are building a team capable of turning the tide. A tightened up defence and the psychological belief are the triggers to put the Dubs on the back foot.

In Division 2, it was good to see there is still a beating pulse in Kildare football and they’ll take huge heart from the nature of their victory over Leinster rivals Meath.

While the Royals seem to have somewhat plateaued, the Lilywhites look like Jack O’Connor has them playing as a team, not something they always achieve, and to a strict game plan.

While Meath came with a storming finish Kildare played enough good football up to that point to draw confidence ahead of the upcoming provincial championship.

Finally, fair play to the footballers and management of Derry and especially Offaly for agreeing to play their FL Division 3 decider tomorrow in Croke Park. The Faithful County are out the following weekend against Louth in the Leinster Championship so it would have been totally understandable not to play this final, Derry don’t open their Ulster campaign until July 11 (against the winner of Donegal/Down).

However, and it is sometimes lost in the whole cacophony of Dublin’s familiarity with Croker, is the fact that Croke Park is the national stadium and the experience of playing there is important in the development of young players.

John Maughan and his Offaly management team obviously feel that his team is on the rise and both the extra game, especially in Croke Park, is more valuable than the gamble of picking up any injuries.

They’ll be up against a Derry side who under Rory Gallagher look more focused and functioning than any Derry side for a number of years. Their provincial championship record of recent times is poor – just one victory in the Ulster SFC in the last nine years – their narrow victory over Down in 2015.

In Conor Glass, Gareth McKinless and Shane McGuigan, they have three players who could prove the difference in Saturday’s clash. They look in great physical shape also, if you don’t believe me just read Fermanagh manager Ryan McMenamin’s comments after their Round 2 defeat (5-13 to 0-9) to the Oak Leaf men.

“Derry are a very, very fit team. Very, very fit. A very, very fit team,” said McMenamin.

Make of that what you will!

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy