| 15.2°C Dublin

gaa verdict Kerry may be hot favourites against Tyrone - but they are all set up for an ambush

GPA and GAA were wrong to leave Red Hand county to deal with Covid crisis

Close

David Clifford of Kerry in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone during the Allianz Football League Division 1 semi-final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Fitzgerald Stadium earlier this summer Photo by Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

David Clifford of Kerry in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone during the Allianz Football League Division 1 semi-final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Fitzgerald Stadium earlier this summer Photo by Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

David Clifford of Kerry in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone during the Allianz Football League Division 1 semi-final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Fitzgerald Stadium earlier this summer Photo by Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

A Kerry v Tyrone football match is a no-win situation for yours truly.

I’ll always be reminded about ‘puke football’, about hating Ulster football, about never saying anything good about Ulster football in general.

And Kerry people get annoyed with me too when they are about to face up to the team that gave them so much grief in the noughties.

They say I’m prodding the bear and annoying them up north. So there’s nowhere safe for me to go.

Yet it is bad enough to need to know your football before the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park when this game is finally played on August 28th amid all the chaos of the last few days.

Now you need to know all about Covid-19, I honestly need Fergal Bowers to give me a dig out with this column.

Close

Tyrone have been hit by a Covid crisis

Tyrone have been hit by a Covid crisis

Tyrone have been hit by a Covid crisis

Because, for many days last week, there was uncertainty as to whether the game would go ahead.

Would Tyrone take the unprecedented step of withdrawing from an All-Ireland semi-final?

Look, I haven’t a clue about Covid or its effects, but over the last 18 months I have been bamboozled and bewildered by some of the decisions made around the virus by the GAA.

There’s no consistency with stuff made up on the hoof. Last year Fermanagh were forced to play a relegation play off in the Allianz League, with a weakened squad, against Clare in Ennis. But they turned up to play.

Sligo had to withdraw from the 2020 Connacht semi-final against Galway because of an outbreak of Covid in their camp.

Dublin lost four players on the morning of the Leinster Hurling Final against Kilkenny last month and still played the match.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

Mayo were without 12 of their panel because of Covid, or being close contacts, for the match against Leitrim this summer.

However the cynic in me wonders if Mayo would have played that game if Galway or Roscommon were the opposition.

Of course I have sympathy for Tyrone. Of course it is difficult to prepare for a big game in the circumstances.

But I don’t like the way Tyrone were suddenly spouting British Government regulations, and return to play protocols, to help their case for a further postponement of the big match.

Earlier this year, the Ulster counties, when they could have returned to play earlier, said they would they wait for the GAA to give the go-ahead on an all Ireland basis.

In the middle of all this, spare a thought for Kerry, whose own preparations are fecked up as well.

Now they have a four-week gap between the Munster Final against Cork and the All-Ireland semi-final.

In a Championship that, as I noted here last week, is being run off at a breakneck pace, that is now a huge gap between games.

I see too where Kerry players David Moran and Paul Murphy spoke last week about a two-week gap between matches being the ideal time for recovery from a game and then to prime yourself for the next task.

Now Kerry will have been hanging around for twice that length of time.

So what happens when the game is finally played? Well, here’s another health warning.

Forget about the 16-point hammering handed out by Kerry to Tyrone in Killarney in the League earlier this year. It has no relevance to this game at all.

First off, Tyrone are now the Ulster champions. Credit joint managers Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher, they have got their lads playing to a system that suits them.

Defensively they are very well organised with three quality man-markers on the team in Padraig Hampsey, Ronan McNamee and Michael McKernan.

And the management and players produced a tactical masterclass in the Ulster Final against Monaghan, where Conor Meyler and Kieran McGeary tracked and nullifed the dangeorus Monaghan attacking half-backs, - Karl O’Connell and Ryan McAnespie.

Tyrone were very impressive in the first half against Monaghan, all the more so considering another Covid issue had robbed them of four players that afternoon.

Yes, they are the best team in Ulster, but I have my doubts about the Red Hand. They struggled for long spells to put away a 14-man Donegal, and they were hanging on against Monaghan in the second half of the Ulster Final, scoring just five points.

And question marks remain about their midfield as well.

Tyrone are a work in progress, I still don’t believe they have the balance between defence and attack right yet.

And while Ulster was the most enjoyable and entertaining provincial championship, I’m iffy about the overall standard.

I’d still place Tyrone fourth of four against the the other semi-finalists.

What of Kerry? Let me be extra critical and find fault with the first 15 minutes against Cork, when they were four points down at the water-break.

There was the the first 15 minutes when they struggled against Tipperary’s blanket defence.

And just before and after half-time they were opened up several times in the Clare match. You can worry too about the Kerry kick-outs. Will they find their men. Will midfielder David Moran’s legs hold out in Croker for another year?

The Kingdom may be raging hot favourites for next Saturday - but they are all set up for an ambush too.

Will it happen? No, Kerry are a different animal this year. For three things, they are fitter, faster and stronger.

They are hurting after the failure of 2019, when they could have won the All-Ireland Final in the drawn game, and the failure of 2020 when they never got going at all.

There is a strong subs bench and they are playing front-foot football and Kerry are going for goals this summer, they are going for the jugular.

In 2021, in League and Championship, Kerry have already scored three times more goals than at this time last year.

Kerry’s attacking threat will see them back into the All-Ireland Final.

Verdict: Kerry.

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


Top Videos





Privacy