KIERAN McCARTHY outlines lessons Cork will have noted ahead of Munster final
EAMONN Fitzmaurice says he wasn’t in the least bit surprised that Cork took care of Tipperary in their recent Munster SFC semi-final.
Perhaps it’s all mind games ahead of the provincial final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday evening, June 23rd.
Just after watching his side annihilate Clare by 22 points (0-32 to 0-10) in the second Munster semi-final in Killarney on Sunday, Fitzmaurice went on the charm offensive.
‘Cork are Cork,’ he says.
‘They have a lot of good players.’
‘There was a different feel about them.’
‘I felt Cork were in a good spot (before they played Tipp).’
‘That result didn’t surprise me.’
‘It won’t surprise me in a couple of weeks’ time when they bring as much, and more, to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.’
The Kerry manager was already planning for the Munster final with what’s commonly regarded these times as ‘yerra talk’. Ronan McCarthy will see right through this sweet talk too, and the Cork boss will also have learned a few important lessons from Sunday’s action in Killarney.
New faces: This new-look Kerry team has undergone drastic surgery from last year. Against Clare there were seven championship debutants and eight changes to the team that lost last year’s semi-final against Mayo, and not a player over 30 starting. Goalkeeper Shane Murphy, defenders Jason Foley, Ronan Shanahan and Gavin White, and forwards Micheál Burns, Seanie O’Shea and David Clifford all started. They’re young and energetic – but also untested.
It also means Kerry now have lots of experience to roll off the bench down the straight – Kieran Donaghy, Donnchadh Walsh, Michael Geaney, Barry John Keane, Darren O’Sullivan, Anthony Maher.
Dangerous attack: Cork fans will have heard a lot about David Clifford, the minor who scored 2-8 against Cork in last year’s Munster MFC, and now they’ll get to see what all the hype is about in two weeks’ time. The Fossa forward is one third of an exciting full-forward line that also includes Paul Geaney and an injury-free James O’Donoghue – the potential to create havoc is there so the Cork defence needs to be at its very best. All six Kerry forwards had scored by the 21st minute of the first half against Clare with Stephen O’Brien’s direct running also a feature. There was an energy, freshness and speed to the Kerry attack. They moved the ball quickly. It purred. Cork will know what’s coming.
Some perspective, please: Clare were abysmal. This game needs to be taken in context. Yes, Kerry were good but Clare were dreadful and not a patch on the team that almost won promotion from Division 2 of the league.
So while Kerry racked up 32 points, the truth is they’ll have learned very little because this wasn’t competitive. They’ll have tougher in-house training matches than this. They head to Páirc Uí Chaoimh untested. And it’s easy to look good when you’re up against little resistance.
Goal drought continues: For all the talk of Kerry’s lethal forward line, Kerry haven’t scored too many goals – the win against Clare was their sixth game in a row without scoring a goal. And they created few goal chances against Clare either. Kerry won’t kick 32 points again. If Cork keep a clean sheet, they’ll feel confident they have the forwards to score goals at the other end.
Jury is still out: The Kerry defence wasn’t tested against Clare so we don’t know how good or otherwise it is. Defence has been a problem for Kerry in recent seasons and doubts persist still. Peter Crowley isn’t a natural full back, Jason Foley and Ronan Shanahan are two newcomers, and that’s a full-back line Cork will hope to ask questions of. Luke Connolly, Mark Collins, Brian Hurley, Paul Kerrigan, they’ll enjoy the prospect of testing a Kerry defence that’s also lacking in height.
Kerry will be favourites, no doubt, but that’s just where Cork want to be, staying under the radar without the pressure of expectation. It’s Kerry’s game to lose. And that’s not yerra talk.