Five Key Areas Kerry Need To Win On Sunday

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The Streat new

Gavin O’Connor looks at key areas Kerry need to have the upper hand in on Sunday when they face Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final…

This could be David Moron's most important game in a Kerry shirt.

This could be David Moran’s most important game in a Kerry shirt. File Photo

The Midfield Physical Battle

Despite all the tactical changes in the modern game, midfield still remains absolutely vital and Kerry will come up against the most natural midfield machine in the game today.

Seamus O’Shea has grown out of the shadow of his swashbuckling brother and is now the main man for Mayo around the centre of the park.

Aidan has now  made a successful switch to centre forward and former wing back Donal Vaughan moved to midfield.

Mayo’s physicality and running is the biggest worry coming into this, perhaps this is the reason Fitzmaurice has deployed the stronger Crowley instead of Young at centre back, with one eye on an Aidan O’Shea man marking job.

Our midfielders have not come up against a test like this since last year’s semi-final. Eamonn Fitzmaurice might have a way to bypass one of our perceived weaknesses and their strengths but attacking the problem head on may be the way to go as well.

Our Two Men Inside

For many of us there has been only one James this summer and he wasn’t at the World Cup. The Legion man humorously tweeted last week “Luis Suarez will be sick training with no games…. He should come join the GAA!”

The comment maybe in jest, but it underlines the feeling of frustration that, given his form, whatever the sport a player like him should be playing in front of thousands each week.

In his shadow has been Paul Geaney, but in the three games so far he has kicked 13 points, not bad for a debut season. If midfield is Mayo’s strength, the full back line is a weak spot as they tend to drift upfield, in particular Keith Higgins, so hopefully this movement allows ample space for our two men inside to do all the damage.

With Mayo preoccupied with O’Donoghue, this could be Geaney’s time to announce himself.

Continued below…

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Mayo’s Defensive Attack

One of the features of Mayo’s game is that their half forward line takes up a defensive element which allows their half-back line to attack. Colm Boyle and Lee Keegan are excellent men to come forward with the ball. In this instance Mikey Geaney’s defensive abilities are more appropriate than Stephen O’Brien’s attacking zeal.

The Mayo half-forward line pushes up very high on backs coming out with the ball, it will be up to our players not to get bogged down in this mire, because we might not have the physicality to break the tackles.

Kick Passing 

This is our strongest element this year. With our range of kick-passing, Kerry can cause serious damage, particularly if our forwards can eke out enough space. What will be most important is how we can get enough possession to get the passes in there in the first place.

Kerry will have to fight like dogs around the centre of the field, but if we can get the ball in often enough, this will be a launchpad to victory. It is a worry that two of our finest kick-passers, Sheehan and Declan O’Sullivan, start on the bench, but perhaps Fitzmaurice has a plan to finish with our strongest 15.

The Fear

There is the sense that this is a new Mayo, the old Mayo being a side that wilted and buckled on the big occasions. Mayo have played in the last two All-Ireland finals in a row, losing both.

Two early goals against Donegal in 2012 and missed chances against Dublin last year were their undoing.

The greatest task for any Mayo manager is how to tackle the feeling that they are weak upstairs when it matters. It is a very real thing.

It’s up to Kerry to bring the intensity and try to push their buttons once more. This being a semi-final, Mayo may just hold their nerve.

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