Preview: A Tight And Tense Affair In Prospect In Croke Park

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Gavin O’Connor on the All-Ireland SFC semi-final, Kerry v Tyrone, Sunday, 3.30pm, Croke Park…

Kerry Replay 4

Kieran Donaghy (seen here against Cork) leads Kerry out against Tyrone on Sunday. He could be the man to pounce for an all-important goal if there is a lapse of concentration in the famed Tyrone defence.

WHEN Kerry lost to Tyrone in the 2008 All-Ireland Final, 10 of the current panel were involved in that game, while with Tyrone, only three remain.

Sean Cavanagh, who gave one of the great All-Ireland final performances that day, his brother Colm who got the final point of the game and Justin McMahon, who along with his brother Joe shackled ‘the twin towers’ of Walsh and Donaghy, are the three still standing.

The Kerry men who started on that painful day and who start again on Sunday are, Marc Ó Sé, Killian Young, Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy.

Aidan O’Mahony and Bryan Sheehan started in 2008, but must now settle for the bench on Sunday while Darren O’Sullivan, Paul Galvin and David Moran all made introductions in that final, while Anthony Maher was an unused sub.

It’s a testament to the longevity of Marc, O’Mahony and Galvin, they are still reporting for duty, when guys around their own age, the likes of Stephen O’Neill, Ryan McMenamin, Brian McGuigan, Owen Mulligan and the Jordans have long since left the big stage.

Some  are not even turning out for their clubs any more, the rigors of years of high intensity work rate taking their toll.

But with that also, Kerry will never see redemption against Tyrone because it won’t be against those men, the ones that inflicted the pain, the ones that defeated Kerry three times in a row. What happened is the past and no Kerry team can ever change that.

Barring the considerable exceptions of the two Cavanaghs, this is a new Tyrone side that has inherited most of the heavy lifting mentally from the men who have gone before them.

It goes without saying, they will have no fear and in a sense have nothing to fear.

With Kerry going in as favourites once more, another defeat to Tyrone in Croke Park does nor bear even contemplating. That’s Tyrone a couple of points already up in their head.

I don’t think anyone will dispute that man to man Kerry are the superior team. The fact that the side’s three top marksmen this summer start on the bench is testament to that.

It’s no great surprise Colm Cooper has regained a place after his 2-3 performance against Kildare.

The exclusion of Bryan Sheehan has probably raised the most eyebrows. Tyrone are extremely disciplined at not giving away frees inside their own 45.

Having a man who can kick the ball over off the ground from the 50 could be invaluable. In his absence you would expect, Gooch to take the close in left sided frees, Buckley the right footers and David Moran on 45 duty.

What Fitzmaurice doesn’t want is a repeat of the drawn Munster Final, when the side was left without a 45 taker, ending with O’Donoghue ballooning a ball into the terrace.

Maybe, the management have one eye on that occurring again, because Sheehan is extremely unlikely to have the legs for the full 70 minutes.

Buckley, who struggled in the Cork game, is back in the side. Perhaps he’s flying in training, something Fitzmaurice has always asserted that’s how he picks his team?

Likewise, with Buckley’s aerial ability, he’s another man around the middle who can win ball that will help Kerry dictate this game.

Against Monaghan, Tyrone took a lot of short kick outs, which much has been made of, but they also kicked to the wings quite often. Winning these kick outs could be Buckley’s primary objective.

It will be vital Kerry push up high on Tyrone’s goalie, Niall Morgan, to stop them countering quickly, this is where Tyrone are at their most dangerous and something Monaghan could not live with.

If they press up on Morgan, he will be forced to go long and you’d be confident Anthony Maher and David Moran will win more than their fair share of possession.

Tyrone have just given away one goal in this year’s championship and gave away no goal chances or points against Monaghan inside their own 20 yard line.

So starting Donaghy might not seem the best move considering he’ll likely not have a sniff all afternoon, but he does have that canny ability to cause damage.

It could come down to a lack of concentration from a Tyrone defender and he could pounce. We’ve seen it before and that could be difference.

It will be tight, it will be tense, but Kerry are that bit ahead of Tyrone at the moment.

Verdict: Kerry by 4 points

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