Roger Harty: Kerry Football – Pay Attention To Nature (1)

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rsz_roger_hartyMIKEY Sheehy, the former Kerry footballing great, is a man worth listening to.

I do not say this lightly. All we need do is to look at the facts – he has won an All-Ireland with Kerry on eight occasions while at the same time is very modest about his achievements.

He also is in the unique position of being both in the ‘camp’ of the Kerry team of the ‘Golden era’ of the ‘70s and ‘80s and also highly involved as a selector in the current squad, so when he speaks on the subject of football you listen and listen carefully.

He wrote an article about Kerry football recently, especially with regards to how ‘the game’ and training methods have evolved over the years.

He described how in his day, you paid attention to weight and general fitness – doing laps of the field etc. – but from there on you basically just went out and played the game of football i.e. 15 men against 15.

Nowadays the ball (pardon the pun) has completely changed. You have to pay attention to tactics and to what the opposition are doing (gym training systems etc) otherwise you’ll end up being led like lambs to the slaughter’.

In recent years ,Tyrone football developed a very defensive way of playing football e.g. the swarm tackle system, some might say this is very negative, however even the most naïve of us would admit it was effective.

Now you might well ask ‘Roger, what in God’s name has all of this to do with nature?’ Well did you ever hear the term ‘fight fire with fire’ and fire is as natural an image as you can get. In plain English ‘beat them at their own game’.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his cohorts have developed a system that basically says about the opposition, ‘ok guys we love to play open expansive football that is traditional in Kerry but if you want to play it tight and defensive (negative) then two can play at that game’.

Kerry did just that but they also intertwined this with creative offensive options down the wings to create scoring chances. Thankfully it worked but it would not have done so had it not been implemented time and time again in training.

This is where Fitzmaurice comes into his own with intense preparation and attention to detail. Add to this the huge benefit of video analysis along with statistical analysis provided by the likes of Sylvester Hennessy.

Oh yes, the game has changed but it is great to see Kerry up there at the cutting edge. If everyone else is doing it then so should we, but better! To repeat – Learn from nature and fight fire with fire!

Add to this the skills so well-honed from tradition and childhood practice putting Kerry football in a very healthy state at present.

Next week I am going to write about Kerry football – Pay attention to Nature (2)  – the chameleon effect

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