Kerry have the armoury to shatter Mayo’s dreams of All-Ireland glory

Kingdom boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice will have left nothing to chance and his players are coming into form at the right time

Kerry’s  James O’Donoghue is capable of causing Mayo’s defence serious problems on Sunday. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Kerry’s James O’Donoghue is capable of causing Mayo’s defence serious problems on Sunday. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 12:00

I have come around to the idea of Kerry winning on Sunday. In fact, I’ve decided that the bet of the weekend is a treble on the Kerry seniors, minors and juniors. That’s how you can tell a Kerryman isn’t just full of cute-hoorism and blather. When there’s money down, it’s time to stop the messing.

I have to admit I was very sceptical about Kerry’s chances initially. I’ve been saying all summer that the worst thing that happened to Kerry was Cork not turning up for the Munster final. It gave a false impression of where Kerry were at and what they were capable of. All it told us was that against a team who leaves all their form in the dressing room, Kerry can put up a big score. And sure we probably knew that already.

So as the autumn arrives and the evenings get cold, that’s not a lot of use to them. And the same goes for the win against Galway. What did Kerry really beat there? Why were they not further ahead in the first half?

How does that experience really measure up to what they’re going to get from a Mayo team that lives in a different world altogether in terms of experience, in terms of physical development, in terms of pure talent?

Pure immersion

Now is a player’s time. This is a week of pure immersion in the task that lies ahead. When I was playing, I used to make sure I had the dinner inside me around one o’clock on the Sunday before the game so that I could be well settled in for the hurling semi-final. Not so much for the outcome of the game, more to see if there was anything I could learn for the following week.

I’d have the Sunday papers in front of me and I’d be looking at who was talking and then watching the match to see if they were playing well or badly. I’d watch them in the parade – who looked at the ground, who looked into the stand, how they all carried themselves. If Henry Shefflin was playing, I’d study him and watch for similarities with the Gooch. It might only be the smallest thing like a tackle he made after 30 seconds that set the tone. Doesn’t matter – everything is huge now.

I’d keep an eye out for anyone that slipped – I always found the Canal End the slippiest part of the pitch but if someone lost their footing over in front of The Hill scoreboard I’d make a note of it. And during the warm-up the following weekend, I’d always go over to that spot and test it out.

You have to be a bit obsessive about the whole thing.

And when it comes down to it, Kerry have one of the great obsessives in charge. The more I think about what Eamonn Fitzmaurice will put into this game for Kerry, the more optimistic I am about their chances. He played his first game of golf all summer there on Monday. The man’s a teacher, remember. Kerry football is all-consuming.

Look at what Eamonn Fitz has had to contend with in his two seasons as Kerry manager. The break-up of a team of All-Ireland winners. The loss of Paul Galvin, Tomás Ó Sé and Eoin Brosnan. The injury to Colm Cooper. No minor All-Ireland since he was a minor himself. And yet here he is, two seasons later with two Munster titles in the bag and preparing for a second All-Ireland semi-final.

Transition period

Whatever happens, Eamonn Fitzmaurice has saved Kerry in a way. There was a huge amount of negativity around the county when he took over and nobody would have blamed him in the slightest for standing back for a few years and leaving somebody else find a way through a transition period.

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