Jack O'Connor believes Tommy Walsh should start replay for Kerry
New Kildare boss says Tralee man would set ‘cat among pigeons’ against Dublin on Saturday
Jack O’Connor: ‘All I’ll say about Tommy is he’s a big match player.’ Photograph: Bryan Keane
Tommy Walsh, officially at least, won’t start the All-Ireland final replay, but if Jack O’Connor was still in charge of Kerry, it would be a different story.
It was O’Connor who teamed Walsh up with fellow Twin Tower Kieran Donaghy for the 2009 final win and the former Kingdom manager would happily bank on the big Tralee man again.
“All I’ll say about Tommy is he’s a big match player,” said O’Connor, speaking at his official unveiling as Kildare manager at their Manguard Plus GAA Centre of Excellence. “He has the temperament for the big occasion, as he proved in that All-Ireland in ’09. It didn’t fall off a tree either, because Seánie [Walsh] was a great man on the big day as well, his father.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they started Tommy because Kerry have other weapons to come off the bench. Killian Spillane came off the bench the last day, a fella I’d have great time for. I had him as a minor, a very talented forward. If you look at it, on the surface, Dublin don’t seem to have a player who matches up with Tommy Walsh easily, so Kerry could very well spring him. That would really throw the cat among the pigeons.”
O’Connor, who was speaking minutes before Kerry announced an unchanged team for the replay, said that he doesn’t view it as a “foregone conclusion” that they missed the boat by not beating Dublin 13 days ago.
Rather, he feels that after putting it up to Dublin “in a way that no one bar possibly Mayo has done”, they can return to Croke Park armed with confidence and momentum.
But the south Kerry man is concerned that Dublin could be much improved if they make two vital alterations: recalling Cian O’Sullivan, to provide defensive cover, and moving James McCarthy to midfield.
“I think for the first time that I remember, Dublin didn’t seem to play with a sweeper system the last day,” he said. “The loss of Cian O’Sullivan there is fairly significant because he is a brilliant reader of the game and will drop very effectively from the number six position.
“They didn’t seem to be able to do that the last day. I think that’s why maybe their full-back line had a bit of bother, especially early on. Dublin will probably – and I’m not sure whether Cian O’Sullivan will be available or not – but they will try to get a bit more cover in front of David Clifford than they did the last day.
“Marking David Clifford at Croke Park, with green grass in front of you, is a fairly frightening prospect. I think that’s probably why Jonny Cooper found it a bit disconcerting in there.
“So I think they’ll try to address that. Now whether they have the personnel to do it or not, that’s the question. I’d expect Dublin to have two or three changes. I think Dublin’s best team involves James McCarthy at midfield and Cian O’Sullivan at centre-back. They’re closer to their best team when those two are in those positions. I’m not sure if Cian O’Sullivan is fit or not but he’s been fairly central to their success over the last few years.”