Kerry master plan about to become a little more legible
Kildare have pace to cause shock but Fitzmaurice’s side have smarts to avoid one
Bryan Sheehan’s presence for Kerry will add to the kick-out options for Brendan Kealy. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
This Kerry team are masters of disguise. On the August bank holiday Sunday of last year, as they trotted out onto the field for the All-Ireland quarter finals, few saw them as real All-Ireland contenders.
Now they return as champions but are an equally slippery read. All we can say for sure is that they are arch pragmatists.
Give them a break and they will take it, as Fionn Fitzgerald proved so dramatically against Cork. If there is a nagging sense that their defence is collectively limited, that has yet to be exposed. If there is a feeling that they are over-reliant on Kieran Donaghy – who could not buy a game a year ago – then so what: it works.
Anthony Maher and David Moran are a formidable ball-winning duo and Bryan Sheehan’s presence here deepens the kick-out options for Brendan Kealy – and Kerry’s ability to punish teams with long-range frees.
Is Colm Cooper really not making this team or is Éamonn Fitzmaurice holding him in reserve for critical days ahead? Hard not to believe that Cooper’s limited time isn’t part of a greater master plan. His one significant input was to create, from nothing, the goal that sunk Cork.
Jason Ryan has completed Kildare’s rehabilitation from the lows of the Dublin hammering in the Leinster championship. They have regained respectability and their presence in the last eight suggests that they should not be playing Division Three football next spring. This match will offer a forensic examination of where they feel they belong.
Kildare were not the opposition that Kerry were expecting and regardless of the internal issues which may have subdued Cork, 1-21 is still a significant tally to pile upon a Division One team.
Kildare are athletic and hard-running and they are not unfamiliar with Croke Park: in short, they are a tricky kind of team for Kerry to get to grips with.
Making it to this stage and playing the All-Ireland champions is a perfect scenario for Ryan. There is no pressure on them and that should liberate them into just having a go.
Paying due diligence to Donaghy and James O’Donoghue is a primary task and making use of their highly mobile midfield will also be high on Kildare’s agenda.
If they can work a decent supply of ball to their inside forward line, then Kildare could cause the shock of the weekend.
But Kerry are smart and sticky and admirably stubborn and they will react to whatever fires Kildare start. Kerry to go through – and to reveal more of themselves in the process.