Tipperary to keep pushing but Kerry still look a class apart

Gap between sides is getting close but Kingdom have forward power

Tipperary’s George Hannigan and Anthony Maher of Kerry

Tipperary’s George Hannigan and Anthony Maher of Kerry


In fairness to Kieran Donaghy he didn’t dodge the question, and agreed with me entirely this week that Kerry should be beating the likes of Tipperary handy enough if they harbour any real ambition to make it to Croke Park on the third Sunday in September.

The problem, he said, is Kerry set out to do exactly that, but Tipperary never make it easy – and if anything are pushing them harder a to the finish every year (this is their fourth successive meeting in the Munster championship, and the gap has been closing, from 12 points in 2010, to just six points last year).

In fairness too to Peter Creedon, the Tipperary manager, the belief and momentum to beat Kerry is growing, but it will ultimately take another couple of years, at least.

What is less certain is how well Kerry will gel now that manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice starts to think seriously about his championship 15. He has gone with 12 of the side that started the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Donegal, although not entirely with freshness in mind: Johnny Buckley was introduced as a substitute that day, and with Shane Enright and Eoin Brosnan both injured, Bryan Sheehan is the only truly calculated change.

Fitzmaurice has made a notable call in giving Fionn Fitzgerald his championship debut at corner back, although most other positions are familiar – not least Tomás Ó Sé, who embarks on his 16th championship campaign at wing back.

Colm “Gooch” Cooper, as expected, is named at centre forward, and if he pulls half as many strings here as he did in the first of Kerry’s league match against Tyrone then Tipperary could be in for a long, painful afternoon. With Donaghy also fit and eager again (and actually dropped for this game last year for attending the Champions League final in Munich) there is every possibility that Kerry will inflict major damage on the scoreboard before Tipperary even get a look in.

The hope, however, is that Tipperary can at least repeat the sustained challenge of last year, perhaps even press Kerry a little closer to the end, but either way, they could be riding a storm by the finish.