Leaky Kerry no threat to Dublin’s dominance, Ó Sé says

Former player thinks Kingdom have the firepower but not the defence to stop Dubs

Kerry versus Kildare in Super 8s in August. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Kerry versus Kildare in Super 8s in August. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Late in the first half of August’s Super 8s game between Kerry and Kildare, the visiting Lilywhites reeled off 1-5 without reply and led by six points.

Despite recovering to win the game, Kerry would concede a second goal towards the end of contest, their 16th of the season throughout the league and championship.

It’s that damning statistic that Tomás Ó Sé keeps coming back to when he considers why they ultimately failed to reach the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Six months or so on, the Kerry great is bemused by talk among supporters of potentially toppling Dublin this year and denying them the five in a row.

For him nobody can touch Dublin right now, and Kerry, for all of their forward firepower, simply don’t have the defence to do it.

“It’s not that you want them to park the bus – you don’t,” said Ó Sé at the launch of the 2019 Gourmet Food Parlour HEC women’s football third-level championships. “But the Dubs don’t park the bus. They leave one fella back, if he’s not being picked up.

“If Cian O’Sullivan or Jonny Cooper aren’t being picked up, they’re clever and exploit that, but it’s not Jonny Cooper or Cian O’Sullivan that are putting out the fires either. It’s Fenton’s work rate, it’s Kilkenny’s work rate, it’s Mannion’s work rate.

“Look, you can talk about Kerry, but two glaring things jump out at me. The first one is the scores they leak, the goals they leak. Against Kildare, in the last game last year, before Neil Flynn got the road for Kildare, Kerry were in trouble. Kerry were in big trouble, they were four or five points down. Kildare actually ran through them, ran right through them.

Former Kerry footballer Tomás Ó Sé. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Former Kerry footballer Tomás Ó Sé. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

“I remember saying it was a worry. Now, is it that we don’t have the [defenders]? I don’t think we have the defenders, number one.

“But I’d question our work rate all over the field, also. Our work rate against Cork in the Munster final last year was outstanding. I actually got a great bit of belief out of it. I was like, ‘Jesus Christ. ’ They were hitting tackles all over the place but then the tackle count dropped. I’m not a huge man for stats, but they do tell you a story, and the amount of tackles made from then on in the championship by Kerry came down big time compared to other teams, it was off the Richter scale.”

Kingdom hopes

The hope among Kerry supporters is that Donie Buckley, who is back coaching the Kingdom this year following a stint in Mayo, can improve the team defensively.

“His brief above in Mayo was 1-9,” said Ó Sé of Buckley’s work with Mayo’s defence. “Nobody could argue that Mayo were weak in the last six or seven years at 1-9, that was the foundation they had. Mayo lacked killer firepower. Kerry have the firepower. Kerry have an abundance of it, they’re the only team in the country with the firepower to hurt the Dubs, I think.

“But the reality is that they’re under so much pressure trying to keep scores out. The goalie is another issue. Shane Ryan looks like he’s going to start the next day. This is their third goalie. Brendan Kealy is in as coach now, you had Shane Murphy last year with Brian Kelly.

“It’s like American football. Your goalie is key nowadays for possession. I just don’t think Kerry have the right to be questioning if they’re going to topple Dublin at all.”

Kerry begin their league division one campaign on Sunday against Tyrone.

“Tyrone will be there or thereabouts this year. I think they will be better than they were last year,” said five-time All-Ireland winner Ó Sé. “The big problem for me is that Dublin will be on a different level that everyone else.”

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