Kerry can make amends

 

Another interesting chapter in this year's All-Ireland has thrown up Cork and Kerry in the semi-final - a unique pairing for this stage of the championship, writes John O'Mahony Football analyst

Under the new format, we're not too far away now from where provincial rivals like this could meet in the final itself. For tomorrow though, there's plenty to add to the traditional rivalry of these teams.

They've met twice already this season - a draw and a replay in Munster - and that ensures there'll be a lot of personal battles to be sorted out, especially between Colin Corkery and Séamus Moynihan, and Anthony Lynch if he plays on Mike Frank Russell. Those players are so familiar with each other that it guarantees a tense and exciting struggle.

Then you have the Darragh Ó Sé factor. It's difficult to know the full repercussions of his incident in the club match earlier this month, but it must have been a draining couple of weeks. All the Ó Sés would have been affected, and there are a lot of them in there, between the manager and the players. And I'm sure the whole team would have been affected seeing as Darragh is captain.

Because he is such a central figure in their game, and it's vital that he plays well, he will need to be mentally very strong to put all the events of the last two weeks behind him. There are some lessons to be learned from the whole saga as well, and when the Kerry County Board had their backs to the wall like that it was always going to be difficult to handle.

I believe though, that club and county fixtures should be kept separate, and that if a player is sent off in a club match then he should only be suspended for club matches. When it transfers from one to another it's hard to avoid a lot of embarrassment. The suspension should also be handled separately by a central committee, with the county taken out of the equation.

Cork also had their own bit of controversy in the Munster final replay with Tipperary and the confusion over substitutes. That's more in the distance now and shouldn't have as much bearing on things at this juncture.

But I feel that Kerry's graph is now rising a little better. They had a bad start to the year, and clearly had some sorting out to do after being beaten so early by Cork.

They seem to have managed that very well, and unearthed some quality players like John Sheehan at half back and Sean O'Sullivan at half forward. If anything, Kerry's half-forward line had some difficulty in recent years, yet seems very settled now.

Colm Cooper's emergence is complete as well, and the whole country is talking about his obvious talent. These types of players have added an extra edge and freshness to Kerry, on top of the whole panel's motivation of making up for the loss against Cork in the Munster semi-final.

CERTAINLY Kerry played with some great movement and clinical finishing against Galway in the quarter-final, playing very much as a team and a unit. Almost like a team on a mission. Plus they have a very strong bench with the likes Johnny Crowley, Aodán Mac Gearailt and Tom O'Sullivan.

I can fully empathise with Kerry at the moment, and that sorting-out process, having gone through it with Galway last year. There is nothing like a defeat by your neighbours in the provincial championship to bring you to your senses. It brings out a sense of unity, and really helps to focus the mind, and that's clearly what's happening in Kerry now.

They also come back to Croke Park wanting to exorcise the ghost of last year when they collapsed against Meath. Some of that came out against Galway and I expect it will be there tomorrow as well, especially since it was at this stage last year that they were dumped out. So there are plenty of things for Kerry to hang their motivation on.

Kerry aren't without their weaknesses. Galway created a lot of goal scoring chances, and for all Kerry's dominance they didn't put us away until the end. Eamonn Fitzmaurice has been substituted in the last few games, and there are a few areas in the defence that could be tightened up.

In fairness, though, Cork have also fine-tuned since the Munster semi-final. Graham Canty has added impetus to midfield, and I don't think they're a one-man band in Colin Corkery. Lynch is one of the best defenders in the country and Ciarán O'Sullivan is still putting in great service as well.

Brendan Jer O'Sullivan also gave a fantastic performance against Mayo, and Fionán Murray hasn't hit his best form yet. Corkery has been an inspiration and will play a huge role.

I would still question Cork's consistency a little, especially over the 70-plus minutes. So if Kerry can cut down on giving away goal chances I would fancy them to win by a couple of points.

If Darragh Ó Sé keeps playing to his potential, he will continue to inspire the team's confidence and that should keep them on course for a possible meeting with Dublin in the All-Ireland final.

In an interview with Ian O'Riordan