Kerry look to have the firepower

 

All-Ireland SFC Quarter-final: This is the qualifier system in a nutshell. One team provincial champions after a low-key and lacklustre campaign play opponents who have roller-coastered through a series of competitive fixtures and in the process become unrecognisable from the limited and fearful outfit that limped out of the Connacht championship over two months ago. Seán Moran, GAA correspondent,  reports.

This transformation is only one of Tom Carr's achievements since taking over as manager of Roscommon last year after the meltdown of morale and discipline a year ago led to the county board discharging the whole football panel because of the misbehaviour of a few players.

To listen to players paying Carr tribute and, more importantly, to watch their grit and bottle in chasing down matches against respectable opposition is to appreciate the change in Roscommon's fortunes.

They could have wished for a less formidable task today. Kerry, their hearts scalded after last year, know that only winning this year's All-Ireland will come close to making amends. Croke Park will be the stage on which they have to perform that expiation.

Last year they cruised through the quarter-finals and semi-finals, showcasing their forward talent and establishing what looked an unanswerable case for the All-Ireland. In the end they might have been better served by matches that demanded the sort of graft and resilience Armagh forced them to find in 2000.

On the basis of form we can expect Roscommon to fight to the end but have they the quality to trouble the Munster champions? There are arguments on both sides. Kerry looked good during the target practice that passed for the provincial semi-final against Tipperary but they were most unimpressive in the final against a Limerick team that had the look of stage fright from very early in the match.

It was remarkable that, had Muiris Gavin scored the penalty awarded five minutes from time, Limerick would have been within touching distance of a match they had never looked like winning.

In Kerry's defence, their players must have sensed that the title was theirs at an early stage. In those circumstances it's hard for a side to exhibit any sort of urgency - especially when Kerry had gone into the match under a certain amount of pressure with Darragh Ó Sé injured.

Ó Sé returns this afternoon but there is still a question about his fitness. His absence the last day might have had one positive spin-off in that Eoin Brosnan had a fine match at centrefield and may prove the answer to that long-standing problem. It will be a significant sector today as Séamus O'Neill has thrived in partnership with Stephen Lohan and rediscovered the form of his rookie season two years ago.

Any team like Kerry that is looking to step up an All-Ireland challenge needs some fresh input and in that respect newcomer Declan O'Sullivan showed in the Munster final why he's so highly rated. It was his switch to the 40 that eventually kick-started the team and the ensuing scoring burst before half-time performed the obsequies for the match.

Frankie Dolan's scoring exploits have been central to Roscommon's progress. His dead-ball duties swell the total but his danger from play was amply illustrated by the point that took Kildare to extra time - a pressure score from way out on the right .

The potential problem is what happens when he stops - or is stopped - scoring. In terms of man marking, Kerry are well equipped, with Michael McCarthy likely to take Dolan at some stage. Karol Mannion's physique gave Kildare of problems and his ball-winning and scoring were impressive.

Séamus Moynihan, condemned to another season at full back, was near his best in the Munster final but he doesn't have his best days on full forwards like Mannion. Yet take Dolan and Mannion out of it and the other starting Roscommon forwards managed one point against Kildare.

The talk of Kerry's abundance in attack may be exaggerated but this afternoon's sextet is the best at Páidí Ó Sé's disposal. Croke Park's spaces are made for Colm Cooper and Michael Russell - just as they were yesterday for Canavan and Mulligan - and unless Roscommon perform heroics in squeezing the middle as Armagh did last September, the Kerrymen will get plenty of chances.

David Casey has had an excellent season in his new role at full back but, otherwise, Roscommon's defence doesn't inspire confidence given the scale of this challenge.

KERRY: D O'Keeffe; T O'Sullivan, S Moynihan, M McCarthy; T Ó Sé, E Fitzmaurice, M Ó Sé; D Ó Sé, E Brosnan; S O'Sullivan, D Ó Cinnéide, L Hassett; MF Russell, D O'Sullivan, C Cooper.

ROSCOMMON: S Curran; R Cox, D Casey, J White; M Beirne, F Grehan, P Noone; S O'Neill, S Lohan; G Cox, G Lohan, D Connellan; J Dunning, K Mannion, F Dolan.

Path to the quarter-final: Kerry v Roscommon

Kerry

Munster semi-final

Kerry 0-25 Tipperary 1-10

Munster final

Kerry 1-11 Limerick 0-9

Played 2. Won 2. Drew 0. Lost 0.

Roscommon

Connacht quarter-final

Galway 0-12 Roscommon 0-8

Qualifier - round one

Roscommon 0-14 Cork 1-10

Qualifier - round 2

Roscommon 2-9 Leitrim 1-11

Qualifier - round three

Roscommon 1-20 Offaly 1-15

(AET: 1-13 to 1-13 after normal time)

Qualifier - round four

Roscommon 1-18 Kildare 0-19

Played 5. Won 4. Drew 0. Lost 0.