Kerry Team News
The rivalry and hatred there just fuels you’
By Fintan O’Toole
Saturday, June 09, 2012
They grasped silverware again in April yet the applause did not come tumbling down from the stands to greet Cork’s third successive league title.
Great hordes of Rebel support were absent but the football squad have grown accustomed to it. In Patrick Kelly’s mind, it is the search for trophies rather than acclaim that fuels their drive.
"The traditional fan base is for the hurlers and that’s always been the case. We make a joke about it more than anything. When the hurlers do well, we’d be saying that’s another few we’ve lost to them or taking the piss out of ourselves when you’ve very few at some away league games.
We play league matches in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in front 1,000 or 2,000 people and it’s dead. Páirc Uí Chaoimh looks awful when it’s empty. I know there’s things with health and safety for grounds but if you could bring one league game a year down to West Cork and one up to Mallow, I imagine that’d generate huge interest. But ultimately you don’t play to get crowds supporting you, you’re playing to win."
That sense of single-mindedness is also the approach taken when any barbs are thrown in their direction about the methodical short-passing that has characterised their style of play.
"When you’re on an inter-county panel, you’re a very close-knit group and you live in a bubble," argues Kelly. "Everyone has their opinion but you value very few outside the squad.
We all listen to our own few people in our clubs but that’s it. Pundits wouldn’t really bother us. You see (Joe) Brolly having a cut off Kerry in the Tipperary game and that was an example of a very knee-jerk, over-the-top reaction.
Their mindset going into that game was to just get over the line and they did that. If you really look at the games, we’re not hand-passing by choice. There’s reasons for it with defensive systems nowadays."
Probing for gaps in defences is Kelly’s prime role on the pitch but for a three-week spell last October and November he got a chance to rub shoulders with opponents from around the country on Ireland’s International Rules Tour to Australia. The prolonged schedule of the Kerry county championship rendered Darran O’Sullivan unavailable and Kelly popped up as a replacement.
"I got a call on a Wednesday morning last October saying could I fly out on the Friday. I’d arranged with my principal in Cloghroe where I teach that if I got called that I could fly out. You’re entitled as long as you work the time back. It’s great craic training with lads from other counties. There’s this thing in your head that you despise them when you’re playing against them so it’s good to get to know them.
"It was a great way to make it so late but obviously Darran (O’Sullivan) wouldn’t say the same. Hopefully he’ll get a chance at some stage down the road. It was a superb trip. We’d a lot of free time, I met up with lads from home out in St Kilda and Liam O’Toole, a clubmate from Ballincollig, a few times as well watching the Rugby World Cup final in a pub. We’d a few free days in the Gold Coast playing golf and going to theme parks. There was great lads on the panel. I was rooming with Brendan Murphy from Carlow, to see him and Leighton Glynn from Wicklow you realise how good they are even if they don’t get huge exposure."
Reality hit home upon his return when the winter grind of preparing for 2012 began. Kelly has seen former teammates like John Miskella, Derek Kavanagh and Anthony Lynch reach the end of the playing road due to ruinous injuries. The professionalism of the current Cork training setup takes that into account.
"Our trainers Aidan O’Connell and PJ Wilson are constantly thinking of the long-term picture. PJ is new this year. He’s Aidan’s understudy with the Munster rugby academy teams. Aidan is away with Munster sometimes so it’s great to have PJ there because they take a lot of our physical sessions and do a lot of work with lads who are injured, getting them to do weights on the sideline.
"They help us to have a really good balance in our training. We don’t do crazy training. It’s hard but there’s a huge emphasis on recovery and flexibility. Miskella, Derek and Lynchy were really going through the pain barrier over the last few years. They kept going because they felt there was an All-Ireland in the team and it was nice they got their reward in 2010."
If 2010 was a joyous experience, 2011 was different. When he thinks back, Kelly realises they never got to the appropriate pitch of performance. A video session recently revealed a litany of ball-playing errors committed by Cork in the first half of last summer’s Munster final in Killarney.
This season they began without the distraction of touring the celebration circuit, thus permitting them to work early on enhancing their fitness and sharpening their football. To the wider football fraternity there may be a sense of lethargy about the frequency of Cork and Kerry clashes but that bite is still there for the players.
"You don’t ever get sick of the games against Kerry," argues Kelly. "I only came into the panel in 2008 when I was 23 and didn’t start until the following year. So I’d appreciate that I don’t have a long time left at it and I don’t think I’ll tire of it.
"The rivalry and hatred there just fuels you. I’m sure it’s the same for Kerry coming up to Cork. Both teams can never beat each other by enough and that’d be the mindset of the supporters. The fact that we’re both very strong at present and All-Ireland contenders adds to that."
And he’s fully aware of the other sporting item in the spotlight this weekend. In the Cork dressing room this week they have been discussing the virtues of Spain and Germany, debating who will be awarded the top-scorer garland and awaiting Ireland’s return to big time international football for the first time in a decade.
"I remember in 2002 stopping in my uncle’s in Rathmore to watch the Ireland-Spain game in the World Cup and then going onto Killarney for the Cork Kerry match. It ended in a draw and the atmosphere wasn’t great after the soccer and with the poor weather.
"But you’d be hoping there’ll be a buzz about the place on Sunday for our game. It’s great there’s no clash with the Cork-Kerry match as supporters would probably take any excuse to stay away. Hopefully they
This is a proper championship Sunday with two of the top three teams playing each other.
The big game is in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and if the crowd is low on this one then the GAA have a problem as it appears that only Ulster is able to buck the trend in terms of attendances. There are many factors which account for falling crowds but for me the main one is that the game as a spectator sport is dying on its feet.
GAA people in general are loyal supporters but they are being bored to sleep by county football and are getting their enjoyment either from underage games or adult club matches. The difference between what is happening at the highest level and the club scene is night and day. All in the name of progress we are told, but like the broken record I will stick to the point that I have often made -- that you can have better footballers playing a worse game.
Cork and Kerry will not do much today to change the imbalance between handpassing and kicking. Against Tipperary, Kerry gave an exhibition of old mistakes and invented a whole raft of new ones. This was especially true of defenders coming forward and giving short handpasses to forwards coming running outfield. When they got the ball they were farther away from goal than the player who gave the pass.
On this evidence, Kerry played like a side in decline. However, a couple of years ago they gave the same impression against Sligo and Antrim and then blew Dublin out of the water.
Yet some doubts persist. The best players on this Kerry team have probably played their best football and some day soon in a big match they will start the engine and instead of a Ferrari they will find a Massey Ferguson 35.
Today it is unlikely to be as dramatic as that, yet how long more can Gooch, the ó Sé's, Declan O'Sullivan, Paul Galvin and Kieran Donaghy be the best? Not long more. The old order is changing and while underage football in Kerry has not produced much recently, they did not need to because a couple of additions kept things ticking over. After this golden generation, however, there will be trouble.
Worse still from a Kerry point of view is that Cork are in pole position to take over in Munster and Dublin look to have a very bright future. So Kerry are staring down the barrel of a gun today. The round-the-houses trip won't suit at all if they are beaten; in fact, I can't see Kerry winning an All-Ireland through the back door, while Cork could.
Kerry need all the old hands at their very best to win. Declan O'Sullivan has got a bit testy recently. In the old days he was battered from all sides and passed no remarks; now there is a rueful look and sometimes a few words. He will get plenty of attention by the Lee and this will be a spiky affair. It won't take Noel O'Leary long to find Paul Galvin; at this stage O'Leary would sniff him out in a dense forest.
Who will be booked first? It is odds-on that there won't be 30 players on the field at the end as Cork have a few defenders who can give treatment. The best thing always with tough backs is to check out early whether they can take it as well as give it out. Both sets of defenders will have their marking arrangements and positions will mean nothing.
Kerry will want Marc ó Sé in three positions as Colm O'Neill, Donncha O'Connor and Paul Kerrigan will take a lot of minding, as will Pearse O'Neill through the middle. In pure midfield terms, Cork are stronger so Kerry need Galvin at his very best on breaks and to draw as much attention on himself as possible. He is very good at that.
I am really looking forward to this game. A no-holds-barred contest to give a lift to the championship. Some of the Kerry legs are getting a bit wobbly but this game will bring the best out of them. There is still Gooch and Donaghy up front and hopefully there will be a few high balls into the square.
Strange with all the prophets of doom with this rule change and there has been little action inside at all. Cork are the better bet for the All-Ireland but Kerry might win this one on less possession.
Armagh and Tyrone are not as good as the big two in the south yet this clash is another very interesting encounter which will attract a very big crowd. It may not have the quality of five or six years ago but it is still a game of potential Ulster champions.
Tyrone, who made smooth progress in the spring, have been badly hit by injuries with Seán Cavanagh a huge loss, while Kyle Coney seemed on his way to becoming a top-class corner-forward.
Getting Brian McGuigan back may help to solve some short-term problems but a lot of young players would like to have been thrown a jersey. McGuigan was exceptional in vision and touch yet humans usually conform to the old saying about great horses: they never come back like they were.
Armagh suffer from the Crossmaglen effect. Some might find it strange to understand that comment but the players in Cross' find it hard to settle into a new system, and so do the other county players when they return. It is a challenge for management -- and I write this with the best will in the world.
But for all of that, Armagh are in a great position here. Tyrone had a fantastic league until the final and now the wheels have fallen off when Mickey Harte had a new team ready for the big games of summer. He cannot replace the quality lost and Tyrone are severely weakened as a result. Armagh should be able to take advantage.
After criticising the Leinster Council for fixing Meath and Carlow for Tullamore, along comes the replay between Wexford and Longford to save the day. Meath received a significant boost by beating Wicklow and should win comfortably today.
The other game is just another instalment in a saga that is running for a couple of years with Longford and Wexford playing regularly with little in it. It will be the same again today.
I thought Longford would win in Croke Park and I admire all these people who are so certain about everything in life that they never change their minds. I prefer those with a bit more flexibility so it is Wexford for me this time. - Colm O'Rourke
By Niall Cahalane
Monday, June 11, 2012
In my mind Cork were already established as All-Ireland contenders before throw-in in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday and what unfolded over the 70-plus minutes of football only strengthened that view.
Any concerns about rustiness given the lay-off since the league final victory were quickly put to bed as they went through the gears to claim a hugely important victory.
They’re heading to Limerick on July 8 now and unless their performance level completely collapses, they should defeat Clare and become Munster champions.
Then they will be back in Croke Park and preparing for an All-Ireland quarter-final. While Conor Counihan will be delighted with his team and their form, Jack O’Connor must have serious concerns about Kerry’s state of health.
I think this great side are starting to wane and run out of ideas. Kerry are a county that I have always looked on as the best example of football purists. However, their display and approach yesterday didn’t contain any of those great traditions.
It was very flat, they were slow and laborious in their play and this allowed Cork to turn them over in possession on countless occasions. Their indiscipline in defence was a problem as well as they gave away cheap frees.
Such concessions were at stages when there was no serious danger of a Cork player breaking through on goal and the defenders would have been better advised to force their opponents to kick from play.
Kerry will have to be very fortunate with the qualifier draw from here on. If they reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals, they will pose a major threat — but getting to that stage could be difficult.
If they get an away trip to Ulster, in particular, or face a high-ranked team elsewhere they could be in serious trouble. The sight of Kieran Donaghy and Paul Galvin finishing the game in the dugout was very revealing as to where Kerry are at.
The difference in the approaches adopted by the two sides when it came to delivering long ball to their full-forward lines was interesting.
Kerry’s build-up was ponderous and they did not supply Kieran Donaghy often enough. It begs the question what was the point of placing the big Austin Stacks man inside near goal if Kerry were not going to utilise him?
Cork’s deliveries were initially aimless but they improved as the game went on with passes floated in on top of Nicholas Murphy.
For a player who was only brought into the team at late notice, Murphy acquitted himself very well and became a prominent figure in the match.
Cork’s other late addition, Ciarán Sheehan, also impressed. If Cork are going to challenge strongly for the All-Ireland, then they need Sheehan in full health. It was great to see him starting yesterday as he’s a player who needs game time after being out of action so long with his cruciate injury. Springing Daniel Goulding off the bench and seeing him contribute two points from play was also a huge boost to Cork.
The absences of Sheehan, Goulding, Colm O’Neill and Barry O’Driscoll were huge setbacks in their defeat to Mayo and exit from last year’s campaign.
All four spent time on the pitch yesterday and the greater range of personnel options was important in guiding them to success.
The power of Cork’s start to the game was also important. A trend has emerged in recent years of Kerry taking control early on in matches between the counties and Cork being forced to chase the game in the second half.
Instead they set the tone here and went in at half time three points ahead. Kerry’s failure to convert goal-scoring chances was certainly a factor in that interval margin but I still believe Cork would have won even if they conceded goals at that stage.
With five minutes to go, there was still a sense persisting that Kerry could still snatch a goal.
You could have had a scenario where Cork began to struggle and stumbled over the line. Instead they never allowed that to happen and pulled away comfortably.
Dublin made a significant statement last week in their first championship outing of the year.
Cork made a similar one yesterday.
5th August 2012
Kingdom eager to face down latest uprising
Ulster teams have troubled Kerry over the last decade and now Donegal get their chance to emulate their provincial rivals’ success, writes SEAN MORAN
THE EARLY years of the GAA didn’t give many clues to what would become a fascinating rivalry. Kerry sustained just one championship defeat against an Ulster county in the first 49 years of the association’s history. Even that comes with its green-and-gold asterisk.
One hundred years ago this month, on the eve of the 1912 All-Ireland semi-final against Antrim, the Munster champions were tempted by the wedding in Dublin of a well-known Kerry man. Weighing the prospective entertainment against what was contemporarily described as a “matter-of-form” match the following day, the team succumbed to temptation.
The same contemporary source ruefully reported the outcome. “But the road to football, or any other success, is the hard and narrow patch. The day following the nuptials the Kerry boys could not play football. Antrim won 3-5 to two points – perhaps the most sensational GAA result of all time.”
There aren’t, however, enough examples of Kerry frivolity to adequately explain the disproportionate difficulty experienced by the greatest of all football counties in playing Ulster opposition. In All-Ireland finals against northern counties, Kerry are coming in at 40 per cent success whereas the balance sheets with the other two provinces are well in credit.
Why? Events like those of 1912 aren’t the mainstay of the statistics. Aside from the fact that it was a semi-final, as was the 1958 match with Derry (see panel), Ulster counties have won their finals against Kerry overwhelmingly because they were better teams with better preparation and tactics.
Even when Ulster counties lost finals to Kerry there were frequently sharp regrets: Cavan’s disallowed ‘winner’ in the 1937 draw, Armagh’s missed penalty in ’53 and Tyrone’s out-of-the blue challenge in ’86.
The last 50 years in particular have brought into focus a clash of styles and traditions that continues this weekend with tomorrow’s eagerly anticipated All-Ireland quarter-final against Donegal – the only Ulster county yet to face Kerry in championship.
The modern era has been one in which Kerry’s permanent government has been challenged by new ideas and that narrative begins with Down, the only county with a 100 per cent championship record against Kerry.
Art McRory managed the Tyrone team that threatened a seismic shock in 1986. They led by seven points in the second half before inexperience and injuries combined with the last despairing kick of Mick O’Dwyer’s legendary team to haul Kerry to victory. He remembers the emergence of Down in 1960.
“That Down team was so exceptional that it would have been very successful in any era. They were truly magnificent and didn’t win as many All-Irelands as they should have done “They were a step ahead of everyone in the early 1960s and had good people in charge, like Maurice Hayes and Barney Carr. I heard Maurice Hayes at a seminar laying out how they had drawn up a five-year plan – A, B and C – to secure success. But they had to have the players.” said McRory.
Down had the players but they also had a curious ebullience for a county with no real tradition. They were both modern and scientific. They dressed uniformly in tracksuits, broke the game down into detail and analysed how to optimise their prospects.
Maurice Hayes, who went on to become a distinguished public servant on both sides of the Border, wrote about the 1960 final in Weeshie Fogarty’s 2007 book on the legendary Kerry trainer Dr Eamonn O’Sullivan, who, although he wasn’t in charge in 1960, had established himself as the foremost thinker in the game.
“Now one of the things we played on for that game was the fact that Dr Eamonn had a theory of zones. People kept to their places and you did not move out of that zone and what we introduced into Gaelic football was mobility. So your full back or half back could move up with the ball and even make or get a score. I think it took Kerry a bit of time to come to grips with this change. In the late 1950s and early 1960s there was a certain static quality about Kerry football.
“Now one of the things we attempted to do was play Mick O’Connell out of the game because Leo Murphy’s kick-outs were so long.” Art McRory amplifies the point: “The one weakness in the Down team was that they didn’t have a big, traditional midfield so they chose to break ball all the time. Their half backs and half forwards had a far greater awareness of this and won a lot of those breaks. They were coached at a time when it was totally and absolutely unknown. Teams ‘trained’ and training was catch and kick.”
In Kerry there developed an indignation at the emerging, new game. Not alone was the county the most successful in the game but it also had established a sort of intellectual copyright on the game.
Founding father Dick Fitzgerald, after whom the stadium in Killarney is named, wrote the very first coaching manual, How to Play Gaelic Football in 1914 and Dr O’Sullivan’s The Art and Science of Gaelic Football was published 44 years later, promulgating the importance of catch-and-kick and fixed position play – the very orthodoxies Down sought to undermine.
Furthermore Down produced their own coaching manifesto, Coaching for Gaelic Football Champions written by Down player Joe Lennon. Resentfully portrayed as the Professors of Gormanston, the school where Lennon taught and where the pioneering coaching courses of the 1960s were held, the apostles of the new age were not popular in Kerry.
One of the most fascinating dynamics in the relationship between Kerry and Ulster is paradoxically the naivete of northern counties. Nowhere is respect for Kerry’s football tradition and status more pronounced than in Ulster. Brian McEniff played for Donegal, managed the county to its only All-Ireland 20 years ago and for years managed Ulster’s Railway Cup teams. He’s sorry tomorrow’s encounter didn’t come sooner.
“It’s a regret I would have about 1992 and that era that we never got to play Kerry. I would have loved to have drawn them but we never got the opportunity. As a young boy growing up we used to always feel Kerry were simply physically too strong for Ulster teams but having played against them I realised it was just that they were better. I’d have a great respect for Kerry. They’ve produced great teams.”
But that tradition is built on competitiveness and tough-minded decision making. When challenged and bettered by northerners, Kerry – curiously for the purveyors of cuteness and its attendant ‘Yerra’ protocols – prove less emollient than might be expected. At times it seems that Ulster football people are almost wounded by the lack of recognition and how their innovations are often characterised as barbaric departures.
Mick O’Dwyer’s acerbic recollections of Down in the 1960s are well publicised and one of his team-mates, Tom Long, said of Down in a 2003 interview with Weeshie Fogarty: “They were the first side to bring the professional look to the game; even the way they dressed was different. They were a great footballing side like the team of Kerry’s golden years but they were spoilers and well-tutored in the art of fouling and breaking the ball at midfield.”
Current Kerry manager Jack O’Connor, writing shortly after the 2005 All-Ireland defeat by Tyrone, fulminated in his memoir Keys to the Kingdom: “There’s an arrogance to northern people which rubs Kerry people up the wrong way. They’re flash and nouveau riche and full of it. Add up the number of All-Ireland titles the Ulster counties have won and it’s less than a third of Kerry’s total but northern teams advertise themselves well.
“They talk about how they did it, they go on and on about this theory and that practice as if they’d just split the atom. They build up a mythology about themselves. That doesn’t sit well in Kerry where a man with four All-Ireland medals would quietly defer to another man who has five.”
Time, however, lends perspective. Mickey Ned O’Sullivan captained Mick O’Dwyer’s first All-Ireland winning team and later managed the county. He said: “In the 1960s Joe Lennon became a great thinker about the game. He was the first to go abroad and study physical education, in particular strength and conditioning. He was also interested in how other games approached preparation. In Kerry we always felt players grew on trees: pick them and they’ll do it on the field.”
O’Sullivan sees the last two decades, which have been the most successful era for Ulster football with eight All-Irelands spread amongst five counties, as proof that the northern threat is more than the emergence of good teams but something deeper.
“Ulster counties began in the last 20 years to get ahead of the rest of the country in terms of the scientific approach to sport. There has also been the influence of the political situation – the importance of the GAA to their identity and the renewed sense of confidence it has brought them.”
Tyrone’s storming of the citadel in 2003 and the two subsequent defeats of Kerry in All-Ireland finals triggered much the same outrage as Down’s emergence three decades earlier but O’Sullivan says there was much to admire about Mickey Harte’s team.
“I felt a great respect for the ability of the Tyrone management in 2003. That team managed to create pressure and close down space and they had their own offensive patterns. Tactically they were thinking a lot more . . . closing down space before we’d even thought about it. They were just better and it took a while for people to accept this.
“In Kerry it was always felt that once we had the ball, we always had the talent to do the business with it but we were slow to appreciate the importance of what you do when you haven’t got the ball. They were also interested in the tackle before we were even aware of its significance. They were judging players by how many tackles they were making; we were always looking at how the attack was functioning. It’s like the great basketball coach John Wooden said: ‘Offence wins games. Defence wins championships’.”
Armagh beat Kerry in the 2002 All-Ireland final and had nearly beaten them two years previously in the semi-finals. Brian Canavan, now a BBC radio analyst, was joint manager in 2000. He believes recent successes have emboldened Ulster teams and that the process has quickened since the championship format changed. “The fear element went out of it. The back-door system showed people Kerry could be vulnerable. Before that they were sometimes seen as up on a pedestal. In 2000 I was nearly afraid of them because in those days there wasn’t the same video analysis and it was before people started to delve into it as much. The feeling now in Ulster is that if you get Kerry in a close game, nine times out of 10 you’ll beat them.”
Beating Kerry once is all very well but one of the most consistent themes of football history is that the county learns fast. In his book Jack O’Connor, having taken a pop at northern counties’ sense of themselves, added: “If you can lose an All-Ireland on turnover ball like we did last year it makes sense to work as tightly as Tyrone and Armagh do on tackling and dealing with being tackled.”
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan says it’s at the heart of the county’s evolution. “Kerry have always learned, taken the best of what Ulster has to offer and modified it to suit their own style. It’s an inverted compliment. Every time we play an Ulster team we tend to learn something and that looks like continuing.”
And on it goes, tomorrow at four.
Kerry's Ulster question: four occasions when the kingdom's quest for sam was halted by the men from the north
August 27th 1933, Breffni Park