LOOKING at the first Munster football final in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh it's natural players, management, and supporters alike are full of anticipation.
It’s important that the players do look forward to the game but at the same time that they treat it just like another game. Many players on both sides will be experiencing their first senior final so that will bring it own challenges.
Kerry’s results may have been mixed in the National League but I’m sure Eamon Fitzmaurice will have been delighted with the experience his young players gained. 37 players were used but it is interesting to note that youngsters Jason Foley and Michael Burns started all sevem games while Sean O’Shea and David Clifford started 5 games respectively.
Fitzmaurice may have experimented with certain selections but even though results were mixed he still stuck with certain young players. This may have been a reward for good form or management had identified players for certain positions last winter.
Consistent selection can help a player’s confidence and together with experience can fast-track their development. The absence of the Nemo Rangers contingent plus other players due to injury has allowed this to happen in Cork also.
The intrigue for me is will either team bring something different that they didn’t show in their respective semi-finals. Will Kerry set up the same as the Clare game or will there be tweaks to counteract Corks strengths. Will either team bring something different defensively as both teams have conceded high scores on occasions?
Going on recent Cork Kerry championship encounters you would expect Kerry will aim to create a few points lead early and dictate the game from there. Cork just need to build on the intensity they showed from the start versus Tipperary. If an early goal chance is created then Cork must take it.
Certainly this year Kerry have added more pace to their half-forward line. Last year in the replay versus Mayo, Kerry struggled to deal with the attacking threat of Mayo’s half-back line.
Michael Burns and Stephen O’Brien occupied the wing positions versus Clare contributing five points between them. Johnny Buckley and Donnacha Walsh while excellent footballers they wouldn’t have the pace that Burns and O’Brien provide.
Stephen O’Brien, in fact, appears to have cut weight, which would potentially increase his aerobic capacity. O’Brien always provided something different to the Kerry forward line, a more direct option similar to the role Rory Deane performed for Cork versus Tipperary.
The wing forward role can be the most demanding on the field irrespective of what tactics a team use. Strength and power are needed to accelerate, break tackles or create turnovers. Carrying excess muscle mass though and a player will fatigue faster, resulting in an occasional rather than consistent impact.
Kerry have a new full back-line this year and the Clare game wouldn’t have provided the test they anticipated. Its an area Cork could exploit but the challenge for Cork is ensuring they have enough players in the Kerry half to threaten the Kerry goal while also ensuring they reduce space and time when Kerry have possession.
The midfield battle will have a huge bearing. In both Munster semis, Cork and Kerry built an attacking platform from dominating opposition kick-outs. Kerry put Clare’s inexperienced goalkeeper Eamon Tubridy under desperate pressure in the semifinal winning 50% of Clare’s kick-outs. No doubt they will aim to unsettle Mark White similarly on Saturday.
If the Kerry full-forward line get plenty of good possession in space then they will be very hard to pin down. Sam Ryan is named to start at corner-back but it will be interesting to see will James Loughrey return to the starting 15 as he has performed well previously versus James O’Donoghue. Kevin Flahive will more than likely pick up Paul Geaney.
Kevin Flahive first showed his potential in the full-back line when lining out for the Cork minors in 2014. He may have suffered since then somewhat due to versatility occupying many positions from two to 10 but he certainly has the characteristics to perform in the full-back line.
Ian Maguire and Aidan Walsh will need to win the midfield battle if Cork are to give themselves an opportunity. Both players would have been unhappy with aspects of their performance versus Tipperary but behind the mistakes, you could see the obvious strengths they bring. Working as a partnership and understanding each other is key and this can develop the more games they play.
It will not be easy though as Kerry’s midfield of David Moran, Jack Barry and the introduction of Anthony Maher will bring there own mix of football and guile.
Learning from the first provincial final last weekend, its about bringing energy and work-rate first. Galway were getting plenty of men back against Roscommon in the first half but there was no intensity to their play. Galway were getting slated by the RTÉ Analysis but work-rate was the issue here and not necessarily the set up.
It is similar to Tyrone’s performance versus Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final last year. Yes, Dublin had great movement and use of the ball but Tyrone made it easy for Dublin with their lack of intensity and clarity in defence.
Tactics are irrelevant if firstly you are not on the front foot and giving your all for the team. That’s what both Cork and Kerry will aspire to do on Saturday and then feed off the support which should be good.
Playing in Division 1 and going off recent performances Kerry are rightly favorites. There have been many surprise results though so far this year, so who knows what might happen this weekend.
CONTACT: @paudiekissane or visit www.pkperformance.ie.