THE fitness of Dr Crokes goalkeeper Shane Murphy will be a talking point as we count down to the Munster Club SFC final next Sunday week.
If you have followed Dr Crokes’ progress to this stage in the season, you will have noted how much of their gameplan is centred on Murphy’s exceptional restarts.
With Johnny Buckley and Ambrose O’Donovan ideal target men in the middle-third, Murphy tends to eke out every drop of brilliance from his boot in order to maximise the strengths of those two individuals when the need arises.
Murphy, obviously, kicks short as well, and regularly at that, but when the direct ball to midfield is on he is incredibly accurate with his kicking.
However, if Murphy is declared unfit for the final after he was replaced in the first-half last Sunday due to suffering a knock to the head, it will take a chunk out of Dr Crokes’ armour.
At a time when Cian McWhinney and Tomás Ó Sé are unavailable for differing reasons, Nemo Rangers are themselves faced with a conundrum or two which Larry Kavanagh must produce answers to in terms of selection for this particular tie.
Kavanagh, though, was rightly pleased with the contribution of Jack O’Donovan who stepped into Ó Sé’s position. O’Donovan was extremely solid and will be expected to retain his place for the decider.
Yet, this will be a massive step up for the likes of Jack O’Donovan who, despite being an incredibly progressive operator, obviously would not share the levels of experience the Kerry man possesses for a confrontation like the one coming down the tracks.
Nevertheless, Murphy’s fitness will cause Pat O’Shea concern. Greater concern.
Dr Crokes, of course, still won against Kilmurry-Ibrickane doing handstands, but just as this is a giant leap for this Nemo team, it is a major step up in grade for the Killarney club as well and so potentially missing their first-choice goalkeeper will have an impact on their thinking over the coming week or so.
You would imagine Murphy will make it and have a serious influence on the outcome, however.
Therefore, Buckley and Ambrose O’Donovan should indeed thrive.
Buckley, especially, could cause Nemo headaches. His form of late is particularly noteworthy.
Yet, Nemo’s Alan O’Donovan and Jack Horgan will view this as a wonderful opportunity to make a statement regarding their own potential as inter-county players.
Were that duo to at least break even in the middle against Buckley and Ambrose O’Donovan, then Ronan McCarthy will definitely be intrigued as to what level of performance they could reach.
Buckley’s power will present Nemo with their greatest question in this sector yet this year. His ball-carrying ability will be at an even slightly higher standard than that of Ian Maguire’s due to Buckley’s greater bank of experience.
Remembering how taxing Maguire’s presence proved to be for Kavanagh’s side in the drawn and replayed Cork SFC finals, how they intend to deal with the Murphy-Buckley axis could be definitive.
If Buckley is as dominant as Maguire was for lengthy stretches the supply of ball directed at Dr Crokes’ attackers will be exemplary.
And to be completely realistic, with proper ball arrowed their way, Dr Crokes’ forwards should have the individual and collective prowess to hurt Nemo.
Even aside from the looming threat of Colm Cooper, Brian Looney, Kieran O’Leary and Daithí Casey could punch holes in any rearguard.
Therefore, Kavanagh and Nemo will be aware of the requirement of denying Dr Crokes valuable possessions and space in that middle-third. Stopping these teams at source tends to be the only policy worth considering.
Rathnew’s victory over St Vincent’s is the talk of the country.
I incorrectly assumed the Dublin club would go on to lift the Leinster title following the success in their respective county final against Ballymun Kickhams.
However, and without trying to rain in their parade in the week that is in it, Rathnew’s marvellous triumph will count for nothing if they do not go on to win the provincial crown.
And after the full-time whistle last Sunday their manager, Harry Murphy, was understandably at pains to stress this.
“We probably shouldn’t be because one swallow never made a summer but we’ll probably be favourites going in to play Moorefield,” Murphy explained. “Moorefield gave us a bit of a tapping a couple of years ago.
“Look, to be still playing at this time of the year in a Leinster semi-final, for a club of our size, we’d take that any day of the week.
“I won’t get carried away, though. You’re not going to get me to say we’ll win it now. Moorefield are a quality side, they’re always knocking around. They had a great win over Portlaoise.
“Any time you have the Dublin champions chasing shadows there in the last four or five minutes, that’s some achievement. We’re over the moon with it.
“It was the battling spirit that got us through. We can all play football when we have the ball. But it’s when we hadn’t got the ball that we worked very, very hard. Each one of our lads played a part, that’s all you can ask for.”
Indeed, it is. Nevertheless, Rathnew’s players and club people, as difficult as it may seem at present, need to refocus. Quickly.
Failing to push on to contest a Leinster final, at worst, would be such a waste of momentum.