SHOULD Cork and Kerry negotiate the early rounds of the Munster Championship in the coming weeks, they will clash in the Munster Final on July 25, and all the evidence to date would suggest that Ronan McCarthy’s side would have a huge task on their hands if that was to come to pass.
Kerry played four top-quality Division 1 sides in their recent league campaign, in the form of Galway, Dublin, Roscommon and Tyrone, with Peter Keane’s side winning three of those ties, with the draw against Dublin in Thurles being the exception.
These results saw Kerry share the Division 1 league title with All-Ireland champions Dublin, but that only tells half the story, as the Kingdom averaged over three goals per game in the campaign.
A lot of the headlines have naturally gone to star attacker David Clifford, with him bagging a grand total of 6-22 in their four games, but the truth is that they are far from a one-man attack, which will mean they are going to be extremely difficult to shut down.
It is not doing Westmeath a disservice to state that Kerry have a far superior forward line to them right now, so if Westmeath can score that kind of total against the Rebels the big question is as to what Kerry might score?
On Saturday Westmeath failed the rattle the back of Micheál Martin’s net but there were six occasions in which they threatened to.
You would have to imagine that Kerry would have been much more efficient in converting such opportunities.
To Cork’s credit, they scored 3-22 on the day themselves, which managed to bump their league average up to a healthy-looking 21 points per game.
1-12 was enough to down the Kingdom last year, but that game took place in the depths of winter in conditions that RTÉ’s Ger Canning described mid-match as “like being in a shower for 70 minutes”.
Realistically, to be able to scalp Kerry in summer conditions down in Killarney Cork instinctively know that they will have to be putting up a big total to be in with a chance.
In that respect, Cork have been improving in every single game. 14 points the first day out against Kildare, was followed up with 18 against Laois. That was then cranked up to 22 against Clare in Ennis a couple weeks ago, before hitting 31 in the relegation play-off last Saturday against Westmeath.
That significant improvement in Cork’s scoring power can only be seen as a positive, although it is tempered by the fact that, bar the game against Laois where they shipped only ten points, they have conceded big scores in the other three games, with none of these sides being anywhere near Kerry’s quality, which is the worry.
The current Cork team seem to lack a couple big, physical players to anchor the side down the middle.
Of late it would appear that all the units from West Cork have all been drawn towards the oval ball.
There was a time when Cork used to produce almost too many big men and used to struggle to accommodate them in their starting line-up.
The mind casts back to the 2007 All-Ireland semi-final against Meath when the Meath keeper had to avoid the likes of Nicholas Murphy, Derek Kavanagh, Pierce O’Neill and Michael Cussen with his kick-outs. It was no surprise that he wasn’t able to avoid them, as Cork dominated the middle and won easily.
Cork have struggled this year on long, contestable kick-outs, both their own and the oppositions.
Martin has been going short to secure possession when he can, but when he was forced long by a high press from the opposition the stats would suggest that Cork will struggle to regather 50% of these kick-outs.
Killian O’Hanlon’s season-ending injury has not helped in this regard, as it has put a lot of pressure on younger squad members such as Paul Walsh and Brian Hartnett.
The 6’ 4” frame of a certain Mark Keane would certainly be a useful addition to this sector if he were to become available to the Cork management soon.
Even for the potential shock value to Kerry natives, as a reminder of last year, it would be worth bringing the Mitchelstown native down to Killarney in July.