Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Kerry show why its dangerous to write off great teamsJuly 25, 2012 - 2:22pm
GREAT teams should never be written off. Last Saturday week in Mullingar, the struggling Kerry footballers were staring down the barrel of a shock championship exit to Westmeath. Six points down early in the second-half, facing the wind and with many of their key players out of sorts, the sport’s greatest power stood on the brink of a first ever defeat in the qualifiers.
Having failed to impress against Tipperary in the Munster championship and, subsequently, coming up well short to arch rivals Cork, the prophets of doom were already out in force for the Kerry men even ahead of what had appeared a routine assignment in the Midlands. Ultimately, it took a controversial refereeing decision to drag them back into the contest against Westmeath and, even then, they just scraped home – and were lucky to do so.
In the following days, former Kerry greats joined the popular chorus line that the team was gone and that the game was nearly up for manager Jack O’Connor too. Though there was criticism of team selection and the positioning of some players, notably Kieran Donaghy, there was also a general acceptance that the legs of the older team members had fought too many battlers and that the hunger was no longer there. In short, the Kingdom were looking a busted flush.
Well, the critics have been slinking back into their burrows this week after a reinvigorated Kerry put Tyrone to the sword in front of a passionate home following in Killarney last Saturday. The Ulster men had tormented their hosts and O’Connor over the past decade with high profile and tradition-bursting triumphs in the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final and the finals of 2005 and ’08. To put it mildly, Tyrone had the Indian sign on Kerry and wouldn’t be intimidated at heading into their backyard.
In retrospect, the qualifier draw was the kick up the rear end that Kerry desperately needed. If ever a fixture was going to stir the marrow in their bones, get their blood flowing and ignite their passion, this was it. The opposition which had had caused them so much anguish in the past was heading into their own town and, by hook or crook, they were going to be ready for them. The fact they Kerry had a point to prove after several sluggish displays only steeled them further for the challenge.
Their supporters turned out in force, there was tension in the air, but most significantly of all, Kerry looked a transformed team virtually from the throw in. The urgency and vitality was back, with Declan O’Sullivan and Paul Galvin, two players who had been below their best this year, carrying the fight to Tyrone from the start. They only led by four points at the break, but Kerry were controlling the battle ground and ought to have been further clear.
Tyrone, understandably, tried to slow the game down and make it more physical, but Kerry were in no mood for compromise, not even when raiding defender Conor Gormley scrambled home a goal in the 44th minute against the run of play. Though the concession of such a score might have given Kerry the jitters in the past, if anything it only spurred Colm Cooper and company to raise their tempo even further. Almost immediately, they broke through for a goal of their own with Bryan Sheehan laying on the killer pass for Donaghy to palm home at the far post.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.