Sorry Westmeath, we still love you but that was by the far the most enthralling match of the summer, Danny Ryan focuses on four takeaways from Kery vs Cork.
1 – Ken O’Halloran needs a GPS
Michael Shields has been lambasted for that first Kerry goal, and rightly so. There is no way that you should lose the ball on your own 21-yard line, it’s hugely irresponsible. However, Ken O’Halloran, the Cork goalkeeper, should be thanking his lucky stars that Shield’s error was so obvious. When watched from behind the goal, it is apparent that O’Halloran’s positioning is juvenile to say the least.
As Shields received the ball, the Cork No. 1 is to the right of his goal, making himself available for the pass if needed. He is outside the line of the posts. This means that when the ball broke to Kieran Donaghy, O’Halloran has to scramble at least 3.5 metres to reach the centre of the goal along the edge of the square, what should be a good basic starting position. This means that he does not have the time to move diagonally to his left to close down Donaghy. The result? A goal.
Why is this such a big deal? When you’re a goalkeeper, you have one job. Stephen Cluxton is, in one way, the worst thing that happened to Gaelic Football goalkeepers in that the job has been in some people’s minds redefined by him due to his ability footballer. The problem with that thinking is that Cluxton is very rarely, and never in recent years, caught out of position. He does his primary job very well. O’Halloran was guilty of assuming his job was done, and was badly caught out. Again, this may seem pedantic, but if you’re a goalkeeper, you have one job.
2 – Kerry needs a full-back.
Marc Ó Sé is one of the finest exponents of corner back play in recent years. His one on one battle with Alan Brogan during the All-Ireland semi-final in 2007 (a forgotten classic) was one of the most fascinating direct collisions in living memory. Being a full back is a different animal. It seems apparent that Kerry lack a physical presence in their full back line. Numerous times in the second half, Cork kicked the ball in quick, accurate and direct into their full forward line. Time and time again, Kerry were beaten to the jump. Any decent ball that came in allowed Colm O’Neill to cause havoc.
The Cork goals only emphasised the issue. For all Kerry’s work rate and adherence to their system, a simple broken tackle seem to cause a systems failure. All of the goals were caused by a) a missed tackle and b) a free run into an open space in front of the goal due to no experienced full back responding to the threat correctly. The third goal is a case in point, one broken tackle and a simple hand pass gave Barry O’Driscoll a free run at the goal.
Kerry need to find someone quick. Aidan O’Mahoney seems to be out of favour at the moment, but he could provide some real physicality to the back line. A county with a full forward who know how to use him (Donegal move Michael Murphy inside, Diarmud Connolly, or Aidan O’Shea) will make hay all day against the Kingdom. Cork could themselves on July 18th
3 – Kerry live or die by Moran
This game revealed how reliant Kerry are on David Moran to gain primary possession in the middle third. In the first half, Cork (with the noble exception of Alan O’Connor, who was the fittest man on the park) gave Moran the run of Fitzgerald Stadium, and he duly was incredibly influential. Even at the start of the second half, when Cork pushed up on the kick outs and increased their intensity and physicality, Moran still won primary ball off kick outs and clearances and gave Kerry a vein that kept pulsing in the face of the onslaught. When he was shown the line for one of the silliest black cards issued since its introduction, Kerry lost that lifeline, and it allowed Cork to really dominate that area. The Kingdom need to wrap Moran in bubble wrap for the rest of the year and only let him out for the games.
4 – Crisis, what crisis?
After a winter of discontent, the football championship has exploded into life over the last two weekends. Between Westmeath’s epic comeback, a startling display by Dublin, an entertaining clash between Cavan and Roscommon, and an enthralling Munster final today, football has shown the very best of itself. When the game is played like this, the naysayers suddenly lose their voice. Maybe we need to accept that the Ulster Championship is a different beast, raised on tactical nous and intense physicality, and recognise that for a variety of reasons it is just a different ball game. If the summer of football progresses along the lines of the last two weeks, we’ll be in for a treat.