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Have Kerry Shown Their Hand Too Early?

Last night Eamonn Fitzmaurice named the Kerry team that will play in Sunday’s All Ireland Final.

Over the past number of years we have become accustomed to the selection bombshells dropped by Kerry manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice. However last night Fitzmaurice surprised many by making three changes for this weekend’s All Ireland Final.

After Paul Geaney’s performance against Tyrone in the semi final, Kieran Donaghy relegation to the bench had been flagged. Although many were shocked by Fitzmaurice’s decision to not to select Marc O Sé, rumours of a hamstring injury have been circulating for a number of days. Nevertheless the decision to select Fionn Fitzgerald over Paul Murphy has raised some eyebrows.

Notwithstanding the changes, this remains a strong Kerry team. However it would seem that seem that Kerry may have shown their hand too early.

By selecting Geaney, Fitzmaurice has opted for mobility over a high ball option. Geaney’s movement against Tyrone in the second half, offered Kerry a much better alternative to high ball into a static full forward. Geaney had the mobility to move into pockets of space, forcing Tyrone’s sweepers to follow him. Indeed with the defensive system Dublin have employed this year, Geaney’s selection should be seen as an informed decision.

Geaney’s mobility will also allow Kerry to press a high line against Stephen’s Cluxton’s kick outs. Kerry’s forwards will likely go man for man against Dublin’s defence, not allowing Cluxton pick out his full back line on the 13 meter line. While Donaghy has proven himself to be highly effective at turning over possession, he no longer possesses the ability to traverse the field and as a result, would struggle to follow the likes of Rory O’Carroll, as he seeks to gain possession from a quick kick out.

Nevertheless Jim Gavin and Dublin are nothing if they are not resourceful. In the past Cluxton has picked out the likes of Cian O’Sullivan and Jake McCaffrey in the half back line, who have then delivered precision ball into their dangerous half forward line. Although O’Sullivan left the field with a hamstring injury against Mayo, the latest reports suggest that he will be fit for the final.

Dublin also have another potential avenue to escape Kerry’s pressing game. Although the Kingdom will start with arguably the best midfield combination in the country, the manner in which Michael Darragh MacAuley played after he came on against Mayo, would suggest that he is coming into his best form. Indeed Denis Bastick was competitive against Tom Parsons and Seamus O’Shea.

This would therefore suggest that Dublin can kick long if necessary, and compete against Kerry’s formidable duo. The athleticism of MacAuley would also ensure that Dublin could profit from any breaking ball, as the Ballyboden St. Enda’s player has the potential to carry possession straight into the Kerry half back line.

For this reason, and due to Dublin’s physically imposing half forwards, it seems that Fionn Fitzgerald has been picked ahead of Paul Murphy. At times against both Cork and Tyrone, Kerry’s defence seemed to be brushed aside by strong ball carriers breaking through the cover. With Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Flynn and Ciarán Kilkenny likely to be selected, Dublin will have no shortage of ball carriers. Kerry’s defence will therefore need to up their physicality if they are not going to be exposed.

Although Fitzmaurice may have surprised many by his selection, Jim Gavin and his management team now have some time to analytically respond in kind. Nonetheless the ball now firmly rests in Dublin’s court.

Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena

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