Are Kerry better off starting Kieran Donaghy from the bench against Cork?
Last Sunday’s Munster Final can be divided into three phases. The first encompassed the period until Paul Kerrigan was given a black card on the twenty second minute, the second, from that point until half time, and the third lasted the entire second half.
Cork dominated two of those three phases by implementing different strategies and should have won the game.
In the first phase, Cork withdrew deep into their own half, using Kerrigan as a playmaker. Kerry pushed up the field in search of scores, leaving their full back line man on man against Cork’s inside forwards. Although it was not reflected on the score board, Cork were on top until the moment Kerrigan was sent to the line, at which point the scores stood level at 1-03 a piece. While Donaghy scored Kerry’s goal, an opportunist effort that should be applauded, his contribution up to that point was negligible.
Instead it was the movement of Johnny Buckley, James O’Donoghue and Barry John Keane that provided the Kingdom’s threat.
With Kerrigan in the stands the game entered its second phase, as Cork struggled to transition the ball from defence to attack. It was only at this point that Kerry’s pressing game came into effect, as the Rebels were unable to counter quickly. A listless Cork conceded five quick points in succession. However the much maligned Brian Cuthbert returned Cork to their running game at half time, allowing them dominated the second half.
Although Donaghy broke the ball to Donnchadh Walsh for a point on the 38th minute and contested the ball leading to O’Donoghue’s penalty, his influence was otherwise negated by the impressive Eoin Cadogan. Indeed it was the movement of Kerry’s half forwards in particular that kept them in the game.
Therefore, Eamonn Fitzmaurice is left with a selection dilemma. Does the Kerry manager rely on Donaghy to solely give Kerry a high ball option, or does he look to someone else who will provide a more rounded one?
This dilemma is pertinent, given that, despite the result, Kerry were second best in the Munster Final. Consequently instead of chasing the game, Kerry will have to adapt if they are to overcome Cork in the replay. If the Rebels employ their running game, Kerry will have to drop players into their half back line in order to pick up and block runners coming from deep. If this is the case, Kerry will need to play athletic players, who are capable of tracking Cork’s runners and have the ability to break quickly once the ball is turned over.
Something that Donaghy is no longer capable of.
Evidenced by the fact, that on two of the occasions Eoin Cadogan broke up field, he forced David Moran’s black and Donaghy’s yellow cards.
If Cork drop deep, then Donaghy could be denied the space to take full advantage of his aerial prowess. In fact, had two Cork players not contested with Donaghy for the ball leading to Kerrigan’s black card, it is unlikely Stephen O’Brien would have found the space to force the foul.
Fitzmaurice may therefore have to consider dropping his captain for Colm Cooper. If Cork play deep, then the ability of the Gooch to find pockets of space could prove devastating. If Cork employ a running game, Cooper could potentially take advantage of the space vacated by Cork’s half back line, once Kerry turnover possession. In either case the movement provided by Cooper, O’Donoghue and Barry John Keane, could give the Cork defence something other than a attacking focal point to worry about.
Dropping Donaghy would also allow Kerry, further options in the midfield area. Although the ‘Star’ has often played in the middle of the park, Kerry were dominated in that area in the second half. Withdrawing Bryan Sheehan and Johnny Buckley was puzzling in this regard. However starting the pair alongside Anthony Mahr, David Moran and the industrious Donnchadh Walsh could enforce Kerry’s advantage in that area.
Although Donaghy can be pleased with his overall performance, the other forwards that Kerry possess offer movement, pace and creativity. Last season this was Fitzmaurice’s preferred choice and only came to rely on Donaghy against Mayo, when the situation warranted his intervention. It is no means a criticism of Donaghy, but an acknowledgement that Kerry may be better suited to start the ‘Star’ from the bench. Indeed, despite much of the talk surrounding the strength of Kerry’s substitutes in the build up to the game, their bench did not have the impact imagined before throw in.
It might therefore be a far more beneficial approach to start a player who can change the dynamic of Kerry’s attacking play from the bench.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena