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Forget ‘gegenpressing’ – defensive discipline and attack-minded forwards made the difference

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Some people might tell you that Kerry’s eye-catching performance last Saturday came about because of an overhaul in their tactical approach.

A certain outspoken pundit wrote that Kerry have “seen the light” by adopting a high-pressing defensive structure (‘gegenpressing’), a system which is aimed at regaining possession high up the field.

To be honest, I didn’t see much evidence of that in Tralee the last day. Certainly not in terms of formation. Yes, Kerry put the squeeze on Galway, but only in certain situations.

At times, Peter Keane's side had two men forward when they were defending. At times, they had one. But plenty of times they didn’t have any, and all of the forwards retreated behind Galway's 65, just as they did in that disastrous match against Cork. The fact that Kerry pushed up and put pressure on Bernard Power’s kickout was also cited as a key factor last weekend, the implication being that they didn’t do that against Cork. But they did.

For me, there were a few crucial differences between the previous outing and the Galway game.

DEFENCE

First of all, Kerry’s defensive discipline was excellent, which could not be said of their poor showing last November. Although they had plenty of bodies back against Cork, their opponents found it far too easy to punch holes. On a number of occasions runners weren’t tracked, which is criminal at this level. And even when Kerry’s defenders were in position to defend, they conceded far too many frees (even making allowances for the brutal conditions).

At one stage against Galway, Seán O’Shea was in a defensive situation, facing up an opponent. In the relative silence of an empty Austin Stack Park you could hear Peter Keane shouting, “Don’t buy anything! Don’t buy anything!” O’Shea stood his ground and didn’t commit himself – while still applying pressure – and ultimately he forced his man away from danger.

Across the board Kerry tracked, got into position, stood tall and, crucially, stayed disciplined. Half of Cork’s points came from frees on that awful night in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Galway only scored three frees, and one of those wasn’t scorable until it was brought forward when Paudie Clifford got involved with Damien Comer.

Galway’s forwards are potentially lethal on their day but through tenacious hard work and self-control, Kerry effectively silenced them throughout.

ATTACK

The second important factor in Kerry’s performance was the inclusion of Paul Geaney and Paudie Clifford in the forwards. The latter slotted in seamlessly on his first start, registering 1-2 and laying on several scores for his teammates.

Paudie is fiercely competitive and he’s also a very spiky character, which has earned him a bit of a reputation. But, for me, it was nice to see that he didn’t tone that down for the Kerry senior footballers. Some newcomers might keep the head down to some extent and let the experienced players take the lead but Paudie was his usual influential self, getting stuck in and doing plenty of talking. Kerry have been crying out for that bit of fire, although I’m sure Peter Keane will have gently reminded him to pick his battles (see the aforementioned incident with Comer, which cost Kerry a point).

Having Paudie on the half forward line makes a huge difference because his first instinct when he receives the ball is to get it in fast to the dangermen. His range of passing is superb and if a long diagonal into the brother is on, he’ll take that option a hundred times out of a hundred.

He also has the composure and guile to finish when he gets into scoring positions himself. Compare and contrast his goal against Galway with Brian Ó Beaglaoich’s missed opportunity against Cork. I don’t want to be too critical of Brian because anyone can miss a chance but it goes without saying that, statistically speaking, it’s better to have a natural forward bearing down on goal than a natural defender.

Incidentally, Ó Beaglaoich had a fine game against Galway at No. 2, so switching him back to the backs was a win-win.

Paul Geaney might not have set the world on fire the last day but I think there was enough evidence there to suggest that he can carve out a new role for himself out around the half forward line. Like Paudie Clifford, his first option is always a forward pass, and his kick passing is delightful. Teammates always said that Alan Shearer was one of the best crossers they ever played with because he knew exactly what kind of ball the attacker wanted. Another player in that mould, Harry Kane, also racks up the assists. A player like Geaney, who is better known as a finisher, could well fall into the same category.

And, truth be told, with David Clifford and Killian Spillane in the full forward line, and Tony Brosnan to come back in as well, Geaney might need to reinvent himself just to get a look-in.

Having ballers like Paudie Clifford and Geaney (and, of course, Seán O’Shea and Dara Moynihan) pinging balls into our inside forwards is a game-changer. Crucially, those attack-minded forwards are also willing to put in the hard yards going back the other direction.

HUNGER

As much everyone in the camp tried to play down the significance of this match, both before and after, it was clear that the players were very anxious to perform well. You could see it in their demeanour and how they reacted to the goals in particular. They wouldn’t be dishing out high fives and punching the air in a pre-season challenge match, let’s put it that way.

When Bernard Power failed to clear the 20-metre line with a second-half kickout, David Clifford celebrated like a hurler who had just won a free out. Last week, Paul Murphy spoke about a “savage hunger among the group”. On the evidence of last Saturday, he wasn’t lying. There certainly seemed to be a renewed sense of purpose about the team.

They won’t be getting carried away with themselves just yet (and we shouldn’t either), but it was a very encouraging first step.

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Séamus Moynihan tops Kerry manager poll ahead of Jack O’Connor and Peter Keane

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by Adam Moynihan

Although it now appears as though he could be a selector on the Stephen Stack ticket, four-time All-Ireland winner Séamus Moynihan has topped our ‘Next Kerry Manager’ poll by collecting over one-third of the overall vote.

Around 37% of respondents said that Moynihan should be the next Kerry boss with 23% of fans backing former manager Jack O’Connor. The team’s most recent bainisteoir, Peter Keane, received 18% of the votes.

Another former manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, is next in line on 10%, although it is believed that he is not willing to return to the fold due to work commitments.

In addition to the four main candidates mentioned above, readers were also invited to nominate their own preferred candidate. This open field threw up 16 more names with former Kerry and Dr Crokes manager Pat O’Shea the most popular entry. The Killarney man received around 3.5% of the vote.

Donie Buckley got roughly half as many votes as O’Shea, and the other prospective managers ended up with less than 1% each.

MOYNIHAN/STACK

Glenflesk native Moynihan enjoyed a glittering playing career for The Kingdom between 1992 and 2006, the highlight perhaps coming in the year 2000 when he captained his county to All-Ireland glory. He has since taken on coaching roles with his own club and with Fossa and was part of Darragh Ó Sé’s Kerry U21 management team in 2015.

It had been suggested that Monaghan’s defensive coach Donie Buckley would be part of the Moynihan ticket. Buckley was also a member of Peter Keane’s backroom team, but Keane relieved him of his duties in the early stages of the 2020 season.

However, after this survey was completed, Tony Leen of the Irish Examiner reported that Moynihan and Buckley are, indeed, part of the same ticket, but the manager’s name attached is that of current Killarney Legion boss Stephen Stack.

Stack himself had a long and distinguished playing career with The Kingdom and as a manager led Austin Stacks to the County Championship in 2014 and Legion to an East Kerry Championship in 2019.

The Listowel native is also rumoured to be calling on Dara Ó Cinnéide and Mickey Ned O’Sullivan as selectors, with Joe O’Connor filling the role of strength and conditioning coach.

Stack was not considered to be a realistic candidate at the time of the survey; he was one of the 14 managers who received less than 1% of the vote.

KERRY SUPPORTERS SURVEY

Q: Who should be the next manager of the Kerry senior football team?

Séamus Moynihan 36.7%

Jack O’Connor  23.4%

Peter Keane 18.1%

Eamonn Fitzmaurice 10%

Pat O’Shea 3.5%

Donie Buckley 1.6%

Others* 6.7%

(Carried out online on September 21/22. 431 respondents.)

*Mike Quirke, John Sugrue, Jim McGuinness, Jim Gavin, Jerry O’Sullivan, Maurice Fitzgerald, Tomás Ó Sé, Johnny Crowley, Stephen Stack, Kieran Donaghy, John Evans, Paul Galvin, Marc Ó Sé, Liam Kearns.

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Jordan’s new role with St Paul’s

By Sean Moriarty Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club. Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level. The High Jumper then switched […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club.

Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level.

The High Jumper then switched to track and field and qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics where he made history by becoming the first Kerry athlete to act as a flag bearer for an opening ceremony and lead an Irish team into an Olympic Stadium.

Now back home and preparing for the next Olympics in Paris, he has returned to his first love and will join the backroom staff at the local Division One basketball club ahead of their National League campaign which begins next month.

His father Jarlath Lee is head coach with St Paul’s.

“Jordan is joining us as our strength and conditioning coach,” Jarlath told the Killarney Advertiser.

INTERNATIONALS

Meanwhile, Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club National League team will have a distinctive feel to it this year after securing the services of three overseas players it for the season ahead.

The club’s biggest signing is Canadian professional Ben Miller. It was originally hoped that the former two-time Manitoba Player of the Year would play for the local side last season but the pandemic got in the way and the National League was never played. However, he did play two training games this time last year before returning to Canada until travel restrictions lifted.

“He is a good guy, very approachable and very good with the young members,” Jarlath said.

The club has also signed Bulgarian International Emilian Grudov.

The 20-year-old has already represented his home country at U16, 18 and 20 level.

“He is young, athletic and very good offensively,” added Lee.

The returning Lithuanian Dianius Varanaukus completes the club international line up for the 2020/21 season.

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