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Kerry need to cultivate a ruthless defensive culture

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by Adam Moynihan

Stephen O’Brien’s disallowed goal. Seán O’Shea’s pass to David Clifford. Peter Harte’s block on Killian Spillane. Paudie Clifford’s fisted effort. The rebound from Darragh Canavan’s shot. Jack Barry’s attempted clearance. Tommy Walsh’s final kick.

If any one of those individual moments had gone Kerry’s way, we could well be looking forward to an All-Ireland final next weekend.

But as fine as the margins were, the bottom line is that the performance itself was not good enough to get the job done, and no one will be feeling that sting as keenly as the players themselves, and the management. Where they are this week is a rough spot to be in. I suppose having people like me sifting through the wreckage of their broken dreams will do little to help in that regard.

This is Kerry, though. Standards are high (often unrealistically so), and that’s why we’re still on top of the honours list.

So, let us sift.

WANTING IT

During RTÉ’s coverage of the match, Pat Spillane said that Tyrone “wanted it more”. He even insisted that Cathal McShane scored his goal because he wanted to get to the rebound more than his marker, Jason Foley, did. With all due respect to Pat, who is one of the greatest Kerry players of all time, that, to my mind, is a truly abysmal piece of analysis.

First of all, to say that Jason Foley didn’t want to get to that loose ball as much as McShane did is ridiculous. The ball popped up directly to the Tyrone man and there was nothing Foley or anyone else could have done about it. “Wanting it” didn’t enter into the equation.

Spillane’s wider point about Tyrone wanting it more is nonsense too. Kerry put in a huge shift and they showed great heart to fight back from five down in ET to almost force penalties. Saying that a team didn’t want it as much as the opposition is effectively saying that they didn’t try hard enough.

I would like to see the look on the Kerry players’ faces if Spillane made his way down to the sideline during extra time and shouted, “Come on, lads! Try harder!”

CULTURE

What I will say is that the Tyrone team’s culture, particularly their defensive culture, allowed them to go to a place that Kerry simply could not. I firmly believe that Kerry gave their version of 100% effort without the ball, but their version of 100% is different to Tyrone’s. The Ulster champions were absolutely ravenous on Saturday, smothering Kerry’s ball-carriers and tackling with ferocious intensity.

(I must say, I thought the referee’s fairly lax enforcement of the laws of the game favoured the Red Hand in this regard. That sounds like sour grapes, and I suppose it is, but it was a factor on the day.)

This ferocity was the winning of the game for Tyrone. They all but nullified the threat of Kerry’s playmaker, Paudie Clifford (although Paudie kept battling and was influential during extra time), they forced turnover after turnover, and, ultimately, they kept a clean sheet. Seeing Tyrone aggressively repel Kerry at one end while cheap goals were shipped at the other probably prompted a lot of Kerry fans to think, “why can’t we do that?” And it could well be where Spillane was coming from with his comments.

It was not due to a lack of effort, though, or not caring. To my mind Kerry’s defensive problems boil down to not having (A) a defensive structure that’s fit for purpose and (B) the right defensive culture.

The former is a coaching issue and whoever is in charge of Kerry in 2022 needs to nail that down as quickly as possible.

The latter is more nebulous but, in short, it appears to me as though some of the players don’t revel in defending like players from the other top teams do. Runs from deep go unchecked or untracked. Holes are not plugged. Marks are not left on opposition dangermen. And there is a distinct absence of what can loosely be termed as the Dark Arts. This mindset of absolute ruthlessness has to come from the top down. I just don’t see enough evidence of it in this current Kerry team.

SPOILERS

The panel is overflowing with ballers, but there is a shortage of spoilers. Players who are willing to do anything, and I mean anything, to prevent the opposition from scoring. Tyrone seemed to have a panel full of those guys last weekend. They stopped runs at the source. They interrupted Kerry’s gameplan using any means necessary. They were cynical, and they rejoiced in that cynicism. They took joy from the notion that they might destroy their opposite number’s day and Kerry’s year.

Mayo have players like this who will step over the line if needs be. Dublin have them. Cork had them last November. Kerry don’t, and they don’t appear to have the culture in place that will promote or encourage these types of individuals either.

Until Kerry unearth a spoiler or two, or at least cultivate a culture that will motivate some of their players to spoil, they will always be susceptible to ambushes by teams who are, in pure footballing terms, inferior to them.

Engaging in the Dark Arts might not get you into Heaven but I would have thought that for a Kerry footballer, Heaven is sitting in a rural pub the Tuesday morning after an All-Ireland with Sam Maguire on the table staring up at you.

Sport

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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