Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Kerry are not the golden boys any more

Kerry have long since prided themselves on being the acknowledged aristocrats of gaelic football - and with good reason too.

Their proud record of All Ireland titles, the grace and artistry they have brought to the Croke Park table time and time again and their penchant for producing superbly gifted individual players as well as hugely successful teams has afforded the county iconic status.

But in more recent times Kerrry have lost some of their gloss.

The manner in which Armagh and Tyrone in particular thwarted the Kingdom in their bid to land the All Ireland titles in 2002 and 2003 appeared to impact severely on their morale.

The upshot was that Kerry adopted a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ mantra and subsequently became more obsessed with defensive awareness and stifling tactics. Their approach would now appear to have been ‘embellished’ by a dollop of cynicism.

And this was rather too much in evidence at Croke Park on Sunday last when the Kingdom were almost overhauled by Cork in the frenetic closing stages of their semi-final.

Aidan O’Mahony’s theatrics in particular when he received the mildest tap on the cheek from Donnacha O’Connor vividly illustrated Kerry’s darker side. O’Mahony was booked in the first-half of the Munster final against Cork - and was anonymous afterwards when the Leesiders ran riot.

And he incurred another yellow card against Cork last Sunday before conceding the last-gasp penalty from which John Hayes salvaged a draw for Cork. Why he was not given a second yellow card and then a red remains a mystery.

No wonder anxious GAA President Nickey Brennan has been quick to urge the immediate ending of cynicism.

“There have been a number of incidents this year that have left a lot to be desired,” admitted Brennan.

“I’d say on reflection some of the players involved might feel embarrassed about that. There’s no point in saying otherwise. I’m not getting into specific cases, but players have a responsibility to each other.

"I smile when I hear people saying the GAA is trying to take the physicality out of the games. That’s nonsense; over the last couple of weekends we’ve had some good, physical encounters, but at times stuff is creeping in we could frankly do without.”

It is surely no coincidence that his remarks come in the aftermath of Sunday’s game. The hope is that he won’t have to repeat them even more forcibly following Sunday’s semi-finals bonanza.

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