Kerry manager Jack O'Connor expects tough test against Donegal
Kerry manager Jack O'Connor has admitted that facing Donegal will be one of the greatest challenges he has faced as a coach, and a real test for the fitness of what many describe as an aging squad.
Reacting to the draw that places his team against the Ulster champions, O'Connor commented, “I was at the All-Ireland semi-final last year (Donegal v Dublin) and it was Gaelic football as we'd never seen it before. But that's the huge challenge for us as coaches and management.
“(Jim) McGuinness has a fantastic system going there. They're an absolutely serious team, within a kick of a ball of getting to a final last year.
“It's a great challenge for us this week to plan our strategy for them. They have certainly moved the goalposts as regards strategy.”
Earlier this year, Jim McGuinness talked about his regard for Kerry, and how he truly fears their ability to alter their tactics on field, without requiring the direction of their coach.
When the two sides met in the league, Kerry cut Donegal open, hitting 2-16 to 1-8.
Their attacking play has been sharpened in recent weeks with fine victories over Tyrone and Clare, but O'Connor admits that the progression of Donegal, and their impressive levels of fitness, is a cause for concern.
“They've some outstanding footballers — Michael Murphy is probably the best full forward in the country at the moment — and they have massive reservoirs of fitness and strength build up, so we'll see how some of the older legs of some of our fellas deal with that. Lots of people are saying that when we get to Croke Park, it'll expose the legs, but we'll see about that.”
He continued, “We had a huge high last weekend (winning against Tyrone in Killarney) and we were afraid of what happened to us earlier in the year when we beat Dublin in Croke Park (during the National League programme) and then we were as flat as pancakes the following week in Tralee against Armagh.
“We know what's got us here — hard work — and we wanted to keep that momentum going.”
Meanwhile, the game will be shown on TV3, rather than RTÉ this weekend. It represents the first Sunday in August that RTÉ have not broadcast an important fixture in the GAA calendar, due the deal that the GAA struck back in November 2010, entitling TV3 to broadcast nine games in the Championship season.
In has also emerged that both Kerry and Donegal will wear alternative kit, because of a colour clash in the quarter-final.
In previous years, it has been common for Donegal to wear the Ulster colours of amber and black, such as when they faced Meath in Croke Park in 2002, but they will switch to their change strip of white shirt. Kerry will wear their blue jersey for the day.