Kerry v Tyrone preview: Where the big game will be won and lost
Our Gaelic Games correspondent looks at the main players for Kerry and Tyrone and where the major battles will be won and lost in this fascinating semi-final showdown at Croke Park tomorrow.
Darren McCurry v Shane Enright
McCurry is sprightly and rapid, but on his day his finishing can be slightly erratic. He hit a goal under serious pressure against Donegal but his free-taking the same day let their neighbours off the hook. Since then, his accuracy has improved, and most importantly, he has his eye in for Croke Park. He will come up against a physical opponent in Shane Enright. Six foot tall and ‘all there’, the Tarbert man is an octopus of a defender. Previously known for giving away too many fouls, his work on the training field with trainer Cian O’Neill has produced results.
Sean Cavanagh v Paul Murphy
In the last meeting of these two counties, 2014 All-Star Murphy was able to bomb forward for two points from play. He already has a significant body of work behind him, such as snuffing out Ryan McHugh in last year’s All-Ireland final. Although he has been used as a corner-back, he is extremely comfortable following a roving brief and Eamonn Fitzmaurice may use him to torture Cavanagh. The obvious marking job would be to put Aidan O’Mahony on the Tyrone captain, and while this might periodically happen, memories of the 2008 All-Ireland final, and how Cavanagh dominated the tussle, might be enough to dissuade Fitzmaurice.
Justin McMahon v Kieran Donaghy
Mickey Harte appeared to rule Joe McMahon out of contention at their recent press night, but he has been named among the subs. Could he reprise his role against Donaghy from the 2008 final? The smart money is on Joe being introduced, while Justin takes on the marking job of Donaghy. The Kerry captain can be streaky in his form but there can be no denying his tendency to come alive on the biggest stages of all. The Tyrone fullback line will be peppered with ball and McMahon will be under serious pressure. This could be the defining match-up in the game.
Tyrone play a safety-first game, built on taking short kickouts and securing possession from Niall Morgan restarts, before working the ball through the lines. This ploy will be disrupted when Kerry push up to deny them space.
They aim to get strike runners Mattie Donnelly, Sean Cavanagh, Peter Harte and Tiernan McCann in possession to distort the opposition defence before they take a shot, or else manufacture a free kick if the tackling is not crisp enough.
Without the ball, they bring huge numbers back, forcing a turnover before swiftly transitioning to a counter attack.
Kerry will slow down Tyrone counter attacks by committing minor fouls — as witnessed in the league game in Omagh when the Kingdom committed 20 more fouls than Tyrone.
Manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has no qualms about using a massed defence, but in going forward, Kerry have more weapons than most.
Colm Cooper is an awesome playmaker and will look to utilise the height of Kieran Donaghy and the anticipation of James O’Donoghue underneath him in the full-forward line, while they will push up on Tyrone kickouts in an effort to force them into contesting the high ball.
The game in numbers - 5
Not since 2010 have Tyrone conquered Kerry, that victory in the National League. Since then, Kerry have beaten Tyrone twice in the league, drawn with them in Omagh this year, and won by 10 points in Killarney in a round three qualifier in 2012.
The man in the middle - Maurice Deegan (Laois)
Is there a danger that the negative publicity in the build-up to the game could affect how whistle-blower Deegan makes the big calls in this game? Certainly, the first sign of play-acting will come under serious scrutiny tomorrow. Needs to be aware of how Kerry disrupt the opposition attacks and they are undoubted masters of the ‘three-quarters foul’.