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Kerry have had to shape up after being hit with a reality check: McGahan

 

Jason McGahan
Jason McGahan
John Campbell

By John Campbell

When Kerry's head of athletic performance Jason McGahan observed the team hit what he refers to as "a bit of form" towards the end of the Allianz League, his conviction grew that a place in the last four of the All-Ireland title race might not be beyond their compass.

On Sunday, Armagh man McGahan - he hails from Tullysaran a few miles outside the city and can see Tyrone from his family home's kitchen window - will be a somewhat anonymous yet important figure when the Kingdom bid to go one step further than he had originally anticipated.

He may prefer to dwell in the background, but McGahan has played a big part in nurturing the careers of a number of the Kerry players who have ignited the belief within their county that a re-acquaintance with 'Sam' is now possible sooner than many might have expected.

In his role as head of athletic performance, McGahan, who formerly worked alongside Cian O'Neill when he was manager of Kildare, has set new standards in terms of fitness and conditioning in Kerry.

Players who have responded positively to his demands have been rewarded with regular places in the side but are aware that McGahan is always prepared to set the bar even higher.

McGahan has watched Peter Keane's side take delivery of another Munster title and remain unbeaten in the Super8s, but he is quick to confirm that, far from basking in any element of complacency, Kerry were forced to undertake extra homework following their drawn game with Donegal.

"I think we learned more about ourselves in that game than in any other we have played this year," insisted McGahan.

"We conceded too many scores and we knew that we had to tighten up. Towards the end of the league we were getting some of our more experienced players back and this stood to us going into the Munster Championship, but when it got to the Super8s, Donegal asked questions of us."

The theory that Tyrone will make much bigger demands on Keane's side is certainly not without foundation, irrespective of the fact that Donegal ambushed Mickey Harte's side in the Ulster semi-final.

"While Kerry are regarded as an attacking side, we know that we have to keep our defensive house in order," pointed out McGahan.

"You simply cannot afford to concede scores against Tyrone. We know all about their counter-attacking skills and we obviously must counter this if we are to have any chance of winning the game.

"I think the way in which we played against Cork in the Munster final served us best, but obviously Peter Keane will have studied Tyrone in detail.

"If we can get the ball into our front line they have the potential to do damage, but at the same time Tyrone will be well set up for us, we know that. One thing is for sure - we can't afford to squander our chances.

"It is obvious that Tyrone have some excellent finishers in their side, players who can put away half-chances that can demoralise other teams.

"We have to be on our toes right from the outset."

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