July 12, 2009 19:02 by Tony
ONE THING Jack O’Connor and the Kerry footballers won’t have to concern themselves with this week is undue expectation.
Saturday’s abysmal second half display at Pearse Park against a side relegated from Division Three of the National League raises so many questions that a week isn’t nearly long enough to even consider them.
Forget for a moment the injuries to Kieran Donaghy and Declan O’Sullivan. Of more concern was the attitude - lack of it, perhaps - and the embarrassing lack of leadership. It took the late introduction of Mike Quirke at midfield in the closing stages to provide the stability to see Kerry home.
It was one of the few managerial decisions that worked and yet the players have to look at themselves too. The Kerry management are only kidding themselves glorying in what happened in the first half - Longford were clearly Star-struck, in every sense of the word. But when questions were asked of players with big reputations, most didn’t have the stomach for it. Several players were guilty of turning over ball needlessly with a persistence that bordered on the arrogant. Many have argued that after five successive All-Ireland finals, the hunger is gone from this Kerry squad. All the evidence seemed to suggest as much.
Colm Cooper may not enjoy grafting out near the sidelines without Kieran Donaghy, but in a game where possession became critical to halt Longford’s momentum, it behoves truly great players to get down and dirty and secure the ball, if only to disrupt opposition momentum. He wasn’t alone. Some of his colleagues should hang their heads in shame at their inability and/or unwillingness to cope without Kieran Donaghy.
Can it be that the princes of gaelic football have become so tactically impotent that the sum total of their attacking arsenal is a crossfield diagonal ball for Donaghy? Is there even a Plan B for Plan A? If they are intent on playing the target man, has Mike Quirke or Darragh Ó Sé or even David Moran been prepped to fill in if and when Donaghy’s unavailable?
If the experience of Paul Galvin and Tadhg Kennelly return around the midfield fringes next Saturday against Sligo, and Declan O’Sullivan makes it back (he is critical to Kerry), then there has to be a serious shout for a Mike Quirke-Seamus Scanlon midfield, and employ Darragh Ó Sé at full forward. Or stick with Darragh and Scanlon in the middle, and give Quirke a pop at No 14. But wouldn’t it be better still to mix it up a bit, and employ a more comprehensive, less predictable game plan?
People talking about Darragh Ó Sé being finished aren’t far wrong, but if Kerry are to see Croke Park next month, they’ll need their veteran midfielder as fit as a man with his mileage can be. More importantly, they’ll need his resilience. Expect to see a greater role for Anthony Maher around midfield. David Moran’s more athletic, but he’s nowhere near as mentally strong as Ó Sé, and that’s what Kerry require at the moment. Strong, durable leaders.
There weren’t many in the famed green and gold against Longford.