Meath kept themselves in the game for their usual 55 minutes last time out, but I don’t really think Kerry or Peter Keane will have learned a lot from the game in Navan.
It was more a case that Kerry had to make sure their minds were right for it and they were.
There were one or two openings in the Kerry backline that when they analyse it, they’ll realise that Tyrone won’t be as forgiving this weekend as Meath were.
The only worrying thing for Kerry is you just don’t know what Tyrone have, given that they got to play a ‘B’ side against Dublin last week. Tyrone will be fresh and there’s a bit of a fear of the unknown there.
Double-edged sword for Tyrone
Tyrone are facing a double-edged sword against Kerry on Sunday.
If you watched their match with Cork, Mickey Harte was holding a trump card in his back pocket before that game, but was forced to play it that day. He had been keeping Mattie Donnelly out in the half-forward line, but given the damage Cork did to them in the first half, he had to move Donnelly into the full-forwards and that paid dividends.
But, teams are well aware of that move now, and have had a chance to study it.
If Tyrone use a sweeper and drop Colm Cavanagh back in, that will suit Kerry because they’ve dealt with that kind of system in the Donegal and Meath games. You’ll always find space in Croke Park too.
Look what Dublin did to Tyrone in the All-Ireland final last year. The way to beat that defensive system is to keep the play as wide as possible, Dublin hugged the touchlines in that game.
I’ve no doubt Donie Buckley for Kerry will have done his analysis and he’ll have seen that.
On the other side, Tyrone have got forwards to hurt Kerry. Mattie Donnelly, Cathal McShane and Peter Harte are three big players.
But, have Kerry three backs to mark them? I believe they have. So, if you manage them well and with Colm Cavanagh as a seventh defender, that will play into Kerry’s hands all day long.
I doubt Mickey Harte will go 15-on-15 either, because if he leaves David Clifford, Paul Geaney and Stephen O’Brien in man-to-man contests, there’s only going to be one winner of the game.
There’s a weakness in that Tyrone defence all year, Donegal showed it up big time and totally exposed them.
I do feel like Tyrone have geared their whole year for this game, in order to get themselves back into an All-Ireland final. Watching last week’s game, they could have beaten Dublin, either in the actual match itself or by fielding a stronger team.
It leads me to ask the question, why didn’t they try to win it?
It looks like they chose to play Kerry over Mayo. They must feel like they’ll play Dublin again and they didn’t want to show a full hand to Jim Gavin in the Super 8 tie.
Tyrone rivalry can be nasty, but the respect is there
It can bitter at times with Tyrone, but it’s a healthy rivalry one too – if those two things can co-exist!
Sean Cavanagh may have been giving out about our supporters earlier in the year, but there is actually a huge respect there. I’ve hung out with Owen Mulligan socially and we get on great.
But on the pitch, it’s always a different story.
You do not step back from each other, you don’t want to give as much as a yard and you, especially, don’t want to lose the match. Tyrone won the games in the 00s, but we got that monkey off our backs in 2012.
However, a lot of the players from my generation have moved on. This is a new group and they don’t know what it is like to be beaten by Tyrone in Championship. Most of this group will have only won against Tyrone and that’s good for Kerry.
Super Sean and Classy Clifford
Sean O’Shea is a marked man these days, that’s hard for any player – especially a 21-year-old.
There’s always going to be lads that you pinpoint in the opposition before games and Sean O’Shea is one of those. He was just supreme in Navan the last day though. His free-taking was immaculate and his second-half goal was sublime skill.
From a Kerry point of view, now is the time you want to see him coming into form, not the start of the year. I’ve no doubt Tyrone will have a plan for him though.
It’s a massive boost to have David Clifford available too because he’s someone Tyrone will have to mark as well.
Most teams – outside of Dublin – have only two or three really good forwards, but when you have Paul Geaney, Clifford and someone like a Stephen O’Brien in the forwards, it makes it a hard day for a team that uses a sweeper.
Tyrone may have to look at a double sweeper, which is quite possible.
Clifford is one of those players that can create something from nothing and he can always do something unexpected with the ball. Mickey Harte will probably want to rough him up to see what he has, but he’s a big unit and no shrinking violet.
Clifford is a big addition because he sees things a yard ahead of other players.
I remember the day with beat Tyrone in the Qualifiers very clearly, the week before they had won well.
Owen Mulligan had got Man of the Match in a few games leading up to it too – averaging four or five points a match. That played right into my hands!
I forgot about my own game and I just wanted to mark him out of it. He’ll be honest enough to say to you that’s the way things unfolded.
There was so much talk before the tie and we just couldn’t lose to them in Killarney.
We were ready that day, but you’d have huge respect for them after the match, and especially a player like Owen Mulligan. Even though Tyrone lost, he stayed down in Killarney that night and bloody won the Spa GAA lotto after the game! Always a winner that fella!
Sean Cavanagh may have found Kerry fans a bit “patronising” that day, but all I remember was their outpouring of emotion towards Mickey Harte.
He was going through a very difficult family time back then and to me, it was amazing to see how the Kerry public treated him and his team after the match.
They clapped Tyrone back onto the bus and that was all for Harte.
It just showed what the GAA means to people and what it is all about. We all respect Mickey Harte down in Kerry, that will never change.