Clare’s fitness levels, scoring rate and mobility around the middle third have been pinpointed by Kerry manager Peter Keane as the key areas to tackle the Banner County in the quarter-final of the Munster SFC on Saturday.
In the world of gaelic football, facing Kerry is viewed as a death sentence for Clare and one they have been repeatedly been given due to the structure of the provincial championship which has ordinarily given the Kingdom and Cork an automatic passage to the semi-finals.
When Clare last won the Munster SFC, they famously beat Kerry in Limerick in 1992 as cows of the county had to go for a week without being milked or so Marty Morrissey would have you believe.
This fixture may be one Kerry have not lost in almost three decades but previous encounters will count for little once the ball is thrown-in on Saturday evening. “It is about winning, you have a game and would you rather win by a point or lose by a point, you win the game, that is the key going in on Saturday, the past is the past whether that is 20 or 30 years. We’re going here, it is a one-off game in the second year of a pandemic but a year without a backdoor, you’ve no safety net,” Keane flagged.
Responding to a query from one Kerry journalist at a press conference ahead of the game which posed the question should Keane’s charges “be putting up a big statement and putting Clare to the sword pretty comfortably as Dublin would do to a lot of teams in Leinster”, it reminded the businessman of an old tale.
“We had a chef working in the hotel for us years ago, he often told me a story about the fella walking along the pier and there was a fella inside the water shouting ‘help help help’, your man says ‘would you rather be nearly saved or nearly drowned’, naturally your man says ‘nearly saved’ so he says ‘good night to you I’m going home’. If he said nearly drowned he would have thrown in the lifebuoy. I’d certainly rather be nearly drowned than nearly saved,” he commented.
Keane added, “In Cork we lost because of a last minute goal, you’re asking me if we should be giving a massacre to a team, you take one game at a time, we have one game coming up and that is what it is all about whether it is a point, two points or three points, we will take it but the priority is to get over that game”.
This two point loss drew plenty of criticism in Kerry footballing circles but it taught a valuable lesson. “You’re definitely on a high-wire here, there is no safety net here with no backdoor, it is killed or be killed on the day”. He added, “There appeared to be a lot of criticism after the game, there was a feeling that we set out over defensively, I wouldn’t necessarily go along with that but you take different approaches to different games, in 2019 we went at teams and we did that again in 2020, we’re going at teams again in 2021 where we can. Sometimes you have to mix and match, tactics change all the time”.
Displays from the Banner in this year’s League have the three-time All-Ireland MFC winning manager well versed on the challenge that awaits this weekend. “If you look at them and Colm has been with them since 2014, he has put a very good together, a very good style of play together and a very good management structure there. You can see there is great fitness in them, they kicked 2-18 against a team that played in the All-Ireland final last year, in the game prior to that they kicked 1-18 against a team that beat us last year, we’re expecting a huge battle here, they are kicking big scores, they are tough, tenacious and very fit, they will have got a lot of momentum and experience from the run that they’ve had. We’re expecting a big challenge next weekend”.
“I think they are very strong in the middle of the field, they have great mobility around the middle eight and obviously David Tubridy is a beautiful player, he is a really nice kicker, they have really good footballers, it is something that has really struck me looking at the couple of clips I’ve seen”.