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Kerry Have Hurdles To Jump But Will They Be Pipped At The Post?
When the fixture schedulers arranged the Tyrone v Kerry for Round 7 of the National League they surely could not have imagined just how important the game could turn out to be for the Kingdom. As it stands Kerry know defeat today would signal the end of their stay in division one of the National League and for a county with such a proud record of titles and success this would be seen as a huge disaster.
Eamon Fitzmaurice is in his first year of sole charge and his tenure began rather shakily with two defeats in their first pair of fixtures. Further defeats followed against Dublin and Donegal but since then they have steadied the ship and with the return of several key experienced players they have given themselves a shot at redemption. Today’s game is hugely important not just to Kerry but to their manager’s reputation and chances of being a success. Defeat today and relegation would seriously undermine his position and have a detrimental effect on team morale and spirit. Fitzmaurice must have been delighted to welcome back Donaghy, Cooper, Galvin and O’Sullivan but even he knows these players cannot go on forever. The team is getting older and the manager knows he needs to rebuild it and put his own stamp on the team and their style of football. A win against Tyrone would give the whole set up a huge boost in confidence and a sense of achievement even though they will have won nothing.
I doubt if an early April National League fixture in Kerry has ever attracted as much interest as this one has done both locally and in terms of the national press. The locals will certainly be watching and hoping their heroes can pull off the win and secure their place in the top flight of league football. The national press of course have been trying to build it up into something akin to the Hatfields and Mc Coys claiming that Dromid Pearses, Derrytresk, Cookstown, Finuge, Killarney and Brian Mc Guigan all have roles to play in today’s game. I can just imagine Declan O’Sullivan going toe to toe with Conor Gormley for a key ball and as the Carrickmore man meets him with a strong shoulder, O’Sullivan thinks to himself “I must show these wans from Derrytresk that I have not forgotten what that woman did to me with her handbag in Portlaoise.”
These petty little sub plots will play no role in the winning or losing of the match today. A very experienced Kerry team know that this is a must win game for them and as such will go into today’s game as hot favourites. They spent almost a week on a recent training camp abroad in preparation for the championship but you can be sure that they also gave considerable thought to this Sunday’s fixture and its importance to the reputation of Kerry football. Many of these players have played, and lost to Tyrone teams over the years in hugely important games. Today is a chance to show they have finally got the measure of Mickey Harte and his style of football. Last year’s win in Killarney was against a Tyrone team on their last legs while today could see them lay down a marker against a new and upcoming Red Hand team. This match will tell us much more about Fitzmaurice’s team and his chances of success as a manager than any game this year. Kerry are in a corner and are up against a hugely inexperienced Tyrone team who have already qualified for the semi finals of the league. In such circumstances only a fool would bet against them but when a 66/1 outsider can win the Grand National surely anything is possible in a two horse race.