EX-KERRY FOOTBALLER Killian Burns believes Kieran Donaghy was one of the key men in the side’s victory over Tyrone at the weekend.
Burns also says the player was out of form earlier in the season, owing to the lack of direction he received from the Kerry management team, but feels the forward is now back to his best.
“I think Donaghy seems to be given direction,” he explains. “He seemed to be at sea a little bit and that’s down to clear direction from management. Maybe Jack is trying to figure out, I felt, and I think Kerry fans felt, he was in no man’s land for the last 12 months. He seemed to be given this free reign, but he actually needs to be given direction.”
The ex-Kerry defender says that the level of understanding that exists between Donaghy and Colm Cooper could lead to a potentially formidable partnership.
“He works best with his style of player, and that’s the Gooch, they seem to be on the same wavelength,” he says. “They have a kind of a basketball edge to them. He knows how to pat down the ball, he knows where the Gooch is going to be.
“They seemed to work well together. If they can reignite that magic that they had that’s a really potent force for us and a real worry for the future teams to look at.”
Another source of Kerry’s success at the weekend, according to Burns, was the aggressive style they adopted – an approach which hasn’t always been so evident in their play.
“It was absolutely hard edged stuff, the defence, but it was disciplined. I have never seen Kerry play such hard edged stuff. There were some hard belts going in there which were typically coming from Tyrone in the past.”
He continues: “I thought it was very obvious what was going on in Kerry. They were told pretty much to stop them on the 21-yard line. Do not allow them to get possession from short kick outs and if they do get possession, bang them hard with a number one and number two tackle, and keep them there from having options.
“I thought we Tyroned them in many respects, we just did not allow them any time on the ball. By the time they managed to even get it beyond midfield, there was two lines of Kerry defence there.”
And as for the recent announcement of details regarding the All-Ireland SFC round four qualifier ties, Burns believes Kerry will be satisfied with the outcome. They have been paired with Clare, but Burns cites the venue in particular as being important to their hopes of progressing.
“I just think everyone would agree Kerry don’t like going halfway up the country, they either like going to Dublin or not, and they like to play teams – they have respect for all teams and approach them all with professionalism, however a team that’s on the road as long as this one, they actually need something, that little tweak of what happened the year before and the need to be a top three or four team to really wake from their slumber.
“So in many respects they got the absolute ideal draw on Monday morning, the easier route to Croke Park, and that’s the reality, that’s what they thought.”
And while emphasising the favourable nature of the draw and praising their performance at the weekend, Burns still has some reservations about the Kerry squad.
“It will be wide open then. We could get Cork after that. Then it will turn back on Cork. It’s actually going back on the other teams now, when we consider where Kerry are at.
“I think a lot of people fell into the trap of saying are they on the way out, and in fairness I’ll be honest, we haven’t come quite full circle yet. There are lads in their late 20s and they are still brilliant players.
“I think we need all those players to be fit and able. The problem is we don’t have that huge backup in defence and the strain is going to come on the lads after a decade or more on the go.”
But while they may lack the strength in depth that other squads possess, the Kerry side’s confidence at the moment is as high as ever.
“The reality is they will feel they absolutely have enough in the tank to do it, but they’ll also feel really buoyed up by what they have. They’ll feel their championship has just began, and the brilliant thing is a few marquee players have now thrown off the shackles, a bit of form.”
Consequently, in light of this renewed confidence, Burns indicates the fear factor associated with Kerry has returned.
“Every facet of the game the last day they excelled, so they are definitely back on the agenda for the remaining teams now.”
Killian Burns was speaking at the The Football Review Committee Website Launch in Croke Park.