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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 16 January, 2019
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5 talking points for Kerry ahead of today's All-Ireland final

Coping with the blanket, David Moran’s huge role and more big issues ahead of the big game.

1. Achievement of reaching the final

When Colm Cooper felt his cruciate knee ligaments snap underneath him last February, Kerry’s season looked doomed before it began. Add to that the spate of retirements of key figures Paul Galvin, Tomas O Sé and Eoin Brosnan and a poor start to the league where they lost their opening three games, and the achievement of reaching the final looks even more remarkable.

Kerry were supposed to be heavily dependent on the old guard of Declan O’Sullivan, Darran O’Sullivan and Bryan Sheehan, but instead Fitzmaurice has placed his faith in youth with massive rewards. Paul Murphy, Peter Crowley, David Moran, Michael Geaney, Paul Geaney have all stepped up to become key players in this Kerry side, while James O’Donoghue on current form is the most dangerous forward in the game.

Kieran Donaghy encourages his team-mates before the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. Coping with Donegal’s mass defence

The biggest test facing Kerry on Sunday is how they will cope with Donegal’s blanket defence. James O’Donoghue is in sublime form, but the manner in which Donegal completely nullified the impact of Bernard Brogan and Eoghan O’Gara must be a cause for worry for Fitzmaurice.

Kerry’s whole game plan to date has been by built around O’Donoghue, either by leaving him in oceans of space or stationing Kieran Donaghy beside him for a steady supply of ball. Its entirely possible neither strategy will work against Donegal’s defensive structure, so Kerry must work out a way to get ball into the Legion man’s hands in positions he can do damage.

An interesting point to note is that Donegal allowed Conor McManus, Jamie Clarke and Brogan just six shots between them from play in the last three games. It must be a major worry for Kerry.

Aaron Kernan surrounded Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

3. Dealing with high balls in defence

Kerry looked particularly vulnerable when it came to the high ball in the replay against Mayo. All three goals stemmed from a high delivery into the forward line and it’s an area McGuinness will no doubt target on Sunday.

He employed Neil Gallagher and Michael Murphy at full-forward for spells against Dublin while Colm McFadden generally operates inside, so an aerial assault could be on the cards for the Kingdom defence. Think back to Murphy’s early goal against Mayo in the 2012 final. Kerry will probably drop Aidan O’Mahony back to full-back to mind the house, in order to combat this threat.

David Moran Source: James Crombie/INPHO

4. David Moran’s huge task in midfield

After David Moran’s all conquering display in the win over Mayo, he faces a mammoth task on Sunday. Gallagher, Murphy, Kavanagh and MacNiallais will all feature around the middle for the Ulster champions. Gallagher and Murphy in particular were outstanding against the Dubs, completely nullifying their threat around the middle.

Kerry are reliant on Moran and his midfield partner Anthony Maher, to win primary possession in the middle third and deliver fast, quality ball into the forward line. A fascinating battle awaits.

Barry John Keane Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

5. Use of the bench

Kerry’s bench includes experience in depth. Declan O’Sullivan, Darran O’Sullivan, Bryan Sheehan and Kieran O’Leary all have plenty of big-game experience and have been around this squad for years, while Shane Enright, Michael Geaney and Barry John Keane have seen significant game time this term. And Jonathan Lyne came from nowhere in extra-time against Mayo to win the game for Kerry.

It’s probably the one area where the Munster champions have the clear upper hand over Donegal. Fitzmaurice used the bench to good effect in both games against Mayo, he’ll be hoping to do something similar on Sunday.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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