Crokes or Mid Kerry – its looks almost too close to call

garveylogo_web.jpgGarveys Supervalue County Senior Football Championship - Final
By Murt Murphy for kerrygaa.ie
The eagerly anticipated Garveys Supervalu County Senior Football Championship Final between marginal favourites Dr Crokes and Mid Kerry should turn out to be a cracking contest as both sides appear very evenly matched.


Dr Crokes are the County Champions and did so by beating Austin Stacks in last years decider in Tralee. Last year Crokes were beating all before and after them by wide margins. This year, they have just got across the winning line in both quarterfinals and semi finals by a solitary point.
Of course Dr Crokes have done amazingly well to make it to back to back finals as they have a much changed team from last year and they have been particularly hard hit in defence losing keeper Kieran Cremin, fullback Mike Moloney, wing back Shane Doolan and utility defender James Cahalane is also out injured. So considering such a player drain, considering the way they lost to Nemo Rangers in the Munster Club Final in late January and considering that they have come through what many would perceive the tougher side of the draw, then its some achievement that Crokes are in the final.

Mid Kerry were champions back in 2008 when they sensationally snatched victory with that Aidan O'Shea injury time penalty that broke O'Rahillys hearts. But Mid Kerry haven't a great record in Co Championships but when they do, they generally make them count. They have appeared in 9 county finals since 1965 and they have won four, '67, '71, '92 and 2008 and lost in '65, '72, '75,'78 and '90.
They have a lost a number of the 2008 winning team and a number of younger lads like Gavan O'Grady, Marcus Mangan, Brendan Delaney , Pa Kilkenny and Jerome Flynn have come on board.

So both sides have changes from their last Championship winning side but players like Eoin Brosnan, Colm Cooper, Kieran O'Leary for Crokes and Darran O'Sullivan, Donnchadh Walsh and Sean O'Sullivan for Mid Kerry ensure that both sides still contain big guns and all potential match winners.
Worryingly for Crokes they have not a good record in County Finals because since 1987- Crokes have appeared in nine county finals, winning just three!

So on Sunday it's a showdown between two fine sides who will play football and love the wide expanses of the Fitzgerald Stadium.

Dr Crokes despite losing a number of key players from last years, as stated particularly in defence, have just been winning this year, but winning tight games is something that Crokes may not have been good at in the past. However just look at Crokes path to the final, a tough trip to Gneeveguilla and that Colm Cooper goal, then back to the Con Keating Park and a massive performance to beat South Kerry. It did not get any easier because it was Stacks and repeat of last years final next and a point win and a Kieran O'Leary master class saw Crokes edge home by a point. Then, another close shave against a much improved West Kerry side in the semi final and another single point win, with O'Leary again doing the business.

So, Dr Crokes are in the final without Colm Cooper (due to ankle trouble) ever hitting top form, with a perceived weak fullback line and moderate Co League and Club Championship form.
But this is counterbalanced by the fact that Crokes have supplied five to the Kerry senior squad all year, and two players Johnny Buckley and Daithi Casey have been helping UCC to a Cork County Final win.

So what of opponents Mid Kerry- boosted by the outstanding form by most experts Player Of The Year Darran O'Sullivan who has been on fire all season, and the return to fitness of Sean O'Sullivan, they are worthy finalists.
They beat fancied Dingle in the opening round on a 0-12 to 0-8 scoreline and then went to Listowel and beat a useful enough Feale Rangers side 1-15 to 2-5 without a number of players including Donnchadh Walsh.
Then in the quarterfinal they hammered Club Champions Rathmore but then almost came a cropper against East Kerry, when it took a Gavin O'Grady extra time master class to get them home.

So without have space to do any detailed on tactical battles, I feel that Mid Kerry have strength up front, but could be vulnerable at the back. However Crokes full-back line is very vulnerable and the direct ball to Com Kerins might unhinge them.
One must balance that, by asking is their four better forwards, all potential match winners than Colm Cooper, Kieran O'Leary, Daithi Casey and Brian Looney?
So this is a final that could go either way but I feel that Crokes have a slight advantage at midfield, Johnny Buckley and Ambrose O'Donovan should have the legs on Mike Burke and possibly Brendan Delaney and if the four amigos get enough ball up front, then Crokes must be slight favourites.

Verdict; Dr Crokes by a whisker