'Gooch' back for Kerry clash against Tipperary
KERRY are set to begin their defence of their All-Ireland title on Sunday, as they face an up-and-coming Tipperary team in the Munster SFC semi-final at Semple Stadium.
While 2014 Player of the Year, James O’Donoghue, has been named on the subs bench due to an ongoing injury problem that saw him miss the league, Colm Cooper's return has softened the blow.
Kerry’s highest every championship scorer will pull the strings at centre half-forward, with captain Kieran Donaghy and the promising Paul Geaney adding to a typically dangerous-looking Kerry attacking unit.
Only seven of the named team started against Donegal in last year’s All-Ireland final, and Kerry will need to guard against complacency if they’re to advance in their quest to win a third Munster championship in-a-row.
All-star midfielder David Moran misses out through injury, as does man of the match in last year’s All-Ireland final, wing-back Paul Murphy.
Aidan O’Mahony and the underrated Donnchadh Walsh also miss out, but it says something for Kerry’s strength in depth that a strong team has been named nonetheless.
Kerry only secured their position in Division 1 on the last day of the league against Tyrone, but it would be unwise to read too much into league form where Kerry are concerned, this or any other year.
For instance, Kerry had the worst defensive record in Division 1 but restricted Donegal to a mere 0-12 in last year’s decider, and in all likelihood Kerry’s main league priority was staying up.
A good performance against Tipperary, however, would be more suggestive of what to expect from Kerry this season, so it’s unlikely they will take the Premier County lightly.
The last time these two sides met in the championship - in 2013 - Kerry ran out 17-point winners. Yet Tipperary are being talked up on the back of remarkable progress at underage level as having the capacity of troubling the traditional Munster kingpins.
Most notably Tipperary won the All-Ireland minor final against Dublin in 2011, and last month came up a point short in the All-Ireland under-21 final against Tyrone.
Tipperary have named an unchanged team from the side that easily accounted for Waterford in the first round by 1-24 to 0-6. Under-21 star Steven O’Brien won May’s GAA-GPA Player of the Month award, and is named at midfield. His midfield partner, and captain of the side that lost to Tyrone, Colin O’Riordan, has also recovered from injury to take his place against Kerry.
Whether their underage success translates into success at a senior level remains to be seen. Last year saw some progress, losing to Cork in Munster by only two points and making it to the third round of the qualifiers, finally succumbing to Galway by a five-point margin in a high-scoring encounter.
However, while Tipperary football has undoubtedly been making progress, it is likely that, this year at least, Kerry will have the know-how, experience and skill to ensure their safe passage to yet another Munster final.