Danny Hughes: Kerry boss should show he's Keane to topple Dubs while Orchardmen can upset the Ulster applecart

Kerry have turned in some memorable performances this season already by manager Peter Keane seems intent on playing down their Championship chances

PUT yourself in the boots of the Tyrone players.

Anyone who has experienced the trip to Kerry or the south-west of Ireland will be testify to this long and arduous route.

To do it on the day of a game is far from ideal and, in normal times, the Tyrone squad will have left the day before and had a good evening and mornings rest behind them before playing one of the best teams in the country.

I am not explaining away Tyrone’s poor performance, however, you have to put the result into context.

Tyrone have been hammered before, even during the Mickey Harte era.

Believe it or not, if we accept that training, hydrating and resting appropriately are key to optimal sporting performance, sitting on a bus for six to seven hours before playing a high-intensity game certainly isn’t recommended.

Kerry took all their goal chances (possibly could have scored more) and aided by some very poor defending and positional play, the combination of all these factors culminated in a perfect storm for the Red Hands.

The Kingdom appear to be moving extremely well and they have a real fire in their bellies.

Although their earlier League fixture against Dublin ended in a draw, a great many Kerry supporters were left concerned after leaking four goals over 70 minutes to the Dubs.

Kerry won’t be playing a side like Dublin every week and it looks as if they won’t even be tested in the Munster Championship given Cork’s inconsistent form and Tipperary’s relegation to the fourth tier.

Given last season’s inconceivable elimination at the hands of the Rebels, it is win or bust for Peter Keane as Kerry manager.

Keane’s post match comments are becoming more farcical by the week and sometimes managers can talk their team down too much instead of just saying it how it is.

‘We were brilliant’ is enough and allow the assembled media to spin it as they see fit.

I have always felt that managers in general downplay performances for fear of giving future opponents an additional advantage in those ‘one per center’ mind games.

Cavan’s Mickey Graham will need to delve deep into his psychological reserves and experiences, especially those last season, as one can only assume the Cavan players will be a very demoralised and shaken bunch who will be playing their football in the lowest division next year.

The Breffnimen have only themselves to blame having been thoroughly warned this year that they were in jeopardy of going down.

Last weekend was a must-win game against Wicklow and by losing it, this has perhaps taken a bit of gloss of last season’s achievements.

Should they have wished to dispel the notion that the 2020 Anglo-Celt win was a fluke, the results to date this year will not provide much comfort.

Tyrone in the opening round is as hard an opening game as one can draw in the Ulster Championship.

Despite Tyrone’s own difficulties last weekend, I do not expect to see a repeat of the kind of results Cavan became synonymous with in 2020.

Then again, Cavan’s supporters will hope that history repeats itself. After all, the Breffnimen had a pretty wretched 2020 League campaign before making history just a few months later.

While Fermanagh appeared unlucky in the end to lose by five points to Offaly, Derry made sure on Saturday evening that they will be playing in Division Two next year with a great win against Limerick.

I have always held a soft spot for Derry.

I know how fanatical their supporters and clubs are and I have many friends from my college years I call loyal Oak Leafers.

Derry have always played football the right way and have been blessed with some of the greatest players in the game of any era.

It was imperative that Derry play at a higher standard and by securing promotion to Division Two, it is just as important to keep the momentum going and at a minimum, ensure that they never slip to those depressing levels witnessed in the recent past.

They will be interested observers when Down play Donegal in a couple of weeks, and Rory Gallagher will have them going into their game, whatever that outcome, with nothing to lose.

Of course, Donegal are clear favourites, but without Michael Murphy, they are not the same team.

This much was clear when Dublin defeated them last weekend without really getting into third gear.

Murphy is the most influential player on any team in the country so Down will be hoping they can take advantage should Murphy not make their opening fixture.

Down will take some confidence going into this fixture on the back of retaining their status in Division Two. If this was their primary goal and dare I say it, only goal this year, it is job done with a very good performance last Saturday, albeit against a poor Laois side.

Wins against Westmeath and now Laois were possible through a combination of another brilliant goalkeeping performance from Rory Burns for the second week in-a-row and the pragmatism of using the assets Down have splattered throughout the team in quick powerful runners.

Down have had to become a counter-attacking team as quite often a significant amount of their failings start and end around the midfield sector.

In the absence of dominant ball winners, pragmatism becomes necessary.

While no-one expects them to turn Donegal over in Newry, one hopes that the Mournemen will be competitive and make Donegal earn any win.

Two counties due to play each other in the Ulster Championship are celebrating strong finishes to the League for different reasons, Antrim and Armagh.

The Saffrons have deserved their promotion and for Enda McGinley it is a fantastic start to his inter-county management career, while Armagh will be relieved to have avoided relegation from Division One.

Some of the Armagh score-taking was once again superb and the Orchard County could arguably make an Ulster final this year should they carry this form into the Championship.

With both Donegal and Tyrone appearing slightly vulnerable last weekend, a common theme in patches thus far in the League for both teams, Armagh may see an opportunity to bring about a changing of the guard at the top of Ulster football.

There is no shortage of skill, talent nor commitment within the Armagh squad, all attributes typical of the Orchard management team's own playing careers.

If they keep it tight at the back, Armagh could well take the Anglo-Celt from Cavan, because I am certain of one thing - Cavan certainly won’t be keeping it.

Monaghan haven’t gone away you know either.

The biggest compliment I can give them is their warrior spirit.

They have some class players but overwhelming their spirit is their greatest asset.

And as Cavan demonstrated spirit can take you to dreamy heights and, without it, bottomless holes.


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