GAA Football

Pundit Watch: Stephen O'Brien gazumps Cathal McShane in Pat Spillane's affections

Kerry's Stephen O'Brien wheels away in celebration after his goal in yesterday's All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park Picture by Séamus Loughran
Pádraig Ó Meiscill

WHAT a difference half-an-hour makes. At half-time in yesterday's All-Ireland SFC semi-final, there was stacks of praise for Tyrone in the RTÉ studio and plenty of criticism of Kerry.

Come the final whistle, the opposite was the case as Mickey Harte's men succumbed to a Kingdom surge and spared themselves the bother of having to make up the numbers for Dublin's coronation ceremony on September 1.

At the interval, Cathal McShane was the twinkle in Pat Spillane's Kerry eye: “Tyrone came with a brilliant tactical plan, they've set up defensively and Kerry can't counteract that, but I highlighted their attacking plan this year, their kicking game and the use of their two-man full-forward line, in particular Cathal McShane for the outlet ball,” he said.

“The full-forward line here have got five points from play, look at the movement from McShane, a lesson for any youngster, he's giving Jason Foley a torrid time. Now, I have sympathy for the Kerry full-back line because, as you can see… Kerry are trying to play a sweeper system with Paul Murphy.

“Tyrone have given a masterclass in tactics in the first-half and they're by far the dominant team.”

However, by full-time, Stephen O'Brien had replaced McShane in Spillane's affections, which was just as well given that they hail from the same south Kerry redoubt.

“Kerry brought more intensity, got more energy, the substitutions – Jack Sherwood brought more power and pace, Tommy Walsh was a brilliant target man, a great outlet for the ball,” the nine-time Allstar told Joanne Cantwell.

“Stephen O'Brien was outstanding Joanne. I think I told you at the start of the game, what they really worked on at the start of the game – because Stephen is from Kenmare, I know Stephen from a young age – if he had a fault, it was the head went down and he ran into trouble. They've got that out of him.

“The key is they've worked on Stephen's finishing and Stephen's finishing this year – he was always a great finisher for goals but his point taking wasn't great – but now he's rattling points as well. That's the difference.”

Spillane was also succinct in his summation of how the game turned and why: “It's very simple, it's a role reversal,” he added.

“The scoring efficiency from the first-half came from Tyrone, in the second-half it came from Kerry. Tyrone in this [second] half went from an efficiency of 75 per cent to 60 per cent. Kerry's scoring efficiency in the first-half was 36 per cent; in the second-half, Kerry's scoring efficiency was 82 per cent.

“At the start, I said Kerry had more match-winning forwards - David Clifford, five points, four from play; Paul Geaney, three points; Stephen O'Brien, 1-2. Cathal McShane was really, the entire game, the only scoring threat that Tyrone had.”

O'Brien & Co will now be dusting the red carpet down to roll it out for Dublin while McShane puts his feet up.

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