Geaney: ‘People might be surprised at how good Kerry are in the tackle this year’

WHEN THE KERRY team to face Clare was announced last night, the full-forward line had a formidable look to it.

Peter Keane named potent scorers David Clifford, Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue as his three inside attackers for tomorrow’s Munster semi-final.

O’Donoghue has struggled with injuries since his outstanding Footballer of the Year campaign of 2014, but remains an excellent talent.

If he can stay fit and string together a run of games, there are few defences in the country capable of dealing with the scoring power of that trio, while Tommy Walsh provides Keane with an aerial threat off the bench.

Geaney, Clifford and O’Donoghue are all versatile players, with the latter two well capable of dropping deep and acting as creators as well as scorers.

“If it is David and James either side of me, I could play one role with them one day and a different role the next day just because the way the game is developing in front of you,” says Geaney of his partnership with Clifford and O’Donoghue.

They’re the same, they’re fairly open to playing different roles. David can play full-forward and so can James and both of them can go out to the 40 and win ball there or pass ball in.

“As it is, we’re developing our tackling a lot and they’re getting better at tackling as I am. We’re going well on all those facets of the game.

“Usually, we just play the game that’s in front of us rather than playing a certain way for each other. That just happens.

“If it’s Tommy inside full-forward, I’m just slipping out to the corner and playing the corner-forward’s role rather than full-forward so that’s just me changing to a corner-forward, it’s easy enough.”

Kerry’s David Clifford and James O’Donoghue ahead of ther league final against Mayo.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With Donie Buckley on board this year as coach, Geaney says the Kingdom forwards and squad as a whole have spent a good deal of time working on their tackling in recent months.

Buckley was often credited as being the brains behind Mayo’s high-pressing game in over the past few seasons. He left the Connacht side during the winter and was quickly snapped up by Keane after his appointment as Kerry boss.

“We’ve done a lot of work, a lot of technique work and there’s been huge improvements this year, I can see it already,” explains Geaney. “We’re not leaving lazy hands in anymore.

“Obviously, there’s going to be the odd time you foul intentionally and then sometimes you’re just caught fouling but there’s been massive leaps in the tackling with Donie’s drills and the emphasis he puts on the tackle.

You could see it in Mayo how good they were in the tackle over the last few years, that was all Donie. Well, I would imagine that was all Donie with the amount of work he does on it.

“Hopefully we can carry that out in the championship and bring that technique to games where sometimes before we’ve been caught guilty and conceding scorable frees that have cost us or not turning over enough ball in the forward line that is making you dangerous up front,” he continues.

“Hopefully, we can bring those techniques we’re doing in sessions into games. I think we will because it’s very visible to me how much we’ve improved in the tackle. I think people might be surprised at how good Kerry are in the tackle this year. ”

The statistics show that turnovers in attack lead to high percentage scoring chances and Geaney believes it’s an area Kerry where have improved greatly in the lead-up to the championship.

“It’s like any skill, it’s just the repetition of it. There’s no doubt we did tackling lots of times before but it’s just a repetition of the technique and repetition of your stance.

It’s like boxing, being conscious of it all the time and making it a focal point rather than an also, ‘Ah we have to tackle too’.

“You have to tackle and you have to do whatever else. I think it will be very evident in us this year, the work we put into the tackle,” he adds.

“The time teams are probably least likely to be conscious of being attacked is when they have the ball. Once a team gets turned over you can see how long it takes for the mindset to change from attack to defence so if you do that in the back line, it’s easy to attack because everyone is going to shoot forward.

Kingdom coach Donie Buckley

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

” Whereas, how many guys on the opposition team are going to turn around and shoot back? Even if you are a back, it’s probably less likely. There’s scores to be got if you turnover up front, everyone knows that. Implementing it then is the thing.”

Keane named four debutants to start tomorrow, showing faith with the youngsters who impressed during their run to the league final.

While Geaney is confident Kerry will deliver All-Ireland titles over the next decade with all the talent coming through, the 28-year-old holds a shorter-term view.

I think if the talent is there then you can be going straight away, and the talent is there. But it’s about getting the mix right and getting everything else right.

“There’s a lot of moving parts and it’s not about just going out and scoring, you have to defend and making sure you’re not conceding. There’s so many different things, kick-outs, restarts, midfield battles and match-ups as well.

“There’s a lot to go into the mix. If it was just talent versus talent of course you’d expect you could beat anyone but that’s not the way it works unfortunately. There’s a lot of hard work in the meantime and luck and all the rest.

“I would see Kerry back winning All-Irelands of course, when that will be I’m not sure I’d hope it’s sooner rather than later. The clock is ticking on our older guys at the moment so you’d be hoping it’ll be sooner rather than later.”

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