Around the 40m line on the open terrace in Tralee, two feet frozen but the heart warming, we ticked off the little tests this new Kerry side were passing, one by one. Work-rate and support? Yes. Gameplan? Yes. Young lads standing up? Absolutely. Senior players reenergised? Definitely. Decision-making under pressure? Most of the time, writes Colm Cooper.
It was my first time seeing Peter Keane's new regime. Tralee in February is very different from Croke Park in August. And a Dublin side nowhere near full pelt still racked up twenty points. But the intensity, the want and the willingness of the Kerry players to run themselves to a standstill wasn't long firing me and every other local supporter up. We came with plenty of questions and left Austin Stack Park with lots of positives.
How would this new look, young Kerry side fare against a seasoned, clinical Dublin team? Encouragingly well as it transpired. The standout feature was Kerry's appetite and application for work. Those who had seen their first two wins over Tyrone and Cavan reckoned Keane and his management had set the team up very defensively. I didn't see it like that. They are working like dogs. They don't have a full-time extra man in defence. Diarmuid O'Connor hovered around midfield and Paul Murphy held his ground. But generally, they went man-for-man and filtered back when they didn't have the ball. Players aren't just concerning themselves with their own man, they are harassing, tackling and trying to smell danger. We haven't seen from Kerry in a while.
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