Murphy expects Kerry and Tyrone to be a battle of styles
By Shane Stapleton
Diarmuid Murphy knows well the ferocity that Tyrone can bring to the table.
The former Kerry ‘keeper played a central in some classic clashes against the Red Hand County, twice coming out on the losing side in the 2005 and 2008 All-Ireland finals.
Declan O’Keeffe had stood between the sticks for the famous — or infamous, if you were to believe Pat Spillane’s protestations about “puke football” — semi-final of 2003.
Murphy, who became a selector under Jack O’Connor and then Eamonn Fitzmaurice, was also involved when the Kingdom got revenge in 2012 and 2015.
“It was great,” says Murphy of the rivalry. “At the time when you were playing, you take each game as it comes, and each year it came along we would have been really looking forward to those games because they were always big days: two semi-finals and a final.
“I played in 2005 and 2008, in ‘05 we were defending champions and, in 2008, we were going for three-in-a-row and they were great matches and occasions. Unfortunately, on those occasions, we came out on the wrong side but that’s how it goes sometimes.
“The 2005 game (1-16 to 2-10) was probably the best of the matches because they had won in ‘03 and we had won in ‘04 and it was good to see the two previous champions meeting.”
Murphy didn’t feel that there was too much of an extra edge just because Tyrone and Kerry were locking horns, or due to the talk of their rivalry in the noughties, because any team you played in championship was always going to be a tough challenge.
In fact, he goes as far as to say that there is no real baggage carried over from that era, and notes a huge turnover of players even from their last meeting in 2015.
“They have played some national league but they wouldn’t be all that relevant compared with what will happen on Sunday,” says the four-time All-Ireland winner. “So Kerry probably have more of a rivalry just now with the likes of Mayo who they have played more in recent years than Tyrone.
“People tend to look at games from ten or eleven years ago that have no relevance to this one.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s encounter, the Dingle man reckons this has all the hallmarks of another match to remember. “I think it’s going to be a great match,” the Dingle man adds. “I think it’s going to be very interesting because you’re going to see a little bit of a clash of styles.
“Tyrone seem to be gone back to a little bit more of a defensive style compared with what they have been trying to do in the league and early bits of the championship. They’re trying to get the balance between getting bodies back behind the ball and counter attacking quickly and kicking a little bit more ball into their full-forward line than they have in the past couple of years.
“I do think that will be key to the result, how Kerry manage that counterattack, and the likes of Cathal McShane, Mattie and Richie Donnelly, Peter Harte, and Niall Sludden. How they handle those and the defensive shape Kerry can get into when they do turn over the ball.
“I think that will be key on deciding the game. I think if Kerry get a handle on that, they do have the forward power, provided they stay patient when faced with the mass defence. Also get the runners through, force them long on kickouts, and generally have good movement in the forwards.
“If Kerry can get those sides of it right, I think they will win, but it is a 50-50 because Tyrone are so organised and they are now trying to marry it with a kicking style. I think it will be a great match and I’m looking forward to it being a brilliant game.”
The team that owns the ball will likely come out on top, and Kerry now have the option to go short to their quality footballers, or drive long to the likes of David Moran. Without that kickout platform, it can be difficult to gain a foothold against the top sides.
“David’s form has been very impressive so far, he’s really timed his run well this year,” says Murphy. “He’s one of the older lads now and one of the more experienced heads — I had always seen him as one of the young lads because he was coming on board when I was finishing, and we always viewed him in the younger bracket.
“But he is one of the more experienced players now and David is a great footballer. He’s in great shape for the time of year where we need him. He played very little in the league and rightly so, he has been very well handled by management and the medical boys.
“They seem to be getting him right for the right time and he’s a ball-winner for us out there, he’s a man. You would hope that if you’re under pressure, you can kick it out to him and he’ll at least break it down to one of our fellas, you know.
“It’s very important that we have someone there like that because when David doesn’t play, I think we lose a certain option out the field and that has to be part of your strategy because of the way teams are pushing out more than a few years ago, and trying to take away those shorter options.
“I think David will have a big role on Sunday and his general is really impressive, especially against Mayo and Meath, he’s linking the ball lovely and kicking the ball very well into our forwards.
“It doesn’t look much but it’s a really important part and he does it really well, so we’re in good shape out there if David stays fit and healthy for the full match.”