Sean O’Sullivan: Kerry will be energised by prospect of Tyrone visit

By Niall Gartland

FORMER Kerry footballer Sean O’Sullivan doesn’t expect Sunday’s league encounter against Tyrone to bear much resemblance to last year’s one-sided All-Ireland SFC quarter-final clash at Croke Park.

The Kingdom eased to a surprisingly comfortable 2-18 to 0-12 victory against Tyrone last summer, a result out of kilter with recent games between the two teams.

Tyrone have won four of their last six matches against Kerry and their tails will surely be up after the manner of their dynamic second-half performance against Mayo last weekend.

Kerry by contrast will be smarting after a 3-18 to 1-14 defeat to Dublin, but four-time All-Ireland winner Sean O’Sullivan believes that a chance to score a second successive victory over Tyrone could reignite their league campaign.

O’Sullivan said: “Kerry played extremely well in the All-Ireland quarter-final last year, particularly in defence, but Tyrone weren’t their usual selves and I think their recent league meetings are probably a fairer reflection of where the two teams stand.

“Tyrone didn’t set the world alight in the first-half against Mayo but the introduction of Darren McCurry was massive – not only did he offer another threat inside but he took the pressure off Darrragh Canavan and allowed him to come into the game more.

“I think this Sunday represents a perfect chance for Kerry to bounce back. It’s their first league game in Killarney and there’s something special about it and the players love playing there. They’ll get a really good test against an in-form Tyrone forward line so it makes for a good game.”

Kerry fans will be looking for evidence of improvement after their bruising defeat to the Dubs last weekend. O’Sullivan was surprised at how open they were at the back but he isn’t in a rush to write off the season just yet.

“We’d seen a big improvement in our defensive set-up since Paddy Tally came on board but I thought we were very naive against Dublin. Dublin obviously played very well and Con O’Callaghan showed great cleverness and quick feet for his goals, but we were so far off it that it was incredible.

“It hasn’t sent alarm bells ringing just yet, maybe it was just a bad night at the office or maybe it was reflective of serious issues in the team, but we should know more come Sunday as it’s a vital league game for both teams.”

Midfield is arguably a problem area for Kerry now that David Moran has retired and Jack Barry has decided to take time out from the intercounty game. Their present midfield partnership aren’t lacking in talent but arguably aren’t as strong defensively as their predecessors.

“Diarmuid and Joe O’Connor are two very good midfielders but they’re very attack-minded. Joe scored 1-1 against Kerry but he didn’t have his best game on Brian Fenton. Jack Barry almost played as a second centre-half back at times while David Moran was good defensively as well. There’s a chance Jack O’Connor will look at the midfield partnership but at least we’re having these questions in February rather than later on in the year.”

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