HomeFootballO'Sullivan: Kerry will win 'boring' if Armagh play safe

O’Sullivan: Kerry will win ‘boring’ if Armagh play safe

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Four-time All-Ireland winner Darran O’Sullivan doesn’t hesitate when asked for his impressions of Kerry’s display in their quarter-final grind against Derry.

“Boring,” is the former Kingdom forward’s summation of the 0-15 to 0-10 win.

Though with the caveat that Kerry were mostly playing the hand they were dealt by a tired Derry outfit hoping to hit them on the counter.

“They don’t mind being boring once they get the job done. It was awful to watch but they had to do what they had to.

“Could they have been braver? Definitely. But you can’t blame them for playing the way they did.

“If you put balls up for grabs, lose them and concede a goal, all of a sudden you’re forcing it. But that’s the way the game is played now. It’s a safer game, it’s all about not taking risks or creating turnovers and they did what they had to do.

“If they had taken chances and got beaten, we would have been moaning about that.”

Darran O’Sullivan was speaking at the launch of AIB’s Volunteer VIP competition

O’Sullivan fears a similar spectacle in Saturday’s first All-Ireland semi-final against Armagh but thinks a similarly defensive approach would only play into the favourites’ hands.

“I still find it amazing that teams think that they can beat Kerry playing like that,” he says.

“From hoping Kerry win an All-Ireland, that would be great, because I don’t think Armagh can beat them playing like that.

“Kerry are experienced enough, they’ll hold the ball for 5,10 minutes at a time if they have to. If Kerry are holding the ball, Armagh can’t hurt them.

“If Armagh are brave, they have the potential to cause Kerry problems. They have enough pace, power and footballers on the attacking side of the pitch. I think they have more threats all over the pitch [than Derry]. But it’s about being brave and taking risks and I’m just not sure that they’ll do that.

“I don’t see Kerry being as passive as they were against Derry. We didn’t get much of Seanie [O’Shea] or David or Paudie [the Cliffords], our three main players. I think they will be keen to be more involved and be more of a threat.

“I’d say [David] is feeling pretty bored. He’s probably a bit frustrated. He’s getting a lot of treatment off the ball. I can’t imagine it’s an enjoyable game for a forward to play in at the moment.

“I’m hoping Kerry are a bit braver and Armagh are too because we need a good game of football.”

Jack O’Connor is the joint-third most successful football manager with four All-Irelands

He doesn’t expect that to overly concern third-term manager Jack O’Connor though, whose sole objective is another All-Ireland title, regardless of whether the purists in football’s most successful county are satisfied.

“The simple fact is he is a winner,” says O’Sullivan, of the man who gave him his debut in 2005. “Jack doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.

“If they play the same style of football, and people don’t like it and they go on about it, and he wins, he won’t care. I think he has built that mentality into the Kerry lads, they have this patience and stubbornness, that they will do what they have to do.

“If it is free-flowing football, great, I’m sure that is the way he’d love to be playing. But he knows at the moment, that fortune doesn’t favour the brave, at times, and you have to be safe, and it has to be ugly. That is what he is willing to do,

“I think he is tough enough to take the criticism, that this isn’t what we want to see, but this is going to help Kerry win.”

“For me, just keeping players forward and not being able to go backwards with the ball would be a big help”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 2011 Footballer of the Year nominee is in favour of some change to the rules of Gaelic football, but he doesn’t think all of the proposals by the FRC are needed.

“We all love football and sometimes I didn’t even like talking about it because I don’t want to be negative. But unfortunately, the way the games have been, it’s hard to build them up.

“Some of the changes should help. For me, just keeping players forward and not being able to go backwards with the ball would be a big help.

“The thought of adding an extra point for a goal is great, it might encourage more people to go for it. Two points for a longer-range score, brilliant on paper but if you’re not good enough to kick a point from 40 yards for one point, it’s not going to make you good enough to do it for two.

“We have a good product, it’s just that every couple of years, a new system comes into place. What we need is a team to win the All-Ireland playing a more attractive style and other teams will want to do that. Like a group of copy cats, if you see somebody doing well playing a negative, defensive style, everybody thinks that’s the way to go.”

There will be familiar face among the opposition on Saturday. Kieran Donaghy retired a month before O’Sullivan in 2018 and is now one of the the Armagh selectors.

“He was an incredible teammate,” recalls O’Sullivan. “A very positive guy. From a players’ point of view, I think he is brilliant, a great guy to pull you aside to have a quiet word or a stern word, whatever it is. He has probably brought his personality into Armagh.

“He has a great mentality. He was playing up to last year himself, basketball, football, he has a great attitude. That rubs off on people. He has a great coaching brain, from playing with Kerry, playing with some great players and the basketball background.”

Armagh selector Kieran Donaghy before the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final match win over Roscommon

Tipping Donaghy as a possible long-term Kerry boss, O’Sullivan expects Saturday could be “an awkward enough occasion” for the 41-year-old.

“Going into this game we will see a quieter Kieran Donaghy. He might just sit down in the stands and not try to wind us Kerry people up. He has a job to do, he is fully committed to Armagh. He will be going up to try to get a win.

“I imagine his plan involves taking over Kerry at some stage. Whether that’s a long way down the line or not, I do think that all the coaching jobs he’s gone into since he finished playing have been with the intention of gaining as much experience as he could get.

“I’m sure the experience he has gained has been for the sole purpose of developing himself so that he could take the Kerry job in the future.

“Whether it’s coming straight after Jack, it might be too early. Personally, I think Éamonn Fitzmaurice will be the next guy in line. But I could be a million miles off with that as well.

“I do think his goal has been to gain experience with different types of coaching to further himself so that he can be in the best position to take over Kerry at some stage.”

Watch the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-finals, Armagh v Kerry (5.30pm on Saturday on RTÉ2) and Donegal v Galway (4pm on Sunday on RTÉ2). Both games available on RTÉ Player. Follow a live blog on rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app and listen to commentary on RTÉ Radio 1

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