Paul Geaney eager to show his best hasn’t gone west

In this An appearance on the Irish Examiner podcast that all but brought down the government, Jack O’Connor’s assessment of Paul Geaney’s role with Kerry last season was far more pointed and informative than the attention it received.

O’Connor, typically outspoken, thought employing Geaney as a half-forward was not the optimal use of the 30-year-old’s legs and attacking mind. That a high-end poacher like the Dingle man shouldn’t make his way through the grasslands, even if – as it seemed at the start of last season – he was designed to improve Geaney’s fitness.

Whatever the reason, a sign it won’t be replicated in 2022. O’Connor sounds as good as his podcast comments that Geaney is better employed at the tip of the spear if his McGrath Cup appearances are any indicator. reliable of things to come. .

“Paul Geaney in his prime was a good corner hitter,” O’Connor told host Paul Rouse. “(Against Tyrone) he played in the half-forward line. I didn’t see the logic in that, to be honest with you. I don’t think he has the engine for that kind of middle-third action. I don’t think Kerry positioned his forwards as well as they could have.

The fact that the conversation was about Geaney’s “heyday” only added to the impression of a man who should be in a hurry in 2022, of a clock ticking too fast. This week’s confirmation that James O’Donoghue will not be seen again in green and gold means Geaney, who turns 31, and Stephen O’Brien, 31 next month, are Kerry’s high-mileage forwards. O’Brien suffered an early injury in last weekend’s McGrath Cup final victory in Killarney, but Geaney played every minute.

For all the exciting young guns at his disposal, Jack O’Connor needs Geaney to go the distance in 2022, to stay fit and shoot well. Indeed, his form is one of many interconnected poses as the manager begins a third term at the helm in his home county.

Jack is a master at reversing convention, but Geaney also knows he has to toe the inside line for himself and for Kerry. Leaving out David Clifford – a tough one, admittedly – ​​and Geaney is the only real focal point in the inside line, short of throwing a midfielder in there. Killian Spillane, Tony Brosnan, Dara Moynihan and even Paudie Clifford can canter and occupy defenders as well as most, but they invariably play against someone. Geaney is a very important piece of glue for Kerry’s offense. He is also good above his head.

Kerry’s David Clifford and Paul Geaney celebrate after the McGrath Cup final victory over Cork. Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane

It’s been a weird few years for him, plagued by stuttering appearances and injury issues and for those reasons he looked a yard and a foot or two wide from his razor best over the course of of the period. The way O’Brien and himself squandered the mere chance of a goal in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone was not something Geaney would have been guilty of. He would have buried the chance himself, one suspects.

In the 2016 and 2017 campaigns, he was among the nation’s top strikers – one of the few to do himself justice in both semi-finals against Mayo in 2017. Some forget that Geaney has been a consistent striker for Kerry during a decade and more and was an All-Ireland goalscorer and eventual winner eight seasons ago.

He just turned 31, but back/hamstring issues have denied him the consistent playing time a high-mileage body needs. He missed Kerry’s calamitous 2020 exit to Cork and by the time he reappeared in the 2021 League it was as a 12. Although he dipped in and out of the inside line in a fluid formation, it was clear to many that running around the middle third of the field was not his game. Jack wasn’t wrong.

Released into his natural habitat on his return in the autumn to Dingle, he delivered one of his sharpest, if brief, Championship campaigns for Town with ten points from two games, half of which came in play.

Last Saturday, wearing and playing the No.14, he was a sharp and capable focal point of Kerry’s attack as they fired the Cork defenders east and west. Geaney finished the afternoon as the game’s top scorer with 1-4 to his name. His move created a simple opening for Tom O’Sullivan for the first goal. He danced around Cork coverage to claim the second goal for himself.

Starting on Sunday in Newbridge and with Dublin arriving at Tralee six days later, the Allianz League could provide a closer look at Geaney’s suitability to share the lead inside role with David Clifford this season. . By common consent, Jack O’Connor has the deepest and most talented squad in the country with a plethora of attacking personnel and formations to choose from. Finding the perfect cocktail is the trick.

Can Geaney and David Clifford operate in the same inside line? Does it require someone who feeds fast and buzzing from one of them. Could Kerry go all out with an inside three? For all of their attacking starlets, the Kingdom’s stock of experienced inside forwards who can play with their backs to goal is limited – and for all of football’s cutting-edge designs, they remain a fundamental piece of artillery.

Míchéal Martin from Cork and Paul Geaney from Kerry.  Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Míchéal Martin from Cork and Paul Geaney from Kerry. Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane

If Geaney is 14 and Sean O’Shea is 11, is Kerry well endowed in the other ‘backbone’ positions – haven’t those core elements been rendered obsolete by maneuvers yet? news today?

Has Shane Murphy nailed the goalie jersey or will Shane Ryan recover as the league progresses? Who is best suited to fill the troublesome full-back position – Jason Foley, Dylan Casey or Stefan Okunbor? Who anchors the defense at 6 – Tadhg Morley, Gavin Crowley? – or will the Kingdom revert to its horses for lessons or its man-to-man defensive setup.

And what about the midfield? Good to hear David Moran is back in light training and could see league action in March, but in the meantime will Sean O’Shea form a much-needed partnership with Adrian Spillane ? Don’t forget that there are still six players to return to the fray for Kerry (Na Gaeil players and injured), but there’s quite a bit of sorting to do before the Kerry faithful can properly examine the house that Jack built.

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