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Starting Tommy Walsh can facilitate decisive change in Kerry's favour | Kieran Donaghy

Tommy Walsh's performance off the bench in Sunday's All-Ireland final vindicated Kieran Donaghy's...



Football

Starting Tommy Walsh can facilitate decisive change in Kerry's favour | Kieran Donaghy

Tommy Walsh's performance off the bench in Sunday's All-Ireland final vindicated Kieran Donaghy's confidence in the Kerry forward and left him certain that the former Sydney Swan must start in the replayed game against Dublin. 

In what was widely expected to be a bridge too far for Peter Keane's young Kerry side, Dublin's drive-for-five was - temporarily, at least - brought to a halt on Sunday afternoon.

Although a late Dean Rock free-kick could have sealed the tie in Dublin's favour, where the drawn final highlighted previously unconsidered questions about the record-chasing Dubs, it simultaneously elevated the general perception of a promising, but untested, Kerry outfit.

For Kieran Donaghy, Keane and his management team were largely faultless in their execution and handling of a match that very nearly resulted in a momentous victory.

Yet, where it is assumed that Dublin's uncharacteristically poor performance will signal something of a one-off, Donaghy argued for Keane & co. to make some telling alterations ahead of the replayed final on September 14.

"I was advocating it for the last two weeks," explained Donaghy of his determination to see Tommy Walsh in Kerry's starting XV on Monday's OTB AM, "and I was saying that within five or six minutes of the second-half they should get Tommy on."

Arriving into the fray a short while after Donaghy's personal pleas were made, the former AFL player was instrumental in a late Kerry surge that almost brought the Kingdom their first All-Ireland title since 2014.

Where an argument may be made for Walsh's effectiveness as an impact substitution, Kieran Donaghy believes the Kerry forward could offer more if he was playing from the outset.

"He causes Dublin huge match-up issues," suggested Donaghy, "and they're then bringing James McCarthy into the full-back line where, with the ball David Moran put into Tommy on Sunday, you could see how uncomfortable James was in that situation.

"If you start with Tommy and get one or two of those nice balls into him, with Sean O'Shea, Paul Geaney or David Clifford coming off him, there could be goals."

Tommy Walsh

Furthermore, Donaghy believes the presence of Tommy Walsh could instigate changes elsewhere that would ultimately work in Kerry's favour.

"If we're putting on a press, especially from frees, I think you get Tommy Walsh out to the spots where Gavin White was beaten a few times yesterday," he argued, "and suddenly you've got Tommy, David Moran, Jack Barry and Adrian Spillane in that middle line.

"You could go with Stephen O'Brien then over on one wing, and give him the challenge of going at Jack McCaffrey.

"That's something he can really relish and tune into for the next two weeks.

"That would then allow Kerry to go with Tommy Walsh from the start."

Any questions surrounding Walsh's fitness and ability to play the replayed final in its entirety were largely dismissed by Donaghy.

"I don't think it is anything to do with fitness," he noted of Walsh's absence in Sunday's final, "in 2014, I played about 15 minutes of championship football before I was brought on against Mayo in Croke Park having not played all year with an injury.

"Tommy is in much better shape than me, and I went on and played 98 minutes in the replay in the Gaelic Grounds the week after.

"Tommy can definitely play the 70 or 80 minutes, or they could do what Tyrone have had the courage to do in the past and maybe start him, bring him off for Cillian Spillane with 20 minutes to go and maybe bring him back on if they need his presence late on."

You can watch back Kieran Donaghy's full review of yesterday's All-Ireland final here

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All Ireland Final Dublin Kerry Kieran Donaghy Tommy Walsh