Bryan Sheehan raises concerns about Kerry’s lack of goals in championship

Their fortunes could improve on Sunday against Meath, who have conceded nine goals in just three championship matches

It remains a quirk of Kerry’s season that their forwards are still without a goal since February.

Jack O’Connor’s side have yet to raise a single green flag in this year’s championship – though they have conceded three goals – and the last time a Kerry forward found the back of the opposition’s net was in their round two National League win over Monaghan on February 4th.

David Clifford, Cillian Burke and Diarmuid O’Connor were the Kerry goalscorers on that occasion against the Farney County, but thereafter the Kingdom managed to add just two further goals over the remainder of the league, and both were scored by midfielder Joe O’Connor – against Dublin and Roscommon.

Kerry have scored just two goals in their last eight competitive outings and are on a streak of four consecutive games without a goal – Galway in the last round of the league, Cork in a Munster semi-final, Clare in the provincial decider and Monaghan in the first game of the All-Ireland round-robin. They conceded a goal in each of those four fixtures.

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“I think he [Jack] would be concerned, and I think you’d have to be concerned,” says former Kerry forward Bryan Sheehan.

“With the calibre of forwards we have – the likes of Paudie Clifford, David, Seánie O’Shea, Paul Geaney – you would be expecting them to be at least working the goalkeeper three or four times a game.

“When I say working the goalkeeper, you are having a shot at goal and I’d be expecting you to be coming away with two goals minimum. But for me Kerry aren’t even working the goalkeeper at the moment.

“I know Rory Beggan, to be fair, made one or two saves for Monaghan but I just think in the overall scheme of things Kerry aren’t creating that many goal chances.”

Kerry scored a total of seven goals in the league but they also conceded seven. They have yet to score a goal in the championship, but have shipped three.

Still, Sunday’s trip to Navan could see all of that change as Meath’s defence has leaked nine goals so far in just three championship matches – three against Longford, three against Dublin and three against Louth.

“To be fair, I do expect Kerry to win. Meath were in Division Two, Kerry were in Division One, so there should be a difference in the class between both teams,” continues Sheehan.

“But I think Kerry now need to start preparing themselves for knockout championship, I think they need to start getting ruthless. They must start looking at every game as real championship, they need to start building the blocks.

“They need now to start putting down a marker, I keep going back to Dublin, Dublin are always so ruthless. No matter who they are playing, they will always score one or two or three goals, they are just ruthless.

“And I think Kerry maybe just need to start getting in that mode now, because if they start coasting or are just content to get over the line against Meath, then all of a sudden you come to the knockout stages and you play a good side who have come through one or two hard battles, then you could be in trouble.

“Kerry have to prepare for championship mode now, and I think they need to start above in Meath, take off the shackles and go at it, and I mean go at it from every perspective – by keeping the scoreboard down on one end and putting the scores up at the other end.”

If Kerry do arrive to Páirc Tailteann with that mindset, then it could be a long afternoon for Colm O’Rourke’s Royals. Meath’s scoring return in their last two games was worryingly low – just 0-12 against Dublin and only 0-9 against Louth.

Meath clearly must improve significantly on both sides of the ball – offensively and defensively – if they are to be competitive against Kerry this weekend.

“Teams aren’t going to be stupid either and leave the gates open at the back when you have the calibre of David and Seánie and Paudie. They are not going to leave themselves open,” adds Sheehan.

“So, it’s not going to be as simple as Kerry saying, ‘we’re going to go for goal,’ because it’s just not going to happen like that.

“But when Kerry do get goal chances then they have to be more clinical in taking them because you can’t just flick a switch and start scoring goals.

“You have to be doing it on a continuous basis and hopefully it will click over the next game or two, they’ll maybe get a goal or two against Meath, and go from there. But it’s definitely something of a concern that they will have to improve on over the coming games.”

Bryan Sheehan was speaking at the launch of the 2024 Electric Ireland Minor Championships

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times