Stephen O'Brien primed for All-Ireland Final replay
By John Harrington
Since the drawn All-Ireland Final, the Dublin and Kerry managements will have spent every waking moment possible trying to find the marginal gains that might make a vital difference in the replay.
Personnel changes in the match-day 26 will be considered, as will a suite of tactical tweaks that might just wrong-foot the opposition.
Both managements will have learned a lot from the drawn match, but so too will each individual player and thats arguably where the greatest gains can be made.
You often find that replays are shaped by players who didnt quite play to their full potential in the drawn match and are highly determined to make the most of the second opportunity.
Kerrys Stephen OBrien is one player who certainly has more in him that he showed in the drawn game.
He worked hard throughout and scored a nice point in the first half, but he still didnt hit the same sort of heights hed previously reached during the campaign as a matter of course.
His fellow Kenmare Shamrocks club-man, John Morgan OSullivan, knows OBrien better than most having coached him for many years, and believes the half-forward could be much more influential in Sundays replay, especially if the Dublin defence prioritise trying to neutralise another Kenmare man, Kerry centre-forward Sean OShea, who was hugely impressive in the drawn match.
You're always looking out for your own club-mate, and I watched the game again the day after and he did a serious amount of work 80/90 yards from goal, OSullivan told GAA.ie.
But Dublin had him well-corralled. They had a plan in place for him.
What we would hope for the replay is that Dublin will really start concentrating on trying to stop Seanie O'Shea a bit more. If they do, that's going to open up avenues everywhere.
Not that they ignored Seanie the last day, but coming into the game it was Stephen who had posed a huge threat and maybe Dublin focused a lot on him whereas Seanie was slightly under the radar coming into the match.
That will flip the next day, but that won't bother Seanie either. That's the good thing about both of them, they're both very level-headed fellas.
Kenmare Shamrocks clubmates Stephen O'Brien left and Sean O'Shea run out onto the pitch before the drawn 2019 All-Ireland SFC Final against Dublin.
Seanie OShea has looked like a natural since making his senior debut for Kerry last year, but OBrien has been more of a steady work in progress.
Hes always had raw ability, but he has refined his game in the last couple of years, especially his shooting.
I would have seen him develop from a very young age in the club and he would have stood out for two reasons, said OSullivan.
One, because he was so small. He was tinchy small. But what also stood out from a very young age was that he had a really good football brain.
As a young fella you could see he was always taking in what was going on around him on a football pitch. And, of course, he always had speed too. Great speed.
He's added a lot to his game in the last couple of years, but that pace was always there. He was always lethal for a goal too.
At club level he would always go for the jugular and the rest of the country has seen him do the same now with Kerry for the past couple of years.
He's kicking scores for fun now with Kerry and that's an aspect of his game he has definitely worked hard on.
Stephen O'Brien celebrates after scoring a crucial goal for Kerry against Tyrone in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final.
OBriens former Kerry team-mate, Aidan OMahony, also highlights the Kenmare mans improved finishing, and believes the 28-year-old is now very much the complete wing-forward.
That finishing was one thing that might have let him down a little bit but if youre going that pace, youre finishing mightnt be as accurate, said OMahony.
I think it has improved, I think he gets himself in better positions now and he takes the ball more into the scoring zones or that D there where its not percentage shots, hes making himself very accurate.
He was a nightmare to mark in training. Youd be going out for the internal games and hed be the opposite end and youd be thinking Jesus Christ hes on my wing now.
Hes a nightmare for a defender because hed go at you time and time again.
A couple of years ago, he had his head down and hed be running into cul-de-sacs but now...The last day John Small did a very good job on him, John Small is very effective as well, but I think for Stephen, you might look at the video and say right, if I need to get into this position here