Gilroy sets focus on long term
Dublin 1-12 Kerry 1-10
A first 'away' Allianz League win over Kerry since November 1982 provided Dublin with an encouraging start to the new season but in a county where hype regularly tends to outstrip reality, Pat Gilroy moved quickly to apply some sensible perspective .
"I don't think the results really matter. At this time of year, it's about seeing young guys and how they acquit themselves. We worked hard and are happy with the win but, at the end of the day, it's a February league match, no more and no less," said Gilroy.
For all that, it made for a happy return home for Dublin last night after putting together a performance that was full of honesty, endeavour and no little coherence. Granted, there were sloppy elements too but that's to be expected with a new-look team having its first big test.
Besides, Kerry made far more mistakes but then they too were in experimental mode. They were also without their manager Jack O'Connor, whose father died over the weekend.
Selector Ger O'Keeffe took over managerial duties and watched as Dublin put down a solid base against the wind in the first half, built on it in the first 13 minutes of the second half when they opened up a six-point lead, before Kerry rallied to outscore the visitors by 1-4 to 0-3 from there to the finish.
Kerry's goal, scored by Barry John Walsh in the 72nd minute, cut the deficit to a point, presenting Kerry with an opportunity to snatch a draw their overall performance wouldn't have merited. Indeed, it was ominous for Dublin as Kerry began to build a counter-attack from deep inside their own half in the final minute but a misdirected pass was intercepted and Dublin's Michael McAuley soloed goalwards before punching over the insurance point.
McAuley was one of an impressive list of Dublin players who weren't aboard for the mauling by Kerry in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final but who are now making a serious play to become regulars in the blue revolution.
Kevin McManamon maintained his upward graph with a strong-running performance at left full-forward; midfielder Eamon Fennell was highly effective, while in defence Cian O'Sullivan and Rory O'Carroll responded solidly to every challenge. The tactic of playing David Henry, who was named at right corner-forward, in a sweeping defensive role worked well, especially in the first half when he picked up a lot of possession and used it constructively.
"Dublin were much better than us in the first half. We were a bit tentative at times and that was always going to be costly against a big, physical team like Dublin," said O'Keeffe.
Dublin's determination to put down a significant marker was evident from the throw-in when a quick move took Fennell through on a driving run before he pointed. McManamon added a second point in the sixth minute which helped settle Dublin into a rhythm that Kerry found difficult to counteract despite playing with the wind.
Paul Galvin, who scored three first-half points, did most to stabilise Kerry but, given the possession ratio, they were quite lucky to be level (0-5 each) after 30 minutes. However, Dublin finished the half with a flourish, courtesy of Paul Flynn who scored 1-1 in 90 seconds just before the break and while Paul O'Connor responded with a point, Kerry looked in trouble as they faced into the second half carrying a three-point deficit (1-6 to 0-6) against the wind.
Kerry had been unable to work the ball through to full-forward Kieran Donaghy with anything like the precision or regularity they would have liked while Declan O'Sullivan hadn't got into the game at centre-forward.
Flynn, McManamon and Blaine Kelly (free) extended Dublin's lead to six points after 48 minutes and, for the first time, Kerry supporters in the 6,000 crowd must have feared a heavy defeat.
The players probably sensed it too and, in fairness, their response was impressive. Kerry began to win more ball -- both of the primary and breaking variety -- around midfield; Declan O'Sullivan, Donnacha Walsh and Donaghy came more into the game but, with Dublin maintaining a high work-rate, it wasn't easy to get a sight on Stephen Cluxton's goal.
However, Kerry's big chance finally came when Donaghy slipped the ball through to O'Sullivan but he was stretching as he got a toe to the ball and it flew wide in the 64th minute at a time when Dublin were leading by four points. It was a let-off for Dublin as a goal at that stage -- rather than deep in stoppage time -- might have changed the course of the game.
Overall, it was exactly the sort of seasonal launch Dublin needed after ending last year's championship with a 17-point defeat against Kerry. However, as Pat Gilroy pointed out afterwards, a good start will only be of real benefit if the performance level is maintained -- and indeed enhanced.
"There's no point in doing this and then going out and playing brutal. We've got to find consistent performances," he said.
Next up for Dublin is Derry at Parnell Park next Saturday night, when the aim will be to put back-to-back victories together, something Dublin have found very difficult to do in recent years.
Meanwhile, Kerry travel to Pairc Ui Rinn to take on Cork and while they will still be without several of their top stars, the rest know what's expected of them.
"It's very early in the year but the lesson is there for all of us that we won't win games just because we're All-Ireland champions. I was happy with the level of application among the lads -- especially in the second half -- but it's clear that we have an awful lot to do.
"Dublin were that bit sharper than us but, then again, if we'd played in the first half like we did in the final 10 minutes things might have been different," added O'Keeffe.
As for Dublin, it was a case of job well done but Gilroy was in no mood for fanfares.
"This is a start for us. That's all it is," he said. Still, better a winning start than another sad tale of disappointment against the Kingdom.
Scorers -- Dublin: P Flynn 1-2; E Fennell 0-3; K McManamon, B Kelly (2f) 0-2 each; A Hubbard, B Brogan (f), M McAuley 0-1 each.
Kerry: Paul O'Connor 0-5 (3f, 1 '45); P Galvin 0-4; BJ Walsh 1-1.
Dublin -- S Cluxton; P Conlon, Rory O'Carroll, P McMahon; P Griffin, C O'Sullivan, J McCarthy; E Fennell, R McConnell; A Hubbard, M McAuley, P Flynn; D Henry, B Kelly, K McManamon. Subs: B Brogan for B Kelly (49 mins), D Kelly for Hubbard (62), T Diamond for McManamon (69).
Kerry -- G Reidy; P Reidy, T Griffin, A O'Connell; M Corridan, A O'Mahony, K Young; S Scanlon, M Quirke; P Galvin, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh; BJ Walsh, K Donaghy, P O'Connor. Subs: A O'Sullivan for Quirke (47), Paudge O'Connor for Corridan (47), J O'Donoghue for Paul O'Connor (56), BJ Keane for D Walsh (66), K O'Leary for Declan O'Sullivan (69).
Ref -- R Hickey (Clare).