Wednesday 29 March 2017

Gilroy wins the sideline battle to reclaim Sam

Keith Barr

THEY say that when players cross the white line a manager can do little else to affect the outcome of a game, but on the sideline yesterday Pat Gilroy got his switches spot on and Jack O'Connor, frankly, didn't.

It was a matter of when, and not if, Kevin McManamon and Paul Galvin would be introduced. Kerry blinked first and played their trump card early -- and they paid the ultimate price.

Galvin's introduction so early in the game left them with nowhere to go in terms of substitutes in the final quarter when Dublin got a gallop up on them.

For me, Galvin wasn't required at that stage as neither side had settled into any sort of rhythm, whereas Gilroy kept something in reserve and didn't spring McManamon until the right moment. It was his direct running against tiring Kerry legs that effectively won the game for Dublin.

Up to that point, Kerry looked to be heading home with Sam again.

Without playing particularly well, they drew level midway through the second half and went four points up with seven to go. And for me, the game was over at that stage.

Dublin were slipping back into their old habits and giving away silly frees, which proved their undoing against Cork in last year's All-Ireland semi-final. And if there was anyone you'd expect to see out a game at that stage, it's Kerry.

That was despite a first half that had largely gone to plan for Dublin.

They were a point up at the break and had survived Kerry's regular ploy of going for the jugular in the opening minutes.

Only when Darran O'Sullivan scythed through the middle and passed to Colm Cooper, who goaled, did Dublin's defence look in trouble.

But Dublin came back, their resolve hardened by Gilroy and years of failure and disappointments. Even the league final experience of this year stood to them as they found new depths of character to pull this one out of the fire.

There were manful displays everywhere. Rory O'Carroll picked up a yellow card in the 23rd minute, a very precarious scenario for a full-back, but he never took a backward step all day. Bernard Brogan worked tirelessly for the cause even though he didn't have it easy against Marc O Se.

Alan Brogan and Barry Cahill, who have endured so many difficult days in a Dublin jersey, finally got their reward, too, for all the sacrifices they've made.

And then of course there was Stephen Cluxton. The script was written for the Parnells man to write his name in history and I had no doubt he would do it.

He kicked one from a similar position against Donegal and he showed nerves of steel to end a long, long wait. And in his unique way, he was the first man down the tunnel at the final whistle.

Too many of Kerry's big players didn't perform to their usual high standards. Declan O'Sullivan turned over the ball that led to the crucial goal and that's not normally a mistake he would make. Kerry's performance was pockmarked with such uncharacteristic errors.

Donnchadh Walsh was having some joy but they didn't get him on the ball enough.

Speculative

And they seemed reluctant to let high ball in on top of Kieran Donaghy (who was very fortunate not to pick up at least one yellow card) despite him creating a real goal chance in the second half out of a speculative delivery.

Whether it's the end of an era for Kerry remains to be seen, but talk of a wave of Kingdom retirements is premature in my eyes.

Tomas O Se is one of their most senior players but he was also one of their better ones yesterday. He drove forward at every opportunity and if the desire is there in January, he has yet more to give.

There are others who have been around a long time, but there'll be no rash decisions.

But yesterday belonged to Dublin.

They'll never know the value of that medal in their pocket to the clubs and young players in Dublin and what having Sam Maguire in the county this winter will mean to people.

Even to the Dublin minor players, who suffered bitter disappointment yesterday against a very gutsy and classy Tipperary side, they are a serious inspiration and an example of what can be achieved, particularly with men like Gilroy and Dessie Farrell at the helm.

On behalf of a grateful county, thank you all.

Irish Independent

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