Alan Brogan: 2009 vs Kerry was the only time I saw Pat Gilroy lose his temper - 48 Powerade bottles were swiped off the table
Read Alan Brogan every week in The Herald.
We analysed Kerry to death going into last year’s All-Ireland final.
That might sound like a given, but I when I say we studied them a lot, I mean a lot.
It was as comprehensive a dissection of any team I’ve ever played against in my career and the nub of what we found from it all was that they hadn’t moved on a whole pile tactically from their 2014 All-Ireland win.
Sure, there was improvement in areas and the team sheet had changed slightly, but there was no great evolution in the style of the team and that was their biggest mistake facing us last year.
Essentially, they won that All-Ireland against Donegal playing with six defenders that stayed tethered to their positions regardless of the play.
There were no attacks from their wing-men and nobody broke from the corners.
We had rehearsed all year penetrating teams who wouldn’t vacate their posts in defence, who would drop their midfielders and half-forwards into their own half to soak up space.
It just so happened that in the final, Kerry also played just like that.
Then, when they were forced to chase the game in the final ten minutes, I went the length of the field to kick our final score without having to ship a tackle.
So the theory (well aired at this stage and probably intentionally so by Kerry) that Éamonn Fitzmaurice will try something radical this coming Sunday makes sense.
It’s just trying to decipher what that might be and how it will effect the game (or put Dublin off theirs) that’s left to the imagination this week.
The conditions couldn’t have been any better for Fitzmaurice firstly, to construct this cunning strategy or, vitally, to keep it hush-hush until it’s unveiled in all its Machiavellian glory on Sunday.
No excuses either.
He’s had almost a year to hone it and given Kerry’s accommodating passage to Sunday, ample time to implement, tweak and perfect it with those who will attempt to execute it.
To me, the simple premise of any potentially successful Kerry game plan must be that if they want to win here, they’re going to have to take a chance at some stage on Sunday.
They’re going to have to push up on Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs.
They’re going to have to occupy Cian O’Sullivan and force him to make snap decisions whether to pick up someone like Darran O’Sullivan, or stay close to his own full-back line at different times.
They’re going to have to get something out of Colm Cooper, though probably from the bench because for all his genius, the Gooch has little competitive time under his belt and he could do without Philly McMahon hounding him from the second he goes out.
They might even go bald-headed at Dublin’s full-back line with high ball to Kieran Donaghy and Mikey Geaney and see whether it’s as stable under that sort of bombardment as they made it seem against Donegal.
And they’re going to have to get something from their wing-backs going forward because Dublin have long since figured out how to play against a heavily populated defence.
It’s old hat at this stage.
But inter-county teams do so much analysis and tactical preparation that if you can do something unexpected and force the opposition to have to think on their feet after the ball has been thrown in (with only limited communication from management) and take them completely out of their game plan, you can potentially exploit it in a huge way.
If Kerry can force Dublin out of their comfort zone, anything’s possible.
Before the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final, we geared ourselves up in a huge way to have a good start, so when the opposite happened and Gooch had a goal into the Hill after 38 seconds, we were flattened.
We had watched Kerry stagger and blunder their way past Sligo, Longford and Antrim looking for all the world like a team that needed to be put out of their misery, so we fancied ourselves.
It’s the only time I felt beaten at half-time in a Championship match and it was also the only time I saw Pat Gilroy lose his temper.
He swiped 48 bottles of Powerade off the table in the dressing-room in the middle of Croke Park and for that team and its style of play, that was essentially the end.
Kerry are at that sort of juncture now.
Every Dublin v Kerry game of late is huge but this could be the biggest one for their players, management and public.
The three Championship defeats will be seen as an epidemic down there and even winning in 2014 never scratched their Dublin itch.
And last year was probably the one that sticks most awkwardly in their craw, given it was the one of three in which we looked unquestionably the better team. If they lose, it could be the end of Donaghy, Marc Ó Sé and Aidan O’Mahony. Maybe even Éamonn Fitzmaurice?
None of these men are shrinking violets so expect them to wage war.
It would, you’d imagine, be a final nail in the coffin if Dublin win this one, so expect Kerry to play with the desperation of a condemned man with a shot at redemption.
So it’s huge. Much bigger than simply the prize on offer.
There’s so much experience in the Dublin team and there’s so much nous in the management, that they’ll have poured over all the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.
They’ll have looked at all the ‘what ifs’, and they’ll have an answer in there for every eventuality, a roadblock for every change of direction by Kerry
After that, it’s up to the players.
Dublin just have too many men in their prime to play the victims in a well-flagged ambush.