Saturday 24 June 2017

Billy Keane: Seeing the magic of The Hill on tour convinced me the Dubs should get out of Croker more often

Dublin fans Brenda Byrne, Linda Coventry, Dolores Caffrey and Helen Walsh, all from Blanchardstown, with Saturday’s Irish Independent in Tralee. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Dublin fans Brenda Byrne, Linda Coventry, Dolores Caffrey and Helen Walsh, all from Blanchardstown, with Saturday’s Irish Independent in Tralee. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The Hill came on tour to Tralee on a night when their team moved mountains.

Dublin equalled Kerry's old, old record of 34 League and Championship games without defeat, and in Tralee of all places. As if it wasn't bad enough to have to play in front of one hill, Dublin brought two. The hills were alive with the sounds of singing and cheering. The Dubs should try to get out more often.

When the Dublin players came to the gates of Austin Stack Park Sergeant John O' Sullivan called out, "let in Fenton, Brogan and O'Sullivan, they're all Kerrymen."

They are Dubs to the core, but we are proud they have some of us in them.

That was the end of the welcomes. There were more handbags at dinner time in the Costas when the hawkers come calling. But there was an edge and the referee, Sean Hurson, who did a decent job, with some reservations, gave out enough yellow cards to wallpaper a box room. There were scuffles breaking out well away from the ball. This took the form of a type of limited warfare which was pulling like a dog but only on jerseys and wrangler wresting to the ground but I couldn't see any punches thrown. The aggro added to the intensity of the occasion.

Dublin didn't let the ball in fast enough in the first half. At the same time Kerry's tackling technique was poor but they did ensure Dublin didn't get a rhythm going.

There is a form of sanitised tackle now in vogue here which is something like opening the door for a lady. The proper tackle is a one-handed dog paddle and the secret is to go left right, right left. The tackle should be on the ball. Kerry were too high on too many occasions

But Kerry got stuck in, big time, and Dublin, as ever, accepted the invitation to duel.

Stephen Cluxton made a great save just before half-time and the teams went in level. Kerry were cheered as if we had won the All-Ireland itself. The reason was not so much that the Kingdom went in on level terms but it was more down to the fact that Kerry refused to be bullied.

And we found some new players. Kevin McCarthy is as tough as they come and Adrian Spillane worked hard throughout. Tadhg Morley, who is in his second season, was the man of the match. He drove on when he had the ball and attacked the ball when he didn't.

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Paul Geaney was the classiest player on view. Kerry kicked on after half-time and went four up. Then Dublin brought on the boys of the old brigade. Paul Flynn was driven. He won balls that were stamped Kerry. On came Kevin McManamon, the man who runs at the bulls in Pamplona. We shook the holy water and blessed ourselves.

Dublin showed then why they are without a doubt the team of their times. But their equalising free and the lead free were as soft as a porter paunch.

Peter Crowley was in the full of his fight. Barry John Keane and Darran O'Sullivan were buzzing like twin bees. Kerry went into a two-point lead. Dublin fought back, as they often do. Dublin are the most resilient of teams.

McManamon - who else - won a free. And then came their lucky break.

Eoghan O' Gara rear-ended Peter Crowley. There was a delay for a booking and treatment. Kerry lost concentration but Dublin didn't. Paul Murphy's lateral free was intercepted. Paul Mannion cleverly drifted to his left and he equalised.

Now it would be easy to blame Paul for the draw point. But it wasn't all his fault. And herein lies a major problem in Kerry. There was no off-the-ball movement for Murphy. We need to work hard all of the time and not just in patches. Then when the cross ball was kicked into the Kerry goal three players jumped for the same ball. The fault was collective.

That second half was full of what makes Kerry and Dublin so special. The game never took a rest. Men were men and the ref was nervous. Here's a list of the subs Dublin brought on in no particular order: Cian O'Sullivan, Paul Flynn, Paul Mannion, Kevin McManamon and Bernard Brogan.

My good friend Shay Dempsey from Dublin is in hospital right now. Mind yourself old pal and thank you for bringing the joy of the Louis O'Carroll concerts into our lives. That Kerry-Dublin friendship and respect will always be there. Old scores never festered into new sores.

Tralee was packed out and booked out. If ever there was an advert for the bringing of games outside of Croke Park this was it. Dublin proved they can play anywhere. Home was away and their supporters were great fun.

Our boys will take beating if they can get up to the levels of say Munster after Axel passed away. Kerry won midfield for most of the game.

Jack Barry was very good and he has gears. Croke Park will suit him. When David Moran was in the match, and fully attentive, he was truly outstanding. If Kerry win midfield, we win games.

There's a term us bar tenders use to describe the process when the tide comes frothing up from the bottom of the glass like galloping white horses. The drinking foreplay is called "the surge". When Dublin inevitably surge, Kerry must keep attacking. Let it rip and go out to win the game. Backing off and soaking up the pressure is not an option.

This was Tralee on a windy, drizzly March night. The summer and autumn are different worlds but I saw enough to convince me Kerry will go very close to winning this year's All-Ireland. Dublin will go very close too.

Bernard Junior said one time: "Kerry would nearly kill you to win an All-Ireland." That was before. We are nearly at that level now.

Irish Independent

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