Saturday 22 July 2017

Comment: No quick fix for Kingdom’s malaise but the well-oiled Dublin machine not invincible

Kerry's David Moran. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Kerry's David Moran. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

There was so much 'hoopla' about Saturday's Kerry-Dublin game that it was just like being transported back to the seventies and eighties when the same two counties had a series of games in championship and league that changed the face of Gaelic football forever.

There was some hyperbole in those times about Dublin-Kerry games but nothing like in recent years and the evidence is that there was far more substance to them than in recent years. Then Kerry beat Dublin in five finals and Dublin beat Kerry in one final and one famous semi-final.

Undoubtedly, Saturday's game had some fine entertainment with some decent football thrown in but the scarcity of scores from play did not reflect well on the reputations both counties have had in recent years. I've no doubt Kerry people were disappointed going home on Saturday night as this was a game they should certainly have won.

Based on this game Kerry still have a big hill to climb to put a stop to the alarming series of defeats at the hands of their greatest rivals. For Kerry people, stopping the Dublin defeats is as bad as not winning the All-Ireland.

In times past we were reared in the folklore about 'a Kerry finish' in big games - the myth that Kerry would nearly always snatch tight games. That tradition is gone as far as Kerry football and Dublin is concerned and Saturday was a cruel reminder of that.

Credit must go to both teams for giving us such a great contest in which Dublin responded to and coped with this rather dubious PR promotion regarding records of games as far back as 90 years ago in Kerry's case. It was a good boost for commercial coverage of the game.

Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Dublin manager Jim Gavin exchange a handshake. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Dublin manager Jim Gavin exchange a handshake. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

But Kerry people will worry about not beating the Dubs in a scenario when everything seemed to be in their favour, though it was laced with many top-class displays, most notably the return to form of midfielder David Moran (pictured). The bottom line is that once again Kerry failed to beat them even though they had the huge benefit of a strong wind in the second half and also the benefit of playing in the unusual, for Dublin teams, claustrophobic atmosphere of the brilliantly revamped Austin Stack Park.

Kerry have now lost two All-Ireland finals, two semi-finals, and a league final to Dublin in a few years. Most were tight matches that Kerry were unable to put away when they had the chance and the psychological damage caused to the Kerry football psyche was immense. Saturday was merely an extension of this Kerry malaise. If Kerry meet Dublin again this year it is likely to be in the final and they will probably have to beat Mayo to get there - but another loss to the Dubs would cause much distress in the Kingdom. Since taking over the reins, Eamonn Fitzmaurice has had to face the football reality that a lot of the great players of recent vintage were in the 'autumn of their careers' and a rebuilding job was required.

On Saturday, Fitzmaurice went out on a limb to bring in young players and it proved a worthwhile exercise, but there are no quick cures for inventing a new football team with cleverness and experience. Another problem is the question of ageing Kerry players who've not retired. What, if any, will be their role in the Kerry campaign next summer ?

Dublin and Jim Gavin are in a much stronger position than any other county for one special reason. They have very few retirements scheduled this year and their selection of young panellists is by far the most powerful in Ireland. The reserve power of the older players - such as Paul Flynn, McManamon, and O'Gara - of course was what saved the night on Saturday.

Yet just remember this. Dublin have won recent All-Irelands by a point or two and drawn semi-finals and a final recently. They are not invincible. The question is, what team has the mental strength to cope with the Dublin machine?

Irish Independent

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