Gilroy looks for more as Dubs enjoy net gains
Allianz Football League Div 1
There were no discarded dockets fluttering in the breeze around Croke Park on Saturday night. Everyone felt an entitlement to draw some return from their wager afterwards.
Dublin picked up the points to place themselves in the exact same position as they occupied 12 months ago -- three wins from three matches.
Pat Gilroy may have had concerns about his team's defending in the last 10 minutes, but against that they were much more clinical at the other end with the possession they had, three more goals giving them home comforts.
In seven competitive games this season -- including O'Byrne Cup and Shield -- their goal count has soared to a formidable 20.
"They've been really saving our bacon," admitted Gilroy afterwards.
For Kerry, there was solace from the performance. They should have drawn, they might have won and they certainly had a few more players performing at a higher level.
None more so than captain Colm Cooper, who showed dazzling form to score six points, five from play, and inspire a comeback that saw Dublin's lead in the final stretch shrivel from four points to nothing before Bernard Brogan scored the decisive point in injury-time.
When Jack O'Connor gathered briefly for a post-match huddle, you can be sure he wasn't berating them for points lost.
The crowd were winners too. There may be a tinge of disappointment at an attendance of 23,720 -- more than 10,000 down on the opening night of the Spring Series -- but those who stayed away missed a really entertaining game. Is it possible to have it any other way with games under lights at Croke Park? Dublin have played four now in recent years and each has reached the same high pitch.
Even Gilroy was willing to concede that some of the poorer aspects of his team's defending was down to the venue, where it is sometimes impossible, especially at this end of the season, to cover off all avenues.
It had just as gripping a finish as either of the Tyrone games in 2007 and 2009, but this time Dublin got out on the right side.
Ironically, that escape came courtesy of Bernard Brogan's one real moment of inspiration on a night when, by his own exalted standards, he was subdued.
He had a hand in Dublin's first and third goals and teed up his brother Alan for his second-half point, but there were shades of his performance against the same opposition in the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final until the end.
Admittedly, Marc O Se was in his shadows throughout and was consistently able to read the play quicker than Dublin's marquee player.
But when it mattered, Brogan was able to seize a Barry Cahill delivery in front of O Se and turn to deliver the killer blow.
"Nobody else would probably kick a score like that, he pulled it out of the bag for us," suggested Alan Brogan afterwards. That much is beyond dispute.
If anything, it was O'Connor who seemed slightly more satisfied with the night's events.
"I'd be delighted if we had got a draw out of it. I'm not sure if we deserved a draw. That's for you to decide," he said. For the Kerry boss, it was Dublin's third goal that strangled his side.
Eoin Brosnan had possession ripped away from him, and through the hands and feet of Bernard and Alan Brogan, and Cahill, it ended up with Michael Darragh Macauley -- an impressive half-time replacement for Denis Bastick -- who stuck it past Brendan Kealy on 51 minutes with an unconventional drop-kick to make it 3-4 to 1-9.
For the next 10 minutes Dublin looked like running away with it, energised by the release of that Macauley goal. O'Connor sensed a storm brewing.
"The Dubs are very fit. They are full of running and at times, especially 15 minutes into the second half, they looked like they might overrun us," he said.
"Overall, we are very encouraged by the performance. We kicked 1-15, which should be winning games for us."
That gently points to a defensive malaise then. Tomas O Se didn't have one of his better nights and Padraig Reidy was troubled early on, missing the interception that allowed Tomas Quinn to stick away the opening goal on three minutes.
Brosnan had good moments again but was bought too easily for a few scores, underlining the step up it was from last week in Castlebar.
Kerry will be much more content with their midfield. Seamus Scanlon showed a return to form, Bryan Sheehan adapted well but it was David Moran in the second half -- delivering arguably his best display in a Kerry shirt yet -- who was most pleasing for them.
Too often Kerry were one-dimensional in their delivery into Kieran Donaghy. From an early stage, Sean Murray had adapted well to what was happening.
It was only when Kerry went wide through Donnacha Walsh, Darran O'Sullivan, Kieran O'Leary and, eventually, Gooch that they profited.
Sheehan dispatched his second penalty of the campaign on six minutes when Alan Hubbard fouled David Geaney, but Dublin were clear again when Kevin McManamon turned Brosnan for a second goal on 14 minutes.
McManamon continues to grow in confidence and his penetrating runs through opposing defences are a real weapon for the Dubs . Kerry closed off after that and by the break they had restored parity -- 1-6 to 2-3.
The pace quickened in the second half and for a long time that suited Dublin more as they pushed on to go four clear.
However, the last 10 minutes slightly muted for Gilroy the feel of a first Croke Park win for Dublin over Kerry in over 17 years.
"We really had ourselves in a very good position around the 60th minute and then the last 10 minutes were very poor by us," he said. "We made elementary mistakes and it just wasn't good enough.
"We really should have pushed on when we got three or four ahead, we wouldn't have been very happy the way we finished that game. We were very lucky to get the win. I think they probably did enough to deserve a draw at least.
"But (conceding) 16 scores, I think we have the worst defensive record now in the league, so we have a lot of work to do."
Man of the Match: Colm Cooper (Kerry)
Scorers -- Dublin: K McManamon, MD Macauley 1-1 each, B Brogan 0-4 (3f), T Quinn 1-0, P Flynn, E O'Gara, D Lally, A Brogan 0-1 each. Kerry: B Sheehan 1-5 (1-0 pen, 3f, 1 '45'), C Cooper 0-6 (1f), D O'Sullivan 0-2, D Walsh, D Moran 0-1 each.
Dublin --S Cluxton 8; M Fitzsimons 6, S Murray 8, A Hubbard 5; D Lally 7, J McCarthy 7, P Casey 6; D Bastick 5, B Cahill 6; P Flynn 7, K McManamon 7, D Connolly 5; T Quinn 6, B Brogan 6, E O'Gara 6. Subs: M D Macauley 8 for Bastick (h-t), A Brogan 7 for Quinn (48), B Cullen 6 for Connolly (48), G Brennan 5 for McCarthy (52), P Andrews for Flynn (63).
Kerry -- B Kealy 6; P Reidy 5, M O Se 8, K Young 7; T O Se 5, E Brosnan 6, A O'Mahony 6; S Scanlon 7, B Sheehan 7; D Moran 8, D O'Sullivan 7, D Walsh 7; C Cooper 9, K Donaghy 6, D Geaney 5. Subs: K O'Leary 7 for Geaney (20), J Lyne 6 for T O Se (53), A Maher 5 for Brosnan (58), A O'Connell for O'Mahony (66).
Ref -- M Duffy (Sligo).