Kerry star Paul Geaney pays Jim Gavin's Dublin team the ultimate compliment
Published 09/09/2016 | 02:30
There is an argument to say that Dublin's win over Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final was the high water mark for this team.
That even with three All-Ireland titles under their belt, beating a fully-loaded Kerry for the fourth time in a row without the reigning Footballer of the Year and All-Star full-back was, at least, on a par with anything Dublin have achieved to date.
Of course, they'll have to win the final for it all to mean anything but Paul Geaney reckons that Dublin, despite the absentees, are as good as they have ever been.
Kerry's preparations for the semi-final were "perfect" but still Dublin managed to play themselves out of a deep hole. "Last year maybe, after the final, I was still thinking we were better than them," Geaney confesses..
"We didn't produce it on the day but we produced it the last day and they beat us fair and square. So at the moment they're the best team that I've ever played against, I suppose."
Geaney still hasn't snapped out of the daze of defeat. In his own words, he was "convinced" Kerry would win and that he'd be preparing for an All-Ireland final this week.
There is some consolation in his own performances, which were good enough to earn him the GAA/GPA Opel All-Star Footballer of the Month for August, with Austin Gleeson winning the hurling equivalent.
Geaney was Kerry's most consistent forward all year as injuries to Colm Cooper and James O'Donoghue at various stages meant he carried more responsibility up front.
The Dingle man is unbackable to pick up an All-Star but his substitution late on in the defeat to Dublin raised eyebrows as he had 1-4 to his name from play at that point and also confused him at the time.
"I suppose I had a bit more to contribute yeah," he reflects. "I think I said it after the Munster final, I was in the best shape I had been ever in a Kerry jersey this year.
"I was able for 80 minutes if called or whatever happened, I was ready for that...the only surprise in it was that it was Marc who came on. I was expecting to see a back running off and I was thinking, 'Why isn't a back going off here?' I realised then a couple of seconds later it was actually someone else and I was looking over and nobody was moving so I said, 'It must be me'."
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has since admitted that "may have been a mistake" but Geaney isn't laying blame at anyone's door. "Many's a game I made mistakes. Sometimes, you admit them. We all make mistakes," he says.
"If Eamonn feels that he wants to state that he made a mistake, fair play - it takes a man to admit a mistake. I don't think he needed to.
"He gave me the explanation that it was a tactical change and that was enough for me. We all row in behind Eamonn. His decisions are his decisions. He's the manager for a reason."
Geaney is quick to express his "delight" that Fitzmaurice is planning to stay on for another two seasons and he insists Kerry are "well equipped" for the seasons ahead. "There's loads of footballers in Kerry, loads of fellas willing to put their lives on hold, so we are very well equipped," he asserts.
"There was a couple of good minor teams in the last two years, you don't know with underage teams will they produce the goods or not.
"A lot of other minor teams around the country have won All-Irelands and have not necessarily gone on and produced it. So hopefully our Kerry minor teams from the last two years and the guys this year, regardless if they win or lose in the final. . . that they will come along."
For now Geaney will have to sit on his hands, watch the All-Ireland final and wonder what might have been. He gives Mayo a chance. Maybe more of a chance than most. The first hand experience of the replay in Limerick two years ago means he knows Mayo can get to a level where they can cause Dublin real problems.
"Mayo have their work cut out but Mayo are up there. As intensity in games go, the only other game that rates as highly (as the semi-final) is the game against Mayo in Limerick in 2014," he says. "Intensity levels in that game were on a par with the last day, if not at some stages over it as well, so Mayo have it in them to beat Dublin.
"In sport it's man against man. It's up to them to try and get over the line against Dublin, who are the best team at the moment.
"Until Mayo proves that wrong or someone else proves that wrong, Dublin are the best team in the country and everyone else has their work cut out to beat them.
"Constantly, time after time, they just produce the goods."