Saturday 10 December 2016

Kerry will try fresh ways to disrupt the juggernaut but Dubs have too many gears

Published 27/08/2016 | 02:30

What if Kerry come up with something really innovative, presenting Dublin with a puzzle that forces them to think, rather than being able to force their own game on the opposition? Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
What if Kerry come up with something really innovative, presenting Dublin with a puzzle that forces them to think, rather than being able to force their own game on the opposition? Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kerry have lost to Dublin in six of their last seven league and championship clashes over four seasons, leaving them faced with three possible reasons for the imbalance.

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Is it simply that Dublin have better players at present? Are Kerry under-performing? Are Dublin ahead tactically?

If point one is the reason for Dublin's dominance - and it's the most likely - there's little Kerry can do except keep refreshing the squad and the approach, give it their best shot and hope the mix falls right.

It's management's job to have the team prepared in a manner that gives it the best chance of performing at optimum level, so if either of the latter two explanations are involved, then the onus to correct it rests with Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his fellow strategists, Mikey Sheehy, Diarmuid Murphy, Pádraig Corcoran and Liam Hassett.

The last two Dublin-Kerry championships games have been very different, going from a high-scoring shoot-out (3-18 to 3-11) in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final to the low-yield encounter (0-12 to 0-9) in last year's final.

The contrast is striking, ranging from the highest-ever total between the counties to the lowest since 1955. Significantly, Dublin won both, suggesting that they can out-manoeuvre Kerry, whatever the pattern.

And that's where Fitzmaurice comes in. Dublin have held the edge in every type of game that has emerged so far, but what if tomorrow's is different?

What if Kerry come up with something really innovative, presenting Dublin with a puzzle that forces them to think, rather than being able to force their own game on the opposition?

"For a lot of the first half, we had to play on their terms," said Fitzmaurice after last year's final. It's a problem every other team has also experienced against Dublin in recent times, except it usually runs for the full game. Indeed, it's often more pronounced in the second half.

So there's the challenge for Kerry. Dublin's way of playing is well-known: quick pace, high energy, with very skilful players from various sectors looping around each other as the momentum grows. Eventually, the sheer intensity of it all wears opposition down.

As a counter-measure, Kerry will seek to disrupt Dublin, stretching them on the wings and then concentrating on the centre, especially close to the Dublin goal.

That will require a lot more passing accuracy than Kerry displayed against Dublin in recent games. And when it comes to containing Dublin, Kerry's plans for Ciarán Kilkenny will be interesting.

Kilkenny is an excellent player, but it was beyond comprehension that Donegal allowed him so much time in possession in the quarter-final that he could not only survey his options, but also hold the ball in one hand, check his run and point to the position he wanted a teammate to take up. It was ridiculous for Donegal to allow it and if you see it happening early on tomorrow then you'll know that Dublin are certainties to join Mayo in the final. It's most unlikely Kerry will stand for that, which will require a strict man-marking approach.

They will target some others too, including Cian O'Sullivan, who controls loose play so smartly, Philly McMahon, who gets forward so often and Brian Fenton, now the main midfield anchor. In that regard, David Moran needs to step up on his displays over the last 12 months.

And then there's the question of how Kerry go about locking down the Dublin attack, where Jim Gavin has at least 10 options. Meanwhile, at the other end, Kerry haven't scored a goal against Dublin in any of their last four league and championship games, a failing they need to sort out. The attempt will involve an aerial assault of the Dublin goal to test if Rory O'Carroll's absence can be exploited. It hasn't happened so far but Kerry will certainly try it.

With their pride badly hurt after suffering so many defeats to Dublin in recent years, a powerful Kerry backlash can be expected. It still might not be enough against a Dublin squad that appear to have more gears than anybody else at present.

Irish Independent

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