Tuesday 23 May 2017

McMahon: No complaints if Kingdom get physical

Philly McMahon will be hoping to get his hands on the Allianz NFL Division 1 trophy once again when Dublin play Kerry on Sunday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Philly McMahon will be hoping to get his hands on the Allianz NFL Division 1 trophy once again when Dublin play Kerry on Sunday. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Every tactic possible has been thrown at the Dubs in an attempt to stifle their 36-game unbeaten run, but Philly McMahon thrives on the different challenges and expects Kerry to do whatever it takes, no matter how ugly, to win Sunday's Allianz Division 1 FL final.

In last month's gripping draw in Tralee, Kerry took a leaf out of Mayo's book, exhibiting a new-found physicality rarely associated with footballing aristocracy, yet still failing to cross the finishing line.

Former Dublin All-Ireland winner Paul Curran went as far as saying that Eamonn Fitzmaurice's men should be "ashamed of themselves" for their style of play, but as a player who welcomes physical confrontation and enjoys teetering on the disciplinary line, McMahon thrives on such occasions.

"No, no, no," McMahon said when asked if Kerry's new style against the Dubs surprised him.

"You've got to realise that every year you're going to get different challenges. It was the mass defence a few seasons ago, now it's changed maybe to this.

"You've got to be open to all these changes and challenges; if one team puts it up against a team that's been successful, then other teams are going to look at what they've done and they're going to go, 'Right, let's go after that'.

"Look at Barcelona and Chelsea a couple of years ago in the Champions League - Chelsea played really defensive. I'm sure every team was looking at that and going, 'Right, if Chelsea have done that and they've played really well, then that's the way we should be playing against Barcelona'.

"When something works for an opposing team then generally there's a phase of that that starts to seep through into other counties.

"Why wouldn't Kerry try and be more physical? So it's something that we're not complaining about, it just gives us another way of trying to adapt to the game and trying to be smarter footballers.

"Certainly Mayo in the first All-Ireland final last year, there was similarities between that and the game in Tralee.

"The way Kerry played in Tralee, that's what they had to do and it's not down to me to judge that - I'm a player, it's down to the officials to police that.

"Why would you be ashamed to win a game? What way you try to win is irrelevant. If that's the way they have to play to beat us, that's what they have to do.

Dragging

"We can only control what we do. There was certainly more pulling and dragging on both teams, so it's probably not the orthodox way Kerry are known for, but if that's the way they have to play to win games, that's up to them."

Mental toughness has allowed the Dubs to overcome adversity at every corner, such as Sunday's comeback victory over Monaghan, and McMahon believes that their remarkable run has been underpinned by their ability to maintain composure until the last minute.

Knowing that the opposition's chief intention is often containment rather than positivity breeds confidence throughout Jim Gavin's side, and while the 29-year-old Ballymun Kickhams defender insists it's not a tactic the Dubs have ever utilised, they have adapted to it impressively since Donegal shattered their All-Ireland defence in 2014.

"It possibly means that they (the opposition) are thinking a little bit more about you than they are about themselves," he said.

"We've never set out to do that so I've never experienced it. Have we gone out to contain teams? I'd be lying if I said we weren't working on certain things like that but it certainly wouldn't have been to that extent.

"Mentally we're tough. We know that we can't stop. We're going to play right until the end. When Monaghan scored the goal on Sunday, you have players running up into your face celebrating and you think, 'hold on a second, they think this game is over'.

"And they're probably thinking, 'when is this going to be over?' For us, it's not. We nearly want the ref to play ten minutes more. Whether we're winning comfortably or it's a tight game, that's the way I look at it."

Having grown up watching Dublin struggle against Kerry, the tables are well and truly turned for the current crop in the capital ahead of another titanic clash, which looks set to rock Croke Park this weekend, and McMahon and Co have little interest in slowing down with more history in sight.

"When you were a spectator before, we would have seen Kerry being successful and you say, 'I want to do something for this county, I want to make a change'," said McMahon.

"A lot of the players that have been a part of this squad probably had that in their head, 'We want to change things' and we've done that."

Irish Independent

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