The Kingdom shows class is permanent
Published 04/08/2009 | 00:00
Standing ovations at half-time were never the Kerry way but, such was the sheer majesty of their team's performance yesterday in the first-half demolition of Dublin, the Kerry fans were justified in making an exception.
This great football county has had many famous performances of brilliance, but nothing could match the performance in that first half. Every pre-conceived notion by GAA fans all over Ireland was shattered into oblivion.
This Kerry team was not finished; Darragh O Se was not over the top; Colm Cooper had not lost his appetite for football and above all, Jack O'Connor HAD NOT lost the plot.
I have seen all the Kerry-Dublin matches since the 1960s and this was the best full-length performance I have seen over Dublin. It was better than the 1978/'79 games because they depended much more on goal-scoring in those times.
This game showed a devastating level of individual and team performance that has rarely been seen from Kerry over all their great years and they did this with simplicity itself.
Beat your man to the ball, catch the high balls when competing with opponents, direct long foot-passes all over the field to disorientate opposing backs; and finally, go for your scores with raw courage and total lack of selfishness. Little wonder that 10 Kerry players scored at will and that these fundamentals of Gaelic football -- for long the trademark of Kerry -- stood to them in the face of wild talk about the Kingdom in the build-up to this game.
There are two caveats, however, in this result. The most notable is that just as in the past five Leinster campaigns, Dublin were living in cloud cuckoo land as regards the intrinsic merit of several of their players; the second is that Dublin opened the gate for Kerry to charge through in the opening quarter by making a series of switches all over their back-line that clearly confused those backs into a state of mental paralysis.
I have rarely seen a back-line get so petrified after 10 minutes as Dublin did, while the switches continued in a vain effort to try to close down players like Colm Cooper and Darran O'Sullivan.
Dublin have had a problem in their defence -- particularly the full-back line -- for years but yesterday, combined with the game against Tyrone last year, surely means that persisting with the majority of these defenders is a hopeless exercise for Dublin mentors. But will that lesson be taken on board? Surely defeats by 12 points last year and 17 this year will convince Dublin GAA people to seek out a new back-line.
But there is no point in dissecting the Dublin performance because the game had been decided half-way through the first half when Kerry were ahead by eight points.
Obviously a lot of Dublin players are far better than they looked yesterday, but most worrying for the Dubs is that all the plans so elaborately set in motion, on and off the field in 2009, were demolished so ruthlessly and in such a short space of time. And where does this result and last year's leave Leinster football?
But it is the Kingdom who move on towards the Sam Maguire with a clash against Mayo or Meath and there will be a new spring in the step of every Kerry person around the globe after this performance.
Of particular interest was the performance of so-called lesser lights such as O'Sullivan and Seamus Scanlon and, indeed, I would consider Scanlon to be the man of the match because of his work-rate in the game and the brilliant manner in which he allows O Se to maximise his resources in the midfield area.
Paul Galvin played a horse of a game too and adds a new dimension to the whole Kerry effort while Tadhg Kennelly continues to make more and more impact in every game. His two 50-yard cross-field passes to Cooper were sheer brilliance and complimented the marvellous return to form of Gooch, who must be a very happy man today after the 'shellacking' he received from some people who should realise that genius does not suddenly die away but occasionally takes a break. A short break!
Kerry do not engage in elaborate team tactics, preferring to let their best players make their own decisions in the heat of battle and this was in marked contrast to Dublin, where pre-match planning seemed to predominate in recent years and the capacity of individual players to take initiatives, particularly in times of stress, is lacking.
Kerry did take steps to deprive Stephen Cluxton of the short kick-outs he has used successfully against other counties and once the Kingdom got motoring with that early Cooper goal, they played their football off the cuff as they have always done.
For a period after half-time they seemed to slow down the game -- just as Kildare did at the same time against Tyrone -- and on both occasions that back-fired, as it allowed opponents to gain more possession. But Kerry soon abandoned that and swept over nine points in around 20 minutes to put the icing on the cake.
Now they CAN look forward to a great season, although it will not be anything as easy as yesterday. For Dublin, in conjunction with their failure to reach an All-Ireland final from five Leinster victories, the questions to be asked will be fundamental and the answers will not be pleasant, unless quite a few new talent is developed over the coming nine months.
And for the lesser lights like Longford, Sligo and Antrim, there must have been a grain of satisfaction at Kerry's dazzling display.