Sheehy: Dubs team to beat
FOR Mikey Sheehy, one of the greatest forwards of any era, it must have been galling to witness his county endure a full hour of football – spread over two demoralising Sundays – without landing a single score. Even more so when Sheehy was watching on as a Kerry selector.
If there's any consolation for the trauma of the last two weekends (and it's a minor one) then here goes... Sheehy reckons Dublin, with a new tactical approach and an influx of fresh talent, could be the team to beat this year.
Two weeks into the new Allianz League season, the scoring machine of '70s and '80s legend has put Jim Gavin's squad on the same pedestal as All-Ireland champions Donegal. They are, he surmises, the two "standout teams" out there.
"I thought the Dubs were exceptional. Mayo played quite well against us, but Dublin – I thought – were at another level again," Sheehy reflected, speaking in Croke Park the day after his beloved green-and-gold had suffered a crushing 1-11 to 0-4 defeat in front of their own Killarney faithful.
"Even when we were looking at their team when it was announced during the week, there were a lot of young lads, which you would have said were inexperienced.
"Jesus, they were very good footballers – outstanding. And I just think that Jim Gavin has them playing a more direct style of football, which was quite impressive.
"The inside line – when Paddy Andrews went in with Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly – caused all sorts of problems.
"And to be fair to our full-back line, I thought they did quite well on the quality of ball that was coming in. But I think Dublin are going to be a serious side this year, absolutely."
Sheehy's eulogy of all things Sky Blue comes with a caveat: it must be judged in the context of Kerry's shambolic start to the new league season.
A week ago, they failed to score for the last 40-plus minutes of their Division One opener against Mayo; on Sunday, more than 20 minutes had elapsed before they got off the mark against the Dubs.
The Austin Stacks clubman is a selector under new boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice who, in the absence of Colm Cooper, Paul Galvin et al, has faced a baptism of ire. Sheehy refuses to cite the non-availability of marquee names, especially up front, as an excuse for their paltry 1-10 haul over two games.
"You are going to lose games at this time of the year, but I just think it was the poor performance really on both days. Mayo was disappointing but I was actually more disappointed (on Sunday)," Sheehy admitted, speaking in Croke Park where the Team of the Millennium corner-forward was a guest at the opening of the GAA Museum's new Hall of Fame.
"I am not going to criticise these guys because they are working hard and hopefully it will turn around," he added.
"But when you replace four of your starting forwards, then you do have problems. It is a frightening statistic from our point of view – no score in the second half against Mayo and four points over 70 minutes (against Dublin). That's galling really."
Kerry's poor underage record – especially when measured against Dublin's recent minor and U21 triumphs – is the elephant in the room. What happens when the Kingdom's ageing crop of All Stars, Footballers of the Year and multiple medallists eventually retire?
"It is a very poor statistic from our point of view that Kerry's last minor was in 1994 and I think the last U21 before 2008 was '98.
"Even though we had a minor team that was beaten in a semi-final by Dublin last year, I think it could be a problem down the road. We won't press the panic button quite yet, though," Sheehy concluded.