Saturday 25 January 2020

Alan Brogan: Kerry used the most unorthodox formation for Dublin kick-outs I’ve ever seen

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Stephen Cluxton endured a tough afternoon on Sunday. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Stephen Cluxton endured a tough afternoon on Sunday. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Alan Brogan

YOU rarely see the end coming for champions but when it does, it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

It’s impossible to know just how much any team defending their title want another one the following year until such time as another side with equally grand ambitions and a more ravenous appetite puts it up to them. But that’s exactly what Dublin came through on Sunday.

Whether or not they win this year’s All-Ireland, it can’t be said that they lack hunger.

It was a great, imperfect performance. Kerry played very well in patches but I just don’t think they have the same talent that Dublin do at the moment.

And that’s probably the  bottom line.

We knew Kerry would do something offbeat but their set-up for those kick-outs was the most unorthodox formation I’ve ever seen.

It was intriguing to see two lines of four, with Kerry pressing 12 players into Dublin’s half and leaving just two at the back.

They put their three big men across the middle - and it worked.

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Dublin’s demeanour changed. You could see them pointing at each other, issuing commands where to run.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice did exactly what he had to do. Put Stephen Cluxton under pressure. Force a goal. Suddenly, Dublin were like a boxer punch drunk.

There were guys looking around at each other rather than looking at themselves. And it didn’t look like there was very much leadership going on at that stage.

They were losing 50/50 battles. Squandering kick-outs. The Gooch was starting to control the game.

Obviously, Dublin got their heads around it at half-time. If Kerry had gotten the first couple of points of the second half to go six or seven in front, that would have forced Dublin into desperation but the opposite happened.

Kerry threw everything at it but Dublin kept coming up with answers. And th e lads off the bench made a massive difference.

As for Kevin McManamon… I had a clear view from right behind him for the point he scored late on and the level of difficulty was huge, particularly in that scenario.

He’s definitely Kerry’s nemesis but down there, they respect guys like that - fellas who can challenge their teams and take on their defenders.

Even though he’s been a particularly sharp thorn in their side, he’ll always be respected in Kerry.

And one of the most defining moments of the day for me came well after the final whistle.

I spotted Marc Ó Sé and Aidan O’Mahony in the middle of the pitch embracing.

As they glanced towards the Hill, It looked for all the world as the sort of chat two fellas have about the last time they’ll play for Kerry.

Those lads are two of the greats and it just hit home to me how lucky I was last year to walk off the pitch in Croke Park on my last day with an All-Ireland medal in my pocket.

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