Monday 18 February 2019

Billy Keane: 'Best of enemies uncork rescue remedy for football'

A melee breaks out between Dublin and Kerry players after the final whistle in Tralee
A melee breaks out between Dublin and Kerry players after the final whistle in Tralee
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

In a year when silage was cut in January, Kerry and Dublin went at each other as if this was autumn and All-Ireland final day.

Those of us who were in mourning for the game we love found hope and glory on a cold, wet February night in Tralee when the football was roasting hot.

The Dubs were enjoying the holiday so much that we can exclusively reveal their county board may well nominate Tralee as the Dubs' neutral venue for the 'Super 8s'.

The fans, as ever, got on feistily but famously. There is genuine respect for Dublin.

There was one Kerry supporter though who abused the Dublin management and team as they walked through the passageway to the dressing room under the stands.

Vitriol She screamed out: "Ye are finished. Ye will never win the five-in-a-row." And the lady varied the vitriol with an eclectic mix of desperate curses. Jim Gavin was targeted specifically. Sorry Jim.

The fact is Dublin will have to listen to five-in-a-row talk - all day, every day - whether they like it or not. And all the bubble wrapping in a china shop will not mask the inescapable march towards an unhidden history.

And was the crazy Kerry lady right? Are Dublin finished? There are two answers. One is 'no' and the other is 'far from it'.

Dublin have had little training in 2019. Jonny Cooper still has a lovely colour and he is hardly the type who throws himself down on a sunbed, or pays regular visits to the beautician for the application of fresh coats of fake tan.

What you check for in February is for the heart and the fight for the do-or-die. We look to see if new talent has been found or found out.

Dublin fought till the last drop on Saturday and, most importantly, they never lost their road map. But for a couple of near misses the champs might have gotten a draw.

There is no systems failure. Dublin are still the best team in the land. Dublin will not have to play too many games in the charged away-from-home atmosphere of Tralee. The GAA look after Dublin like no other team.

And yes they have some of the greatest players who ever played the game, with more to come back, including Stephen Cluxton and hopefully Diarmuid Connolly. Then there were the two Dublin goals - Paul Mannion's strike was a wonder.

There was a conflagration after the final whistle. Dublin were hurting and it showed. No doubt the Tut Tuts will be using terms like "disgraceful behaviour" and "what will the children think?" But Dublin care and Dublin crave.

Peter Keane is being compared to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He has introduced pace to the Kerry game-plan. Mick O'Dwyer is a family friend. Micko went for youth and speed back in 1975, when we shocked another superb Dublin team. Speed wins, especially in Croke Park, and at best, teams can only carry one player who isn't pacey.

Kerry's tackling was hands-on and hurt Dublin. Tackle coach Donie Buckley knows his stuff and he should be sent to every club in Kerry to spread the word. Shadowing is the usual method of defence in the passive marking of the Kerry county leagues.

Kerry pressed the Dublin kick-out with man-on-man marking. It worked well. Coaches will tell you the press will wear out the pressers. Rubbish. Turnovers are a source of energy. You bring on the subs, the fast subs, to continue the pressure.

Kerry have a lot of work to do but skill-wise we are as good as any team. And here is the conundrum. We have the most skilful set of backs in Ireland but do we let them attack or make the defenders stay tight and at home?

Kerry played without a sweeper.This is a question of balance and coaching. We got the mix wrong at the end. Kerry went too defensive, and Dublin were picking us off.

But the big thing for Kerry was when Dublin equalised, Kerry won a turnover, broke fast and Peter Crowley fisted the winning point.

Shane Ryan, Gavin O'Brien, Diarmuid O'Connor and Dara Moynihan looked the part. The ground was hard and our emerging players are physically strong.

Hope springs eternal.

Notice: Vincent Carmody, the noted historian, will launch his illuminating new book 'Listowel - A Printer's Legacy' on Thursday at 7pm in the Teachers' Club in Dublin.

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