Sunday 18 August 2019

Colm Keys: 'Kerry will need to cut off the oxygen of blue goal rush'

One Dublin three-pointer is often quickly followed by another in brutal blitzkrieg

Dublin's Brian Fenton. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin's Brian Fenton. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

It was like watching a hostage siege play out. For a while, there was calm, some dialogue, but ultimately no progress as the hostage-takers made it clear that they were defiantly digging in and wouldn't be coming out quietly.

So it became a job for special forces. Quickly they moved into position and readied themselves to storm the building. In sync, they attacked from all sides, using controlled explosives to blow open barricaded doors. Confusion and chaos briefly reigned.

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But when the smoke cleared it quickly became apparent that the siege was at an end. Violent, ruthless but, as ever, highly effective.

Once again the oxygen of goals had left a Dublin opponent flailing helplessly for life, 12 minutes this time just after half-time, in line with so many previous interventions.

Saturday night's culling of Mayo's lingering hope that they could land an All-Ireland title in this decade ran along similar lines.

Dublin have found many ways to win a game throughout this decade but the 'bish-bosh-bang' of a goal rush trumps everything else for effectiveness, giving opponents no time for recovery.

It helps that they are, more often than not, playing in a stadium that is their home venue, filled with a majority of support to provide that extra electrical surge. They feed off it. Thus, the effect is multiplied.

How many times have we seen it? Only last month Cork had given as good as they had got for more than 60 minutes of their All-Ireland quarter-final phase one game, absorbing the hit of two first-half goals, staying in the game for 60 minutes before first Niall Scully, then Ciarán Kilkenny and finally Brian Fenton (left), surging through in almost identical fashion to Saturday night, landed blows in quick succession between the 62nd and 67th minutes that left Cork in a spin. A game they were losing by just four points became a 13-point gap in just over five minutes.

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Tyrone experienced something similar in last year's All-Ireland final, a game they led by three points after 20 minutes but were behind by six just 14 minutes later, the stadium still buzzing from Paul Mannion's penalty conversion when Niall Scully got the touch for a second goal minutes later.

Such blitzkrieg is right out of the Kilkenny hurling playbook when they were in their pomp. Like magpies, one Kilkenny goal was often followed by another and by another for good measure if the occasion demanded it.

Some teams score a goal and like to consolidate what they have, rather than risk having it wiped out straight away. For Dublin, it's their cue to storm the building when the smoke is billowing at its fiercest.

Mayo have almost always been able to withstand the rush throughout a decade of rivalry.

But in the 2015 semi-final replay, when they had perhaps the clearest view of the winning post, their eyes were sufficiently blinded by a scrambled Bernard Brogan goal to quickly concede another to Philly McMahon before Kevin McManamon applied the coup de grace with a third. From four points up in the 54th minute, Mayo were five down by the 63rd minute.


In the past it's been Westmeath in the 2015 Leinster final they thought they were hanging on in until Jack McCaffrey and Bernard Brogan knifed through and Monaghan in the 2014 All-Ireland quarter-final, again hope extinguished by a goal quickly followed by another, courtesy of Brogan again and Diarmuid Connolly.

Dealing with the psychology of this potential blitz is something Kerry will need to prepare for in the coming weeks among many other things.

They have much to work on. Their record from sweeper deployment is quite poor and an uncomfortable sit for their support. But can they really afford to leave their full-back line as exposed as they were on Sunday?

Paul Murphy has been handed the responsibility in the past and was the free man for spells against Tyrone. But after an impressive second-half cameo maybe Jack Sherwood ticks those boxes.

The timing of Tommy Walsh's introduction is another factor to get right. Dublin will see it coming and have plans around McMahon and Cian O'Sullivan, both substitutes on Saturday night, being in the mix when it happens.

But it's holding their nerve in those seconds and minutes after an inevitable Dublin goal that will be the key to staying in this game.


Kerry, under Eamonn Fitzmaurice, have kept Dublin goalless in their last two championship meetings, the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final and 2015 All-Ireland final, having been hit with that double salvo at the end of the 2013 semi-final by McManamon and Macauley.

But for the weather in 2015, Dublin may well have piled it on too and their capacity to follow one with another was something Fitzmaurice observed prior to that game.

"They go for goals, it's part of their game. When they get goals they get life from that and the Hill really gets involved. It's no coincidence that they often get their second goal soon after their first one," he noted.

This season Dublin have been in rampaging goal form. Their midfield axis of Fenton and Michael Darragh Macauley are already on six between them, more than one third of their 17-goal total.

Living through the smoke and fumes from that first goal is a key to survival.

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