Wednesday 21 February 2018

Eoin Liston: Lessons for Fitzmaurice and Kerry in painful defeat

Despite injury doubts, Cian O'Sullivan started for Dublin
Despite injury doubts, Cian O'Sullivan started for Dublin
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

Every Kerry supporter was disappointed with the result of the All-Ireland final on Sunday, but I don't think many of us could say that we were surprised.

In 2011, we were in control of that game against Dublin, we were the better team and we let it slip. There was a feeling of disgust after losing that and it lingered for a long time.

This time around it's not the same. I'm disappointed we didn't win and I'm particularly disappointed for all the players and management who put in such hard work over the year. But in our heart of hearts, I think all of us knew that we were up against it on Sunday and so it turned out.

I had been tipping Dublin all year and then last week I allowed my heart rule my head and I said I thought Kerry could win.

This was because I thought Cian O'Sullivan would miss out with a hamstring injury and it was before we knew that Marc ó Sé and Paul Murphy, two of our very best defenders, weren't starting.

When I heard that Marc and Paul were out I was a bit more fearful and as it turns out those fears were well founded.

The Kingdom will be full of regret looking back on that final because, quite simply, we didn't play and we allowed Dublin to dictate the game.


All year long I have been saying that Kerry have players more than good enough to win another All-Ireland, but that we had to employ an effective sweeper system and to work on our team defence.

No team is going to win a Sam Maguire now without a sweeper and the way O'Sullivan plays for Dublin is vital to their system.

He drops back and protects his full-back line, reads the breaks and Denis Bastick drops into the number six position to cover him.

Kerry have players with the game-reading and pace to play that role, but we have to identify him like Jim Gavin did with O'Sullivan and work on integrating him into that system.

We showed no adventure on Sunday and played far too conservatively. In the first half Dublin defenders got forward for two points, but we didn't have anyone doing the same. Another example of the Dubs' ambition was that they had seven first-half scorers to our two.

This was because we were concerned about our defence getting exposed so players were hanging back.

If it wasn't for Donnchadh Walsh working back from wing-forward there would have been no link-man between the back and the front. He did trojan work, but too often there wasn't a team-mate bursting a gut to get onto his shoulder to take the offload and break the tackle.

And I must say that Colm Cooper and Johnny Buckley also put their bodies on the line to win a few balls at key times.

It was an terrible day and the conditions were very difficult, but we would all have to accept that Dublin adapted better.

Their basic skills were superior on the day. Those skills are winning the ball, keeping the ball, passing accurately and making the right decisions. I know that the Kerry players will be disappointed that they weren't better in these key areas.

Having only a 30 per cent success rate from shots compared to Dublin's 66 per cent was also a telling statistic.

We didn't create enough goal chances and because of this I felt that Kieran Donaghy was brought on too late.

I thought he was fouled for what should have been a penalty and then he set up Killian Young for a great chance that should have been stuck away and that just showed the impact that he had. And by the time that we really needed goals, our two best goal-getters, Paul Geaney and James O'Donoghue, were on the bench.

I didn't like to see Colm Cooper so far from goals and defending so deep. Maybe he should have been switched to full-forward to pin a man back, or even centre-forward to take O'Sullivan away from his sweeping role.

I'd hate for people to think that I'm putting the boot in here, because I'm not.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice has done unbelievable things with this team. At the start of last year they were 12/1 to win an All-Ireland, yet they did it and 12 months later they were back in another final.

I very much think that Eamonn is the man to lead this team forward and even though his term as manager was up, I was happy to hear last night that he wasn't walking away.

A few older players, the likes of Marc ó Sé, Aidan O'Mahony and Kieran Donaghy, may well consider retirement after great careers and if they go there will be a bit of rebuilding required. Eamonn is certainly the best man to guide that process.

Kerry have won the last two All-Ireland minor titles so the structures are in place. There are good young players coming through and I don't think we'll be too far away in the coming years.

Irish Independent

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