Saturday 17 February 2018

Eoin Liston: The Dublin monkey on Kerry's back had nearly scratched us to death

'David Moran’s late point summed up everything great about this display.' Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
'David Moran’s late point summed up everything great about this display.' Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Eoin Liston

Eoin Liston

This wasn't just the league, for Kerry this meant everything.

It would have been difficult facing into the summer on the back of another loss and you could see the relief in everyone's faces after the final whistle, as there was so much on the line for this Kerry team.

We've put ourselves in winning positions before against the Dubs and failed to see it out, so this is invaluable. We nearly let them back in it at the finish, but this is a huge turning point for the current Kingdom crop.

A Dublin monkey has never been on our back as long as this and it nearly had us scratched to death, but we finally bit back.

Kerry's heart and desire was phenomenal, they just knew they couldn't come back home without the title after putting themselves in a position to win.

David Moran's late point summed up everything great about this display. With men breathing down his neck he decided there would be no deja vu and left his fingerprints all over the win. They had suffered enough and showed that mental toughness to be courageous enough to want the ball.

They weren't hiding when the pressure came on and wins like that are priceless for confidence. They had their foot on Dublin's throat in Tralee a month ago, but let them away at the last minute, which allowed that mental doubt that we couldn't beat this Dublin team to fester.

This time they decided they had suffered enough and finished the job. Eamonn Fitzmaurice deserves great credit, most notably for the amount of young fellas he has blooded into the team, guys like Ronan Shanahan, Jack Barry, Jack Savage and Kevin McCarthy, and those players will have most to gain from this. They now know they can beat the Dubs.

They can call on this going forward and it was that youth, even minus all the U-21 contingent, that paid dividends. The third quarter was our moving quarter and every time we attacked we got a score.

We've tried and failed before, much like every other team, to cause Cian O'Sullivan problems in his defensive role, but Michael Geaney succeeded. You can't mark and sweep and that's the first time a team has really asked O'Sullivan questions.

Geaney's direct running and that lightning pace showed what we've been missing against the Dubs in the past. Allied with the intelligence and graft of Donnchadh Walsh, it really turned the tide in that fruitful second-half burst.

Our backs were superb and even though Tadhg Morley had his hands full with Ciarán Kilkenny in the first-half, he turned the tables after the break and he was the one driving forward and putting Kilkenny on the back foot.

That was happening all over the field, as we were taking the initiative. Call me old-fashioned, but bravery can go a long way to winning a game and we drove at the Dubs in the second-half and wouldn't take no for an answer.

Kerry will be bouncing going into training next week and it'll fast-forward their improvement, but there's no doubt Dublin are still the team to beat. The unbeaten streak may be finished, but they're only getting started.

What they have achieved is incredible, but I know just how hard a five in a row is to accomplish.

Diarmuid Connolly's black card was a huge blow, as their heads seemed to drop when he went off.


Philly McMahon was lucky to stay on the field, leaving his calling card every time he went into a tackle yesterday, but it was no surprise that it wasn't as physical as the Tralee game because there are always less collisions in Croke Park.

And, I have to say, knowing Fitzmaurice, there were no motives other than fairness in his comments last week. He's not a whinger and no one could say he can't take his beatings. However, if he feels his team are being wronged, he's entitled to ask people to look in the mirror before pointing the finger.

People in Kerry don't usually do that, but when you look at the record at some of these Dubs and put it under the microscope, I could totally understand his opinion. It was portrayed that the only way Kerry could win was by fouling and being negative - that was the propaganda going out.

This is a wake-up call to the Dubs ahead of the championship, but Kerry have gained much more in victory. In battle you have to draw from memories; if you keep knocking on the door repeatedly and it never opens you end up assuming it never will.

Thankfully, Kerry burst through it, because Dublin had our number for long enough.

We didn't have a rivalry up until this, but now we do and if they meet again come summer there'll be guaranteed fireworks.

Irish Independent

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