Sunday 26 January 2020

Eugene McGee: Sky Blue bandwagon shows no signs of derailing

'They are now being spoken as 'invincible' and with some justification.' Photo: Sportsfile
'They are now being spoken as 'invincible' and with some justification.' Photo: Sportsfile

Eugene McGee

The pride of Kerry, one of the constant components of Gaelic football for over a century, will be put to the ultimate test next August when - unless Cork upset the odds in Munster - they will face Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Fail to win that game and Kerry will be faced with the unpalatable fact that Dublin will have achieved an unprecedented dominance in the rivalry, and their control may last even longer.

Yesterday's result undoubtedly flattered Dublin and three significant events distorted the scoreline to give them their 11-point winning margin: a first-half penalty claim that was ignored by the referee, Aidan O'Mahony's sending off in the 49th minute and a disastrous kickout by goalkeeper Brendan Kealy that gifted a goal to Paul Flynn in the 65th minute.

But that said, Dublin were still going to win this game by about six points simply because they had far better team discipline, were much fitter as the game wore on and their players knew exactly what to do in response to whatever Kerry threw at them.

What most interested me beforehand was what Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his management team would come up with to address the problems apparent before and during last year's All-Ireland final.

Colm Cooper was the main focus of attention in that game when the Dublin tactics reduced one of the greatest forwards of modern times to little more than a passenger. He ended up trying to prevent his marker Philly McMahon surging up the field for scores.

This time, Cooper did well and made a handsome contribution to the Kerry attack while McMahon's roaming was severely curtailed.

The other big question was how Kerry would utilise Kieran Donaghy and here the answer was, at best, confusing. He started at full-forward, where most people think he should be, but later he went into the backs as he switched around several areas of the field.

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This meant the Kerry attack did not have a natural focal point.

They deployed a passing and running game which largely cut off the supply to Donaghy and Kerry's outfield players were slow to send high balls to him.

The first high ball that was sent in to him yielded a possession and a free that brought Kerry's eighth point. Why was that tactic not persisted with more often?

A more traditional facet of football also let Kerry down as they failed to win much possession at midfield. Early on they allowed Stephen Cluxton execute his short kickouts.

One wonders why Kerry did not contest every kickout closer to the Dublin goal. This was another lesson not learned very well from last year.


All is not lost for Kerry by any means if they can absorb fully the harsh lessons of last year and yesterday.

With 60 minutes gone they only trailed by two points before the roof fell in.

Overall, Dublin were slightly the better team to that point but their dominance was total in the final 10 minutes.

They are now being spoken as 'invincible' and with some justification.

Yet even with their dominance they are liable to be beaten on some particular day. Such is sport. They are an adornment to football right now and deserve full credit for that.

It is up to other counties, especially the ones with 100,000-plus populations, to get cracking on matching them in the coming years.

It is Kerry who will have the first serious crack at stopping the Dublin bandwagon unless some miracle happens in Leinster.

Yesterday's result and Kerry's response to it will have a huge bearing on the football scene for the next few years.

Irish Independent

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