Sunday 22 April 2018

In a league of their own

Four-in-a-row for Dublin as Kingdom are put to the sword in 11-point defeat

Paul Flynn celebrates after scoring Dublin’s opening goal while Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy vents his frustration Photo: Sportsfile
Paul Flynn celebrates after scoring Dublin’s opening goal while Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy vents his frustration Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Dublin crushed Kerry by 11 points at Croke Park yesterday to secure their fourth Allianz League title on the spin - and extend their unbeaten record to an historic 22 matches.

Even allowing for the fact that the All-Ireland title holders outscored the Kingdom 2-5 to 0-2 after veteran Kerry defender Aidan O'Mahony was red-carded following an off-the-ball incident with Jonny Cooper in the 50th minute, there was no denying Dublin's superiority.

This was Kerry's worst loss against Dublin since a 12-point defeat in the League in 1998, but Kerry boss Eamon Fitzmaurice suggested afterwards that his team played better than when they were defeated by the Dubs in last September's All-Ireland final showdown.

"They're a serious outfit. In fairness to Jim Gavin, he's a fella that really flies below the radar - but he's obviously brilliant at his job because he's able to keep the levels of hunger that he has in a group that has been so successful over the last couple of years."

Gavin, indeed, is rapidly emerging as the most successful GAA manager of modern times - and if Dublin justify their tag as favourites and retain the All-Ireland title next September, he will challenge Kevin Heffernan's position as the most successful Dublin GAA boss of all time.

Yesterday's success means that he has secured nine (two All-Ireland, three Leinster and four League titles) out of a possible ten trophies since succeeding Pat Gilroy in 2012.

But Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton insisted afterwards that the focus remains on executing the game plan for the team.

"We just look at every game as it comes along," he said. "It will be great when I eventually retire and see what I have won."

Dublin led 0-10 to 0-8 at half-time but, even then, Kerry were struggling to cope with the pace of their opponents.

Kerry defender Peter Crowley out-scored the recalled Diarmuid Connolly by a point, but otherwise almost every other battle went Dublin's way.

Man of the match Ciaran Kilkenny saw off both Fionn Fitzgerald and his replacement, Killian Young, while in contrast to Cluxton - who found his colleagues with all but two of his restarts - ten of Brendan Kealy's kick-outs were won by Dublin players.

It was a misdirected restart from Kealy which resulted in Dublin's first goal in the 67th minute from Paul Flynn. Substitute Eric Lowndes scored the second in injury time, while Dean Rock blasted a 57th minute penalty over the bar.

Under Eamon Fitzmaurice Kerry have now lost six of their seven clashes against Dublin, and if the teams meet again in the All-Ireland semi-final this year, eight of the Kerry team that started yesterday will be over 30.

Veteran broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh - who participated in the Laochra show immediately after the game - was the only Kerryman to receive an ovation in Croke Park yesterday afternoon.

And on the basis of the Kingdom's performance, it could be some time before their senior footballers win silverware at headquarters again. A hue of blue hangs over the future of Gaelic football, with Dublin's 13th National League title moving them to within six of Kerry's total.

Four Dublin players missed the Laochra show as they were whisked off to be drug tested immediately after the game, which annoyed boss Jim Gavin.

"They are the athletes people came to watch today, and for them to be treated that way I don't think was appropriate," he said.

Irish Independent

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