Monday 16 September 2019

Jim Gavin's review should start with himself as Kerry prove they can compete as equals with Dublin

Cooper's dismissal hands Kingdom chance to launch brave comeback after Dublin looked set to write themselves into the history books

Dublin manager Jim Gavin shakes hands with Jonny Cooper of Dublin after Cooper was sent off
Dublin manager Jim Gavin shakes hands with Jonny Cooper of Dublin after Cooper was sent off
Stephen Cluxton tips Paul Murphy’s stinging drive onto the crossbar in the second half. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It appears the gods cannot decide whether or not to open the All-Ireland five-in-a-row club.

Having issued Dublin with a blue-embossed invitation, they changed their minds, put away the keys and decided they would reflect on it for another 12 days.

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Ahead of the replay, set to bring in an estimated €5m bonanza to GAA coffers, there will be a lot of reflection in Dublin and Kerry too, while the rest of us are just thankful that we will get another chance to enjoy the rematch on Saturday week (throw-in 6.0).

Based on what we saw yesterday, there's every reason to believe that it will be equally intriguing, as it's abundantly clear that Dublin have genuine rivals for the No 1 slot.

Kerry will feel that the learning process was fast-tracked to such a degree that the backdrop to the replay will be very different. They now know they can compete as equals with Dublin, whereas they could only hope that was the case prior to yesterday.

Confidence

Having recovered from a five-point deficit (1-14 to 0-12) after 55 minutes to win the next 11 minutes by 1-4 to 0-1, Kerry's confidence tanks will be brimming for the replay.

Granted, they were hanging on desperately in the closing minutes, but, crucially, they survived. It was close, though, with Dean Rock having a chance to win it for Dublin in the 77th minute off a free near the sideline.

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Even by his exceptional standards, it was a very difficult kick and, much to Kerry's relief, it drifted wide.

Given their pre-match rating as long-odds outsiders, a draw was an excellent result for Kerry, yet a look back on the game will leave them with regrets.

Having an extra man for all of the second half, after Jonny Cooper's dismissal on a second yellow card just before the interval, offered them a glorious chance to reshape their challenge and really go for Dublin.

Instead, they lost the opening 20 minutes by a point (5-4) and, quite frankly, appeared to be running out of ideas when the excellent Jack McCaffrey took his total for the day to 1-3 in the 55th minute.

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Playing Paul Murphy as spare man in defence was providing Kerry with extra security, but they needed more than that. The break came after goalkeeper, Shane Ryan batted down a high ball that was only inches away from dropping over the bar.

It carried a lot of risk, but playing safe was no longer an option. He started a counter-attack, which ended with Killian Spillane, who had dropped off the announced team to make way for Jack Barry, firing to the Dublin net.

The recovery was on and gathered a powerful momentum, which took Kerry into the lead in the 66th minute when Spillane brought added value to his introduction by kicking the lead point.

Dublin controlled the rest of the game (seven minutes of stoppage time were added) and Rock grabbed the equaliser in the 74th minute.

They had other chances too, but subs Cormac Costello and Diarmuid Connolly were wide from scoreable positions.

Dublin's post-match review will centre on a number of issues, surely starting with Jim Gavin and his management team analysing their own performance, specifically the decision to leave Cooper (below) on David Clifford for so long.

It was evident from early on that Clifford's slickness had Cooper in a spin. It should have cost Dublin a goal in the 12th minute when Cooper hauled him down under a dropping ball, but Paul Geaney's penalty was saved by Stephen Cluxton.

It should have been re-taken as Cluxton was off his line, but that's an offence which referees rarely punish.

Five minutes later, Cooper was booked and, as his discomfort continued, he picked up a second yellow for fouling Clifford whose clever spin had turned him.

It meant that Dublin headed for the half-time break four points ahead (1-9 to 0-8) but a man down.

Quite why Cooper was left on Clifford for so long is something that only the Dublin management knows. Given the way the duel was going, a second yellow looked very likely, yet they persisted with the arrangement as if believing that it would eventually come good.

It wasn't the only problem Dublin encountered in the first half. Kerry stretched them further than anyone had done since Mayo in the 2017 final, but were let down by poor finishing.

Penalty save apart, Kerry missed another goal chance when a shot was saved on the line by James McCarthy and they were also wide with some point-scoring chances, including two from Clifford. Paul Murphy also hit the crossbar in the second half.

Kerry led by 0-5 to 0-4 after 18 minutes, but were shaken a minute later when McCaffrey's pace took him into the scoring zone where he fired to the net. It was a splendid goal, so typical of what Dublin are capable of delivering at any time.

It undone all of Kerry's early enterprise and as Dublin continued to have the edge for the rest of the half, there was a certain familiarity about how they went about their business.

Dynamic

However, Cooper's departure shifted the dynamic after the interval, a period in which Dublin often drive out of sight. They took the lead out to five points, but being a man down in such a tough battle must have taken some toll.

Kerry were certainly more energetic for that crucial 11-minute spell when they turned a five-point deficit into a point lead, but in fairness to Dublin their response was beyond defiant.

Breaking Kerry's momentum was crucial and they did it through sheer force of will, which ultimately kept their five-in-a-row ambitions on track.

Both managements have big decisions to make for the replay. Gavin will mull long and hard over whether to play Cooper and, if he does, it's unlikely he will assign him to Clifford. Peter Keane has a dilemma too as Con O'Callaghan caused Tom O'Sullivan all sorts of problems.

Also, Keane will be working on kick-out strategy as there were several occasions when Shane Ryan had a blanket of blue ahead of him as he surveyed his options. Stephen Cluxton usually had far more targets, even when they were a man down.

Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-10 (6f, 1 '45); J McCaffrey 1-3; P Mannion 0-2; C O'Callaghan 0-1. Kerry: S O'Shea 0-10 (4f, 3 '45s); K Spillane 1-1; D Clifford 0-2; S O'Brien, G Crowley, T Walsh 0-1 each.

Dublin - S Cluxton; D Byrne, M Fitzsimons, J Cooper; J McCaffrey, J McCarthy, J Small; B Fenton, MD Macauley; N Scully, C O'Callaghan, B Howard; P Mannion, D Rock, C Kilkenny. Subs: P Small for Macauley (52), E Murchan for J Small (58), D Connolly for Howard (67), C Costello for Mannion (67). K McManamon for Scully (70).

Kerry - S Ryan; J Foley, T Morley, T O'Sullivan; P Murphy, G Crowley, B Ó Beaglaoich; D Moran, J Barry; G White, S O'Shea, S O'Brien; D Clifford, P Geaney, A Spillane. Subs: K Spillane for A Spillane (45), J Sherwood for White (49), T Walsh for Ó Beaglaoich (53), J Lyne for Crowley (68), D Moynihan for Barry (73), M Griffin for O'Brien (72).

Ref - D Gough (Meath)

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