Monday 22 January 2018

Kerry get the blues as Dublin lock them out

All-ireland SFC final: Dublin 0-12 Kerry 0-9

Rory O’Carroll and Stephen Cluxton combine to keep out Paul Geaney in Dublin’s victory
against Kerry in the All-Ireland SFC final in Croke
Rory O’Carroll and Stephen Cluxton combine to keep out Paul Geaney in Dublin’s victory against Kerry in the All-Ireland SFC final in Croke
Donnchadh Walsh, Kerry,goes down following a challenge from Jonny Cooper
Dublin's Kevin McManamon powers past Aidan OMahony of Kerry
Dublin's Bernard Brogan goes to ground
Dublin's Paul Flynn aims for a point despite Killian Young's best efforts
Jack McCaffrey, Dublin, attempts to fend off Kerry's Darran OSullivan
Dublin players Bernard, left and Alan Brogan lift the Sam Maguire in front of Hill 16 after victory
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It was the day this Dublin team came of age, showing a different side to their game as they calmly powered to victory in a game where the extent of their superiority wasn't reflected in the winning margin.

They wouldn't have been flattered by a six-point margin on a day when Kerry produced a very flat performance where, apart from a spell in the first half and just after half-time, they were labouring for little reward.

A nine-point finishing yield was their lowest in the Championship for 50 years, since Galway beat them on an identical scoreline. Of course, that game was played over 60 minutes, which makes yesterday's score look even more dismal.

Three of Kerry's points came from subs, while wing-back Jonathan Lyne also hit the target, which means that the starting sextet of forwards managed only five points between them.

James O'Donoghue (3) and Paul Geaney (2) accounted for all five, yet both were substituted in the second half. So too were Stephen O'Brien and Johnny Buckley, leaving only Colm Cooper and Donnchadh Walsh as the only starting forwards to see out the full game.


Neither made any impact; nor did midfielder David Moran, who was also replaced. It all points to a major Kerry power failure from midfield up, which was indeed the case.

The simple truth was that the well-organised Dublin defence, where Rory O'Carroll, Philly McMahon and James McCarthy were outstanding, locked the Kerry attack in a secure bind, except for one or two occasions when Stephen Cluxton's goal came under threat.

The most crucial of those was in the 67th minute when Kieran Donaghy played Killian Young into a goal-scoring position but he lost control of the ball and the chance was gone. A goal would have brought the sides level, which really would have been an unfair reflection of the overall action.

Kerry later had claims for a penalty when Donaghy appeared to be pulled down by Rory O'Carroll under a high ball, but referee David Coldrick saw it differently, much to Dublin's relief.

It really would have been a sickener for Dublin if they had been caught on the run-in, but then they had made life more difficult than it should have been in the second half, kicking ten wides and also misplacing some passes, which resulted in promising moves breaking down.

In addition, Brian Fenton's drive for goal hit the upright in the 46th minute at a time when Dublin were three points ahead. A goal at that stage might well have sunk Kerry completely but, instead, they were able to hang on.

Indeed, they cut the margin to two points in the 51st minute but their next - and final - score didn't arrive until stoppage-time when sub Bryan Sheehan pointed a free. Meanwhile, Dublin had added two more points, giving them a cushion which they protected as they carefully charted their way to a 25th All-Ireland title.

They achieved it with an intelligent display which enabled them to minimise the impact of the wretched conditions. Heavy rain swept in before the game and continued all afternoon, making ground conditions very slippery.

In those circumstances, it was always going to be a real war of attrition, raising the key question as which side would cope best. Kerry's dogged performance against Donegal in last year's final suggested that they were well capable of adapting to whatever was put in front of them, whereas there were doubts about Dublin's capacity to win in a hard slog.

There was an expansive, swashbuckling dimension to most of their five earlier Championship wins, during which they averaged over 26 points per game, but yesterday called for something completely different.

The response was most impressive, right from the opening seconds when Fenton powered into position and fired over the opening point.

Kerry's midfield pairing of Moran and Anthony Maher were regarded as the best in the country for much of the season but they were well beaten by Fenton and Denis Bastick, before the latter gave way to Michael Darragh Macauley in the second half.

Fenton gave an excellent performance and with the Dublin defence shepherding the Kerry attack into a cul-de-sac, it was always going to be very frustrating afternoon for the defending champions.

Nowhere was that better illustrated than in the individual battle between Colm Cooper and Philly McMahon. Not only did McMahon hold 'Gooch' scoreless, he helped himself to a point just before half-time.

McMahon's ability to get himself into scoring positions has been a major plus for Dublin all season and, combined with his defensive vigilance, made him one of the central figures on the great journey.

But then, Dublin were men on a very definite mission from the start of the year. The haunting memory of last year's defeat by Donegal provided them with a motivation that wasn't going to be denied.

Granted, they ran into turbulence against Mayo, first when they surrendered a big lead in the drawn semi-final and later when they fell four points behind in the replay.

However, the manner in which they rectified the situation that day suggested that everything was coming right. They would have felt that it needed to be if they were to out-gun Kerry but, in reality, they didn't have to do anything special to win yesterday.

Indeed, it has been a long time since Kerry played so poorly in an All-Ireland final.


They scored a meagre four points in the first half, having led by 0-3 to 0-2 after 17 minutes. It was all square after 26 minutes but Dublin made a decisive break on the run-in to half-time, kicking four unanswered points.

Significantly, two of them came from defenders, McMahon and Jack McCaffrey after making telling raids deep into Kerry territory. A four-point interval lead (0-8 to 0-4) set Dublin up nicely for an inevitable Kerry surge early in the second half.

Kerry scored two points in the opening three minutes and, briefly, it looked as if they might build enough momentum to make things happen. Dublin were having problems with the kick-outs, where several of Cluxton's deliveries were either misdirected or easily read by Kerry.

The goalkeeper was also lucky that the referee took no action over the length of time he took with some kick-outs and, even more noticeably, when he came forward for long-range free-kicks.

There were two 70-second delays in the second half between the time a free was awarded and Cluxton taking the kick but, for some reason, Coldrick didn't intervene. Dublin were leading for all of the second hall so it was in their interest to waste time on frees.

Still, it wasn't a match-changing matter and while Kerry will be bitterly disappointed to have lost the All-Ireland title without ever doing themselves justice, they have to accept that Dublin were the superior force.

Much was made of Kerry's high-powered bench but Darran O'Sullivan, a half-time replacement for Stephen O'Brien, was the only sub to make real impression. Donaghy tried hard but the supply was erratic and he also had to cope with O'Carroll's up-close and very personal attention.

Somewhat surprisingly, Kerry didn't call on Tommy Walsh, whose fielding prowess might have made a difference. Instead, they looked to, among others, Paul Galvin and Bryan Sheehan, neither of whom made an impact.

No-one could possibly have foreseen that the Kerry attack would find it so difficult to make headway against a Dublin defence that had looked vulnerable at times against Mayo. But then, with the Kerry midfield misfiring, the supply was often reduced to a trickle.

Still, Kerry should have scored more in the first half, but shot six wides, some from relatively easy positions. It summed up what was a truly miserable day for them on all fronts.

As for Dublin, it completed a fantastic season, where they won the All-Ireland, Leinster, Allianz League and O'Byrne Cup titles.

It was another personal triumph for manager Jim Gavin, who has presided over eight wins in nine major finals in three seasons. The only prize to elude Dublin in that period was last year's All-Ireland title. They would never have expected that 0-12 would be enough to beat Kerry but the defence came good on the biggest day of all to underpin a well-deserved victory.

Scorers - Dublin: D Rock (2fs), B Brogan (1f), P Flynn 0-2 each, B Fenton, S Cluxton (f), J McCaffrey, P Andrews, P McMahon, A Brogan 0-1 each. Kerry: J O'Donoghue 0-3, D O'Sullivan, P Geaney 0-2 each, J Lyne, B Sheehan (f) 0-1 each.

Dublin - S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O'Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, D Bastick; P Flynn, D Connolly, C Kilkenny; P Andrews, D Rock, B Brogan.

Subs: K McManamon for Rock (ht), MD Macauley for Bastick (41), M Fitzsimons for Cooper (48), J Small for McCaffrey (52), D Daly for O'Sullivan (61), A Brogan for Fenton (67),

Kerry - B Kealy; F Fitzgerald, A O'Mahony, S Enright; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; A Maher, D Moran; S O'Brien, J Buckley, D Walsh; C Cooper, P Geaney, J O'Donoghue. Subs: D O'Sullivan for O'Brien (ht), B Sheehan for Buckley (44), K Donaghy for Geaney (50), P Galvin for Moran (57), P Murphy for O' Mahony (58, BC), BJ Keane for O'Donoghue (61).

Ref - D Coldrick (Meath)

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