Sunday 15 September 2019

Martin Breheny: 'Keane should consider 'Canavan' option for Walsh'

Kerry boss should start influential target man, substitute him and then bring him back on

Problem solvers: Dublin manager Jim Gavin (left) and Kerry boss Peter Keane have plenty of tactical conundrums to figure out before Saturday week's All-Ireland SFC final replay. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Problem solvers: Dublin manager Jim Gavin (left) and Kerry boss Peter Keane have plenty of tactical conundrums to figure out before Saturday week's All-Ireland SFC final replay. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The only certainty about the football final replay is that the winners will be deemed to have made better use of the lessons from the drawn game.

If Kerry win, it will be classed as a victory for quick learners, a squad that gleaned so much from last Sunday that it cancelled out all of Dublin's vast reserves of confidence and experience.

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If Dublin win, it will be put down to a return to business as usual after their close flirtation with defeat.

Meanwhile, the assumptions are well under way. Those who believe Dublin will seal the five-in-a-row contend that Kerry missed their chance, having failed to win last Sunday despite their numerical advantage for the entire second half.

Original favourites are usually tipped to win replays, on the basis that if they were fancied in the first place, they should be backed again.

It doesn't always work out like that, of course. Kerry will recall 1987, a year that started with them bidding for a second four-in-a-row in 10 seasons and ended with the closing of an empire.

A late goal by Mikey Sheehy earned them a draw against Cork in the Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, after which it was assumed they would win the replay - probably quite comfortably - in Killarney.

They didn't. In fact, they were well beaten in what turned out to be the start of a lengthy slump, which saw them win only one of the next eight Munster titles and remain without their next All-Ireland title until 1997.

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In 2013, Kilkenny, the reigning All-Ireland hurling champions, were held to a draw by Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. Again, it was assumed Kilkenny would win the replay, but they didn't.

So, if Dublin supporters think the natural order dictates that their history-chasers will win as a matter of course next Saturday week, they could be in for a shock.

Ignoring

Similarly, if Kerry fans believe their squad will have learned so much from the drawn game that they are certain to press on in the replay, they are ignoring the lessons of history.

It's brimming with examples of underdogs who held favourites to draws, only to lose the replays, sometimes by quite big margins.

So while Jim Gavin and Peter Keane will be closely analysing last Sunday's game, they won't treat it as the ultimate template for the rematch.

Take, for instance, the case of Brian Fenton, who had probably his least effective day in the five seasons he has filled Dublin's No 8 jersey.

Nobody would have foreseen that, yet it happened. Could it be the same in the replay? Of course, but it's highly unlikely. The same goes for Ciarán Kilkenny, who hasn't been as effective this season as in previous years. He has scored 1-9 in this year's championship, 1-12 less than last year. Will he explode back to his best form in the replay?

As for Kerry, their review of the drawn game will show many positives, but it also has to take into account that they had an extra man for the second half.

It was quite a comfort to have Paul Murphy as a spare defender, although why they used him so conservatively, especially for Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs, is unclear.

There was no obvious reason why he couldn't have moved up for them, thereby reducing Cluxton's options. If Kerry won possession, he would have been an extra man in attack, while he could retreat rapidly if Dublin won the kick-out.

The question of whether starting Tommy Walsh would benefit Kerry more than keeping him in reserve until late in the third quarter will also generate discussion among fans. He delivered game-changing performances against Tyrone and Dublin, but what if he were in from the start?

He may not have the stamina for the full 70 minutes, but could he not start, go off at some stage and return later on, similar to how Tyrone played Peter Canavan so effectively in the 2005 All-Ireland final?

It involves Walsh in two substitutions, but with six allowed, that wouldn't be a major complication. Keane must also decide whether to start Killian Spillane. He made quite an impact after replacing his brother, Adrian, and has a strong case for retention.

As for Dublin, Gavin must decide whether to keep faith in Jonny Cooper after his nightmare against David Clifford ended with a red card.

He has choices to make outside the starting 15 too, specifically whether to include either Bernard Brogan or Eoghan O'Gara - or maybe even both - in the 26-strong panel.

Goalies off line – another rule that's ignored

I don’t blame David Gough for not ordering a re-take of Kerry’s penalty last Sunday after Stephen Cluxton came off his line before Paul Geaney kicked the ball.

I do, however, blame the GAA’s refereeing authorities, as this is another rule they have always allowed to be ignored.

Goalkeepers recognise that, which is why they have become increasingly brazen as they know there’s only a tiny chance they will be penalised.

If Gough ordered a re-take, the legitimate question would arise as to why the rule was so strictly enforced on All-Ireland final day, but not for the rest of the year.

That’s where the refs’ assessors and the controlling committee come in. They know damn well what’s going on, yet take no action.

Stepping up implementation would discourage goalkeepers from taking a chance, so it would be largely self-policing if a harder line was taken.

The same applies to illegal handpassing in hurling, a rule which is also shamelessly disregarded.

All of which raises a question: why have rules, if they are ignored by those charged with applying them?

Minors deserve second day out

WHY force U-17s to do something you wouldn’t ask of seniors? Cork and Galway played extra-time in last Sunday’s All-Ireland minor final, while the Dublin-Kerry senior game went to a replay.

Why the difference? If it’s deemed appropriate to play extra-time in the minor final, why not at senior level too? Alternatively, let the minors have another day out.

Of course, there are those who claim U-17s should not be subjected to such high-pressure competition, but for as long as it persists, it’s only fair that they should be treated the same as seniors.

Minors are dealt differently too, in team lists. For some bizarre reason, only 24 names are allowed on the match programme, compared to 26 for the seniors.

It might look like a small point, but it’s nice for as many players as possible to be on the official list.

Incidentally, last Sunday was the first time both the All-Ireland minor and senior football finals ended level.

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