Friday 20 September 2019

Martin Breheny: 'Lessons learned, Dubs can power on to the five-in-a-row'

Jonny Cooper. Photo: Sportsfile
Jonny Cooper. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Figures released this week show that houses in Dublin are most likely to be burgled, while Kerry has the lowest break-in rate among all counties.

Kerry supporters will be hoping those statistics transfer to this evening's replay as they attempt to unlock Dublin's security code, while the guard dogs protect their property at the other end. The defence did it exceptionally well in the final quarter 13 days ago, restricting the history-chasers to two points, a most unusual experience for Jim Gavin's men.

That it came after Dublin won the previous 35 minutes by 1-10 to 0-7 inevitably raised the question of whether the five-in-a-row factor infiltrated the blue nervous system.

They, no more than anyone else, know the answer. Still, the suspicion that it might have had an impact will further boost Kerry's confidence.

Not that it needed much enhancement after a performance where they proved they could compete on equal terms with opposition on a 35-game unbeaten championship run.

Peter Keane used a colourful analogy afterwards to insist that he had no doubts about their capacity to rise to the occasion.

"Did we think we had a chance coming here today? Sure, of course. If you've two dogs in any race, one of the dogs might get a heart attack and the other fella will walk home," he said.

Now, Dublin didn't suffer any coronary dysfunction and Kerry didn't 'walk home' but we get his point.

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He went on to ooze positivity, talking about half-full, rather than half-empty, glasses and how "if you keep rattling away, something will come of it."

In a sad reflection of the changed times, neither Kerry nor Dublin trusted any of their players to be interviewed after the game, but if we're to judge by the managers, the challengers were a lot more satisfied with themselves.

Gavin would sing 'Molly Malone' from the roof of the stand quicker than criticise his players, but his message was clear nonetheless - they would have to buck up for the replay.

"Disappointed with our performance. Just not good enough from the standards the players set for themselves, not what I set for them. I know when they reflect, they'll have a lot to say," he said.

One wonders did any of them ask why he left Jonny Cooper (below) on David Clifford when it became obvious that it was a mismatch. Ultimately, it left Dublin a man down for the second half after Cooper's frustrations tempted him into picking up two yellow cards.

History shows that losing a player isn't always as much of a disadvantage as it might be, but I doubt if that were the case this time. Dublin scored 1-9 in the first half, but saw their second half yield drop to 0-7. Many teams fail to use their spare man cleverly, but Kerry got it right with Paul Murphy, who did well in blocking the defensive channels. How different would it have been if Dublin had a full attacking complement?

Losing Cooper disrupted their overall balance, while providing Kerry with the chance to gradually build a powerful momentum. That they came so close to winning without Clifford, Paul Geaney and Stephen O'Brien reaching peak production will add to their confidence as it's unlikely the trio will be restricted to a mere 0-3 between them again.

Keane will have devoted considerable time to working out a strategy to counter Jack McCaffrey, whose forward raids yielded a personal tally of 1-3. Larry Tompkins has suggested that Kerry should despatch O'Brien in his direction, not solely with a view to man-marking but to take him on defensively, similar to what Mayo's Patrick Durcan did in the semi-final.

Durcan scored two points and also prevented McCaffrey from getting forward on menacing runs.

Just as Clifford, Geaney and O'Brien have more to give, Dublin will be expecting a higher return from Con O'Callaghan, Paul Mannion and Ciarán Kilkenny, who also scored only three points between them the last day. That contrasts with 2-5 against Mayo, 1-8 against Cork, 0-7 against Roscommon and 1-4 against Meath.

There's no doubt that Kerry are feeling much better about themselves going into the replay, convinced that the drawn game was a starting point for something special.

However, there's no reason to believe that Dublin won't do much better this time. The drawn tie was their first genuine test in the championship, demanding a step-up on what was required to reach the final.

The five-in-a-row is on its way.

Verdict: Dublin

Irish Independent

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