Sunday 19 November 2017

Moran majesty key to ending Dubs long run

Kerry 0-20 Dublin 1-16 - Allianz NFL Division One Final

Dublin’s Michael Fitzsimons is dragged to the ground by Kerry’s Anthony Maher, giving the Dubs a late free. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin’s Michael Fitzsimons is dragged to the ground by Kerry’s Anthony Maher, giving the Dubs a late free. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Whether it has any real long-term impact on the football landscape remains to be seen, but it will certainly challenge conventional perceptions about this year's All-Ireland championship.

You won't find anybody so blinded by yesterday's result as to confidently predict a definitive power-shift in the pecking order, but it zaps the theory that Dublin are on a different level to their rivals.

They are vastly superior to the majority of their pursuers, but the higher end of the market will be encouraged by yesterday's result. That's now led by Kerry, for whom this success will have come as a massive relief.

They had been trapped under Dublin's giant thumb in big clashes since 2011, but squeezed free yesterday in a contest that came within the width of a post of heading into extra-time.

Thrilling

Dean Rock's 48-metre free in the fifth minute of stoppage time started to the right but curled ever closer to the goal, eventually hitting the post and rebounding into grateful Kerry hands.

Paul Mannion scores the game’s only goal. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Paul Mannion scores the game’s only goal. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

It was the last action in a thrilling game, which, in addition to delivering a 20th league title to Kerry and their first since 2009, ended a record-breaking run by Dublin.

Their first defeat in 37 games (Kerry were the last to beat them in a league game in March 2015) also wrecked their ambition to become the first county to win five successive league titles since Mayo in 1938.

They could have no complaints, as their overall performance levels were well down on what we have come to expect from a side that started the day as 4/9 favourites.

Indeed, efficiency levels in the third quarter - during which they were outscored by 0-6 to nil - were their lowest for a long time, whereas Kerry enjoyed a period which will have worked wonders for their confidence.

Dublin boss Jim Gavin congratulates the Kerry players. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin boss Jim Gavin congratulates the Kerry players. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

This was the Kingdom at their swashbuckling best, driving forward with well-constructed moves that stretched the Dublin defence beyond breaking point.

David Moran delivered a tour de force performance, dominating the midfield exchanges and ensuring Brian Fenton had a relatively quiet day by his high standards.

Forced into fouling as a last resort, Dublin were punished by Paul Geaney's accuracy from frees (apart from one bad miss from close in) and from leading by a point (0-10 to 0-9) at half-time, they found themselves trailing 0-15 to 0-10 heading into the final quarter.

Dublin's capacity to work their way through problems has been central to their rise to the summit and, once again, they got a powerful response.

Kerry captain Fionn Fitzgerald lifts the cup. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kerry captain Fionn Fitzgerald lifts the cup. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

A combined effort from Stephen Cluxton, who made a brilliant save, and Philly McMahon, who got in a block immediately afterwards, kept the Dublin goal intact in the 59th minute and, two minutes later, the margin was cut to a point when Paul Mannion squeezed in a goal.

Based on past experiences, the champions' supporters would have expected events from those two minutes to be the catalyst for a winning drive, but on this occasion Kerry's reaction was so ferociously determined that Dublin just couldn't draw level, let alone move ahead.

Instead, Kerry extended their lead to three points before Dublin pared it back to one, ahead of Rock's late miss.

Part of Dublin's debrief, of what was only their seventh defeat in competitive outings under Jim Gavin, is certain to focus on an incident on the half-hour mark when they lost Diarmuid Connolly to a black card.

Kerry had lost Jonathan Lyne on the same sanction, but at least he had the excuse that his foul on Connolly possibly prevented a Dublin goal.

The St Vincent's man had no such logic to underpin his off-the-ball pull-down of Gavin Crowley, a ridiculous foul that left him heading for the bench for the second time in a week, having been black carded against Monaghan.

Connolly had been an influential figure up to his dismissal yesterday, with his strong running, positional sense and accurate passing causing all sorts of problems for a Kerry defence that was coming very close to breaking point.

Dismissed

Dublin led by three points when Connolly was dismissed, but scored only twice more over the next 20 minutes.

Kerry's rising confidence levels were evident across every line in the third quarter, with Man of the Match Moran, Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, Peter Crowley, Donnchadh Walsh and the Geaneys especially effective.

It must be a source of angst for Gavin that Connolly's discipline is so unreliable. He was badly needed in the second-half, but had to sit it out for reasons totally of his own making.

Read more: Five things we learned from Kerry's record shattering League final win over Dublin

Dublin subs Paul Mannion, Michael Darragh Macauley and Kevin McManamon did well, but Kerry sensed they were on to something if they maintained momentum, which they duly did.

Mannion's goal really put it up to them as it looked as if its timing was perfect for Dublin. It posed the toughest questions for Kerry, but unlike recent years when they just couldn't find the right answers, it all worked out splendidly yesterday.

It will leave Kerry heading into the championship in an excellent frame of mind, having finally figured out a way of beating Dublin in Croke Park.

Failing to reach the five-in-a-row league milestone is disappointing for Dublin, but the result could yet work out in their favour.

The lengthy unbeaten run carried its own pressure, which will no longer apply when they head into the championship.

Also, nothing concentrates the mind more than a defeat, which Gavin will, no doubt, use cleverly when the squad begins championship preparations and the pursuit of the prize that really matters.

Scorers - Kerry: P Geaney 0-8 (5f), D Moran 0-3 (1f), M Geaney, D Walsh 0-2 each, J Savage, J Barry, B Sheehan, K McCarthy, P Murphy 0-1 each.

Dublin: D Rock 0-6 (4f), P Mannion 1-2, C Reddin, C Kilkenny 0-2 each, P Flynn, D Connolly, J McCarthy, P McMahon 0-1 each.

Kerry: B Kealy; F Fitzgerald, M Griffin, R Shanahan; P Crowley, T Morley, P Murphy; D Moran, J Barry; J Lyne, M Geaney, D Walsh; K McCarthy, P Geaney, J Savage. Subs: G Crowley for Lyne (26 bc); D O'Sullivan for Savage (59), BJ Keane for McCarthy (63), B Sheehan for Walsh (67), A Maher for Barry (70), A Spillane for M Geaney (71).

Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon, M Fitzsimons, D Daly; J McCarthy, C O'Sullivan, E Lowndes; B Fenton, C Kilkenny; P Flynn, D Connolly, C Reddin; P Andrews, D Rock, B Brogan. Subs: N Scully for Connolly (30 bc), P Mannion for Andrews (42), MD Macauley for Reddin (49), K McManamon for O'Sullivan (49), D Byrne for Lowndes (61),E O'Gara for Flynn (68).

Ref - P Neilan (Roscommon)

Irish Independent

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