Wednesday 18 September 2019

Pat Spillane: 'Kerry's young guns have come of age and they certainly have not blown their chance'

Michael Fitzsimons of Dublin in action against Jack Barry of Kerry
Michael Fitzsimons of Dublin in action against Jack Barry of Kerry

Pat Spillane

THIS will be remembered as the game in which Kerry's youngsters came of age. And I don't accept the much touted theory now doing the rounds that Kerry have lost their chance of dethroning the champions.

But before getting into specifics about what was an enthralling contest, let's salute both teams for an absolutely spellbinding final. We witnessed everything that was great in Gaelic football and ultimately everybody was a winner.

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Dublin and Kerry get a second chance and as well as being a financial bonanza for the GAA, it means that Gaelic football will dominate the sporting headlines for another two weeks. It will be just like the old days when the month of September was all about the football final.

In lots of ways it was a good day for both teams. As I said already, Kerry's young squad came of age while for long periods Dublin showed commendable composure and demonstrated why they haven't lost a championship game since 2014.

I was arguing on television before the game that there were three reasons why Kerry had a chance of upsetting the odds. My first argument was that Kerry had substitutes who could make an impact on the scoreboard whereas Dublin no longer have this luxury.

Events proved me right, as between them, Killian Spillane and Tommy Walsh scored 1-2 from play, while the latter gave the final assist to Sean O'Shea for the equalising point in the 63rd minute. In contrast, none of the Dublin forwards who came on scored, though John Small did make a significant impact.

The second issue which I have highlighted all year was the pressure which Dublin would feel coming down the final straight with the five in a row within their grasp. Everything looked rosy for them after 55 minutes when they led 1-14 to 0-12.

But like Kerry did in the 1982 final against Offaly, their composure slowly deserted them in the closing stages when they made some uncharacteristic mistakes with substitutes Cormac Costello and Diarmuid Connolly kicking wides.

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Finally, the defining characteristic of this Kerry team is their character which they have repeatedly shown all season. Remember they were in trouble at half time against Tyrone in the semi-final but roared back in the second half. And they had to come back from being five points down today. They're never beaten until the final whistle sounds.

Kerry got an awful lot of things right. They needed to get their match-up rights and win the midfield battle - which they won.

Brian Fenton was largely anonymous and he must be sick and tired of the sight of Jack Barry, who has now marked him out of three games.

In contrast, David Moran had a big game, while Kerry got their defensive match ups mostly spot on. Con O'Callaghan and Ciaran Kilkenny were both subdued, while Paul Mannion - although he did score 0-2 - was replaced.

Indeed, just four Dublin players got on the score sheet and their conversion rate dropped to 50% - way below their usual standards. Dean Rock was the pick of the attack, while Jack McCaffrey's 1-3 from wing-back effectively saved them.

Kerry's conversion rate was poor as well. Paul Geaney missed the penalty and failed to score but he still made a decent contribution, while Stephen O'Brien, who had been Kerry's best forward all summer, failed to sparkle.

It's hard to understand why Jim Gavin left Jonny Cooper on David Clifford once he picked up a booking.

I think the referee had no option but to sent him off before half time because he had already been ticked before he picked up his first yellow, whereas Tom O'Sullivan hadn't been ticked when he fouled John Small in the second half, though he had been booked.

Replays remind me of the afters of a wedding. Everybody is dressed up for the second day but there is a bit of sparkle missing. But I'll tell you why I don't believe that Kerry have missed the boat.

Granted the underdogs usually lose second time around but Kerry very rarely consider themselves underdogs in any contest.

They haven't won 37 All-Ireland titles by accident. They never come to Croke Park to lose and they will take a lot of positives from this drawn encounter.

So the destination of the 2019 All-Ireland title is still in the hands of the Gods.

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