Wednesday 17 January 2018

Tomás O Se: If anything the gap to Dublin may be widening

Cathal McCarron of Tyrone is tackled by Con O'Callaghan, left, and Paul Mannion of Dublin
Cathal McCarron of Tyrone is tackled by Con O'Callaghan, left, and Paul Mannion of Dublin

Tomás O Se

It was a strange weekend. You left Croke Park on Saturday night thinking that Mayo might just be ready to go all the way and then 24 hours later you find yourself wondering when anyone will be able to lay a glove on Dublin again.

We're down to two now and there's no disputing they are the best two around. For me, Mayo showed a ruthlessness that we haven't seen from them before. Sometimes they'd be too nice to finish you off. But on Saturday they got Kerry down and they kept them there.

Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The debate will rage as to the decisions Éamonn Fitzmaurice made. When I heard of the three changes to the starting team, I was happy. It was a signal he was trying things and an acknowledgement that what had gone on a week earlier wasn't good enough. It was a clear message to the players they would have to be better. I was hoping it would serve as a wake-up call. It didn't.

Kerry went with the sweeper and there's no way of dressing it up - it just didn't work. There wasn't nearly enough heat on the ball coming in. A sweeper only works if they man kicking the ball in is under pressure but Mayo weren't. And if they didn't kick long they ran it down our throats. I've always had serious time for Keith Higgins and Colm Boyle but Jesus those two boys were brilliant. There's no end to them.

The other problem with playing a sweeper is that it takes a long time to perfect and as well as that I just don't think we have the players that suits it. We had Paul Murphy back there and he is a brilliant player. Murphy was excellent going forward the first day and there was an element of robbing Peter to pay Paul by playing him back there.

There'll be other questions too. James O'Donoghue probably should have started. Donnchadh Walsh started but wasn't fit. Shane Enright struggled against Andy Moran in the drawn game and found it tough again on Saturday before he was taken off.

But look, there's no getting away from the fact that we were beaten by a better team with better footballers.

It'll be a long winter for Kerry football people. Losing is one thing. Losing playing a sweeper is another and that'll be used as a stick to beat Fitzmaurice with too.

The next couple of years will be very important for Kerry football. We've won one All-Ireland in eight years now and while we have loads of talented young fellas, how we bring them through will be vital.

It's important we have the right men there in the squad to show them how it's done. I'm not sure what Kieran Donaghy will do or if he'll continue but it'd be great to have him around those lads. David Moran is another. Those senior lads have to try and bring these young lads through.

When I came in to the Kerry panel the likes of Séamus Moynihan, Eamonn Breen, Maurice Fitzgerald and others were there to show you the ropes. That's important in the development of a young player. These boys can't be expected to just land into senior football and do the business straight away.

They'll need that help too because when you saw what Dublin did to Tyrone you're wondering how you could stop them. Three-in-a-row would be an incredible achievement and without getting ahead of myself, it's not hard to make a case for them winning even more than that.

Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy in protest as team-mate Paul Geaney is bundled to the ground by a combination of Mayo’s (from left) Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins, Séamus O’Shea and Aidan O’Shea. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy in protest as team-mate Paul Geaney is bundled to the ground by a combination of Mayo’s (from left) Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins, Séamus O’Shea and Aidan O’Shea. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

They have brilliant footballers. We always knew that but the way they got their tactics right was the most impressive thing about their performance yesterday. Going through the footage of the game for the 'Sunday Game' last night we noticed they effectively had enclosed Tyrone into their own half and never let them get their running game going. The game was played on Dublin's terms.

Logic tells you that for all they have won and for all he miles on the clock they should be coming back to the pack a little bit but if anything they are going further way. This was supposed to be their first real test but that was the most dominant I have seen Dublin against a top-ranked side in a while. They had hit 1-4 before Tyrone really knew what was going on and they just managed the game from there.

The bench contributed 1-4, and that was without two former Footballers of the Year in Bernard Brogan and Michael Darragh Macauley seeing game-time - and Diarmuid Connolly only being introduced in the 69th minute.

And when Tyrone found themselves so far behind, a major flaw in the game plan was exposed. They just have no Plan B. In the system they play there's an awful lot of pressure on Mark Bradley to win the ball and give the runners a chance to get off is shoulder. If that doesn't work, they are under serious pressure.

Dublin looked stronger than ever yesterday but Mayo have consistently been able to fly at their altitude. I can't wait to see what happens.

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