Sunday 19 November 2017

Tomás Ó Sé: Dublin should drop holier-than-thou act - all great teams have a hard edge

18 March 2017; Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Dublin manager Jim Gavin exchange a handshake after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 5 match between Kerry and Dublin at Austin Stack Park in Tralee, Co Kerry. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
18 March 2017; Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Dublin manager Jim Gavin exchange a handshake after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 5 match between Kerry and Dublin at Austin Stack Park in Tralee, Co Kerry. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Tomás Ó Se

Tomás Ó Se

I don't want to say it's gone poisonous but being straight about it, there has been an edge between Dublin and Kerry since the Tralee game. And while I can't say I was expecting it so soon, I'm delighted we're getting another cut off them tomorrow.

I was part of a WhatsApp group last Sunday and lads were sending in what the league final pairing was going to be as the games unfolded. It went from Dublin-Donegal to Donegal-Monaghan but when it settled on Dublin-Kerry I was happy. Another chance for our lads to see if they can close the gap I thought.

That's why I don't understand some people were saying that Kerry didn't bank on another date with Dublin so soon. I just don't buy it for a second. If you didn't want this match as a Kerry footballer and you were heading to Croke Park with your head down then God help us.

Those boys don't think that way. For me, the Tralee game showed that they think the gap is closing. And the lads now know something special is happening at underage level in Kerry. If we can just keep our heads and learn as much as we can from these games, we'll be heading in the right direction.

But look, they are up against it tomorrow. These Dublin lads are setting records by the week. The current panel contains some of my favourite players of the last 20 years.

The lads I'd pick are not necessarily the lads that would get on any all-time team but they are hard boys and they are good footballers too. They have skill and steel, they are the kind of lads that you'd want in your fox hole.

Every team needs that. The Kerry team I was on had it. The Tyrone team of the 2000s had it too. Make no mistake, any team that wins consistently has an iron fist inside their velvet glove.

That's why I can understand Fitzy's comments this week where he came out and had a cut at how Kerry are bring portrayed. I know he wouldn't have liked doing that. That's not his way.

The Kerry way is simple. If you win, win graciously. Lose and you keep your mouth shut with any grievances you might have. But he felt compelled to answer stuff that was bandied about that wasn't true and I totally agree with him.

Deliberately or not, Jim Gavin and Philly McMahon painted Kerry as the aggressors and I think he couldn't ignore it any longer. I was in Tralee for the drawn game. It was a mix of handbags and edgy in-your-face stuff. But as far as I could make out there was nothing untoward. Genuinely if someone went too far I'd call it, no matter what jersey they were wearing.

But it's been painted this week that Kerry were dishing it out and the Dubs just continued their pursuit of the beautiful game without ever getting into the nitty gritty. Rubbish. You don't get to where they are without knowing how to go to the dark side.

Look at the Monaghan game. I counted seven pull downs on Monaghan players. Bernard Brogan's foul was as black as could be but there was no card. In this paper, Colm Keys went through the incidents Eamonn cited during the week. So don't tell me Dublin don't know how to live on the edge.

And look, I have no problem with it. None at all. Good footballers and good teams will always go to the brink.

Great teams will have fellas who can just go beyond that and not get caught. I did it. Our Kerry team did it. Tyrone did it. And straight up this Dublin team do it too. Don't tell me Johnny Cooper, Philly McMahon, James McCarthy and a few others have never acted the scut above in Croke Park? If anything it's a failing of this Kerry team. Some of our fouls are watery. If you're going to give up a free make the man earn it. Hit them and let them stay hit.

That's why it's hard to read some of the stuff coming from Dublin this week. Paul Curran? He's right saying we are more defensive than before, I'll give him that. But saying we're akin to Tyrone or Armagh of the 2000s is laughable. Look at the numbers from the league.

We scored 6-103, six points less than Dublin. But we conceded 7-87 to Dublin's 4-72. That's 3-15 in the difference, more than three points per game.

The reality is, that Kerry and Dublin play a similar style but they are better at it. The big difference is when the ball is turned over they can commit more payers up the field with greater pace. And they have more forwards to do the damage on the scoreboard. That's the biggest difference.

And they have Cian O'Sullivan. Switching him to a sweeper from a more traditional centre-back role after Dublin's defeat to Donegal in 2014 made them a more defensive side. But it also made them a great side.

He sits in front of his full-back line and lets the rest of the middle eight (and sometimes a few more) attack and defend as a unit. You know, had they been able to make that switch in the Donegal game, they could be going for four-in-a-row this year. But it was a defensive switch they made. That's just the way of things now.

I have great respect for Paul Curran as a fella and he was a great footballer but either he's stirring s**t or he can't read a game.

Paul Bealin came out this week too and said Fitzmaurice's comments were about deflection. To me, it felt like he was moving the agenda away from what Eamonn tried to shine a light on.

So you do have to ask yourself, is there an concerted effort to paint Kerry as the villains and Dublin as the choirboys, in the same way Mayo felt last year? And this time it's happening in April, not ahead of an All-Ireland final replay.

Sometimes I think Jim Gavin infers stuff without actually saying them in his interviews. If he has an issue, he should come out and say it himself.

But if they are trying to get an agenda out there in the media, I think they are being too smart about it, to the point where it is backfiring on them.

Let me stress again, I have no problem with the hard stuff. I dished out enough of it myself and I believe football is at its best when there's physicality to it. But the holier-than-thou stuff is hard to stomach. And being reduced to the blame-game in the paper isn't something I'm comfortable with, but it's where we find ourselves this week.

Away from the sideshow, we could have another great game on our hands. If I was playing, I'd have loved this build-up. You'd be running out the tunnel with steam coming out of your ears.

Look, I still think Dublin will win. They remain a bit ahead of us even if there was some promising signs in Tralee. And they are a better side in Croke Park the anyone else.

I still think we'll stay with them for a good part of the game but Dublin seem to love the final quarter. They play like they know they will own that part of the game so we might fall away there. We still have a handful of U-21s to come in and I think they'll be playing a role if the sides meet again later in the summer. So there's hope for Kerry, but tomorrow might just come too soon.

Irish Independent

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