Sunday 15 September 2019

Tomás Ó Sé: 'There is one area where Kerry have an advantage as both teams go into replay with a clean slate'

Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin is tackled by Tommy Walsh of Kerry
Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin is tackled by Tommy Walsh of Kerry
Dublin's Con O'Callaghan. Photo: Sportsfile

Tomás Ó Se

Leaving Croke Park yesterday, I was conflicted.

I couldn't make up my mind whether that was an opportunity lost for Kerry or if it was a performance that showed they are closer to Dublin than most people thought.

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One part of me felt that this was their chance and that the general rule is the underdogs have to get it right first time around. They had Dublin on the ropes and needed to press home their advantage.

Another part of me thinks that Peter Keane's men have been learning on the hoof all summer and that 70-plus minutes against one of the best teams we have ever seen will bring them on no end. And just maybe, that performance will help them believe that they can finish the job the next day. But so much happened in the game that I think we'll be digesting it for a few days to come.

What they are unlikely to see in the replay is a game where they play most of the time against 14 men. I don't like to see red cards handed out in the All-Ireland final but I don't think Jonny Cooper can have many complaints.

He was ticked after giving away the penalty and picked up the yellow shortly after that for another foul on David Clifford. And the foul he got sent off for was another yellow in my book.

Look, David Gough was under a lot of pressure coming into this game. There was all that talk about whether he should or shouldn't get the game given where he lives and works. And honestly, I'd say both sets of supporters went away grumbling about certain decisions he made.

For example, Dublin will wonder if Tom O'Sullivan should have walked for that foul when already on a yellow. But that's a high-pressure scenario and he's one of the best around. I don't think he did badly at all.

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Both sides will feel like they have so much to improve on. Kerry trailed by five at one stage in the first half and I feared the worst. They hadn't played badly to that point. Their press on Stephen Cluxton was very aggressive and Jack Barry picked off a few of his kickouts.

Kerry had Dublin on the back foot but weren't converting. James McCarthy did brilliantly to get one Paul Geaney attempt off the goal line. Cluxton saved his penalty and even David Clifford kicked two bad wides and skied another shot.

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It must have been desperately frustrating for Peter Keane looking on from the sideline. Some of the things that his side were expected to struggle with, namely quelling Brian Fenton's influence and coping with the twin threat of Con O'Callaghan and Paul Mannion, they were doing really well.

But it was a part of the game where Keane could have justifiably expected his side to excel - converting chances - that they struggled badly. Paul Murphy hit the bar in the second half, meaning that of four clear goal chances, they converted just one.

Fair play to Keane and his management team, they got plenty of their marking assignments spot on, but they'll need to come up with a plan for Jack McCaffrey, who put in a performance for the ages in an All-Ireland final. 1-3 from play, one fisted point and one each off his left and right foot tells you everything you need to know about how important he was to Dublin.

McCaffrey aside, Jim Gavin knows there's plenty more to come from his main men. It's hard to imagine Brian Fenton will be as peripheral again the next day. You'd also get long odds on Mannion and O'Callaghan being kept to 0-3 between them again.

One area where Kerry look to have an advantage is the bench. Like the Tyrone game, Keane's subs made a significant impact. Tommy Walsh offered a different type of outlet and landed a point, while Killian Spillane hit 1-1. Gavin's changes didn't have the same impact. Diarmuid Connolly and Cormac Costello kicked wides.

As for the replay? Well for a start, I don't buy the notion that either team goes into the contest with an advantage.

Everyone is starting with a clean slate. Dublin will expect themselves to be better in the replay and have 15 men on the field for the entirety of the game. Kerry will believe that if those chances fall their way again, they won't miss them second time around.

The next two weeks are a mental battle as much as anything. When we drew the final with Galway in 2000, I wasn't sure how to feel coming off the pitch. When you're building up to a final and there's no winner, it feels like a massive anti-climax.

That day, as soon as we were back in the dressing room following the full-time whistle, Seamus Moynihan told us that we had to get our heads right to go again. Getting the heads right is as important as anything for the replay.

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