Sunday 18 August 2019

Vincent Hogan: 'Peter Keane channels his inner rogue to play down Sam Maguire hopes'

Kingdom boss is already revelling in the role of Cinderella man as he begins plotting a way to end Dublin's push for immortality

Keane:
Keane: "We were worried about ourselves." Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

Maybe the suspicion that this amounted to two bald men fighting over a comb diminishes when you process what Kerry did in the end.

They remembered themselves. A pathology case just after 4pm, they were pure mischief and mirth one hour later, wheeling for home to a chorus of belly-laughs. In the media auditorium, Peter Keane joked about stepping out of a dressing-room in which his goalkeeper was already wrestling with plain imperatives.

"Shane Ryan was on the phone there to Gerard Murphy of Vincent Murphy Sports in Castleisland," he said, deadpan as a stand-up with good timing. "His biggest problem was would he get two pairs of boots or three pairs of boots because he'd have the boots worn out so much from kicking the ball out to Dublin.

"That's going to be the biggest problem! We'll come up in three weeks and we'll do our best. Alright lads?"

Out of the evening echoes fell pantomime then. But what Kerry have been trying to do under Keane is essentially counter-intuitive.

Just as a golden generation of minors mature into men, they are told to leave those dance shoes in the wardrobe and pull on workmen's boots. This game demands a utilitarian constitution, a willingness to serve as distinct from decorate.

David Clifford, Paul Geaney and Steven O'Brien all had monumental second periods but, before they could get to that point, they were compelled to run the hard yards and suffer. To fight for the right to breathe.

Actually, in some ways, both teams were at odds with their souls here.

Seán O'Shea of Kerry in action against Conor Meyler of Tyrone during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Seán O'Shea of Kerry in action against Conor Meyler of Tyrone during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

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All Dublin's fault, of course; their cold efficiency leaving the rest of the game equivocating, second-guessing, floundering even. Last year's All-Ireland final told Mickey Harte that Tyrone needed another card up their sleeves; that efficient, militaristic defence might get you 20 minutes of joy against Jim Gavin's boys but, ultimately, you might as well be line-dancing in front of crocodiles.

So Tyrone made a few subversive adjustments.

They found a full-forward for one and kicked fast, direct ball in on top of him. They scored goals. They even heard themselves trumpeted as a triumph of modern re-invention until Donegal got a hold of them in Ulster and, well, the pragmatist in Mickey wasn't long re-awakening.

So Dublin's shadow was still questioning everything and everybody here.

Could Kerry find within some previously unseen obduracy or Tyrone enough ambition?

Not that we were looking for a team to actively worry Gavin through the next three weeks, but maybe one that might - at least - hold his interest. Did we get it? Unequivocally, yes.

Kerry have better scoring forwards than any team Dublin have yet met in this championship and to win that second-half - as they did - by 1-13 to 0-9, those forwards needed to assert themselves on a diet of scraps.

Change

What brought about the change? "A few choice words and we came out a different team," shrugged O'Brien, his final involvement now in question after a third black card for the season. "And that's the way we want to play going forward."

Whether that's actually possible against Dublin is, of course, a moot point. But if any county has it knitted into their DNA to roll that dice, it's Kerry. Four down at the mid-point here, they had halved that deficit before firing an unanswered 1-3 between the 54th and 58th minutes.

O'Brien's goal came on the counter after Kieran McGeary's barrelling run up the Cusack side hit trouble around the 45. Quick as a snake's strike, Kerry snapped downfield, Geaney setting up O'Brien and stealing the thunder of a team for whom Cathal McShane was the one, unrelenting threat.

McShane did set up a goal chance on the hour for Peter Harte, Ryan saving and drawing a foul from Rory Brennan that, essentially, sounded Tyrone's death-knell.

The flawless Sean O'Shea and peerless Clifford soon stretched Kerry's lead to five and, thereafter, Keane was - presumably - polishing up his punchlines.

Dublin?

"We'll worry about that tomorrow or the day after," he shrugged. "There wasn't much point getting hung up about the Dubs last night."

Hadn't he seen their semi-final?

"Nah".

None of it?

"No, sure there was no point. We were worried about ourselves," said Keane (below), breaking into a story about his father teaching him how to drive and, essentially, counselling against jumping the gun.

He said he'd "heard some fellas out there talking about" O'Brien's potential suspension "but look, you're asking me about rules and technicalities that I know nothing about."

The player himself indicated a likely appeal against the card received in Navan against Meath, suggesting it was "very harsh, I was running off the ball and it was an accidental head clash so we'll certainly be looking to appeal that one."

His insouciant air was in keeping with his manager's then.

This is a natural domain for Kerry football, making plans to go chase down that giant cannister. It's doubtful a soul outside of their own borders will imagine this team good enough to subvert Dublin's push for immortality.

But, if Gavin had a choice of opponent for September 1, it's doubtful he'd have chosen Kerry.

Asked if he had any specific memories of '82 and Kerry's failed bid for five-in-a-row, Keane responded thus: "It was a big thing in South Kerry at the time because John Egan was captain.

"South Kerry had won the county championship the year before and my father had been a selector and was chairman of the South Kerry board. And there was a big hoo-ha at the time as to who would be the captain.

"At the end of the day, at a meeting, it was Jacko or Egan and they picked a name out of a hat. South Kerry hadn't won it in 26 years and it was a big thing to then have the captain of the team aspiring at the time to do five... I suppose there is going to be a lot of talk on Dublin.

"Seemingly they put up a big score yesterday against Mayo in the second-half, did they?

"Sure you're dealing with, potentially, the greatest team that has ever played."

A rogue, already counting the days.

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