Friday 19 July 2019

'That was an unacceptable performance from our group and the problem is it's too f*****g late now' - Mattie Kenny

Dublin manager Mattie Kenny during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship preliminary round quarter-final match between Laois and Dublin at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, Laois. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Mattie Kenny during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship preliminary round quarter-final match between Laois and Dublin at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, Laois. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

MATTIE Kenny wore the dazed expression of a man who'd seen too much.

In fairness, he had.

Outside on the pitch in O'Moore Park, sporadic cheers went up each time a victorious Laois player made his way through the celebrating throng to the neck of the tunnel.

In a small room off the main corridor, Kenny stood surrounded by inquisitors who brandished more questions than he had answers.

To his eternal credit, he managed to be as articulate and analytical as anyone might have been in the same situation.

"There's an element of responsibility between the players and the management today," Kenny stressed.

"That was an unacceptable performance from our group. And we know that. The problem is, it's too f***ing late now.

"It's a disappointing way to finish the season for us. Laois put up great fight there. They had great hunger. Dublin weren't at the required level today. And we've nobody to blame for that only ourselves."

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There and then it was hard not to recall 2010, just before the halcyon days of Anthony Daly's reign, when his emerging team beat Clare in Croke Park before suffering a gut-churning loss to Antrim.

Just as Dublin started the decade with a shock Championship exit, so too did they finish it with yesterday's defeat, the result of a completely contrasting performance to that which was sufficient to beat Galway in Parnell Park three weeks beforehand.

"There's no doubt about it," Kenny stated.

"When we qualified out of Leinster, we wanted to go deep into the championship. This is not the way we wanted to go out.

"It's a bitter disappointment for us. As I say, not taking anything from Laois, Laois played really well today. But it wasn't a satisfactory performance for us."

Early on yesterday, it was clear that Dublin hadn't started this game with nearly the same energy as the Galway victory.

Players were passive in the physical exchanges. Laois came away from rucks with possession.

And all afternoon, Dublin's shooting was off, illustrated by a stack of wides 17 high.

But the expectation was always that a mixture of Kenny's team belatedly rediscovering their mojo and Laois running out of gas would bring this game to its expected conclusion.

"Sometimes it's not any one thing," Kenny explained.

"If you're off on one thing, you're probably off on a lot of things. Today we had 17 missed scoring opportunities.

"That cost us dearly. But overall the intensity that we've been playing at for the last number of weeks, we didn't bring it today.

"And I think that reflected on our tackle-rate and I think it affected on our work rate as well."

For all their shortcomings, Dublin finally got level in the 55th minute.

By that stage, fouling had become the primary method of Laois defence, denying a goal opportunity at all costs.

Oisín O'Rorke split the posts and there and then, it looked as though Dublin would romp for home.

"No, because in fairness to Laois, they came down and got the scores," Kenny pointed out.

"They had the home crowd at their backs. In fairness to them, when we got within touching distance of them in the second half, you'd be hoping we'd drive on and get a few scores.

"But Laois always got those scores to keep their noses ahead. They showed great heart and great determination. And you'd have to admire them for that."

All the game's big performances were from Laois players.

Ryan Mullaney was outstanding at centre-back. Enda Rowland pulled off two brilliant saves and scored two monster frees.

John Lennon swept efficiently. Willie Dunphy caused problems from everywhere on the pitch. And yet for all that, Dublin only needed to be slightly better and they'd have gotten off the hook.

"Our preparation went really well. But sport is funny," Kenny noted.

"You have to make sure that outside influences don't seep into the guys' minds. A lot of people were writing about ‘Dublin are playing Tipperary'.

"That was being disrespectful to Laois. The best team won on the day. You'd be very disappointed with the Dublin performance. It's just not up to what we expect from this group and ourselves."

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