Thursday 19 September 2019

'Could they start Tommy Walsh the next day?' - Ciaran Whelan on Kerry's options in attack

Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin is tackled by Tommy Walsh of Kerry
Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin is tackled by Tommy Walsh of Kerry

Tony Considine

While most agree that the turning point of Sunday's All-Ireland final was David Gough's decision to show Jonny Copper a second yellow on the stroke of half-time, the impact of Kerry's Tommy Walsh's introduction from the bench 52 minutes in can't be understated.

After all, despite being a man down, Dublin had managed to hold their four-point half-time lead on the scoreboard for the 17 minutes of the second half before Walsh joined the fray and even stretched it to five before the ex-AFL man had settled in.

But moments later the 6'6" attacker had set up Killian Spillane for the goal that brought Kerry back into it, kicked a wide and point himself and set up Sean O'Shea for another point. Within ten minutes, he'd been directly involved in 1-2 to bring the Kingdom level in a game that seemed to be slipping away.

And former Dublin midfielder, Ciaran Whelan, believes that the big forward has played himself into contention for a start on Saturday week as both sides look to improve on a game that was high on excitement but mixed on a technical level.

"I think Dublin will improve, I don't doubt that. You saw the body language from Jim (Gavin), they did no national media, they just wanted to get out of there and regroup," Whelan told The Throw-In, Independent.ie's GAA podcast in association with Bord Gais Energy.

"He won't be happy with the level of performance and they have a lot of guys with scope for improvement. But so do Kerry and they're going to take a hell of a lot from the game in terms of how they rattled the Dubs and how they used their bench.

"Could they start Tommy Walsh the next day? He did make a big impact, as did Killian Spillane.

"Their forwards can improve, Clifford, Geaney. Their defence is going to have to be heroic again. (Tadhg) Morley is going to have to put in another big performance, Tom O'Sullivan the same."

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Considering the enormity of the occasion may have hit some of the players with Sunday's game only the third final in GAA history where a team attempted to win a fifth title on the bounce, Whelan also believes that some of those that weren't at their best may well prove influential for the rematch.   

"Replays can take on a different dynamic and sometimes the guys who haven't performed can come to the fore because they've nearly been forgotten about. It's amazing how it happens regularly in All-Ireland finals," the two-time All-Star explained.

"I think Kerry will get better as a result of it. They'll believe in themselves.

"You can't but look back on Sunday without saying this team are going to be around for a long time. They have the talent coming through and it might be the start of something special.

"Dublin have to improve to get over the line and get this five-in-a-row but it's not going to be an easy task."  

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