“Propaganda,” cried Joe Brolly on Sunday in explaining how he felt David Gough had lost his reason in awarding Kerry a penalty. As wide of the mark as his point was, he should know something about attempted implantation.
In the week leading up to the 2012 Donegal-Mayo final, the same individual pointed out Mayo had tactically fouled in their semi-final win over Dublin. The “Team Ulster” cap was donned again prior to 2014 Donegal-Kerry final when he spoke of Kerry fouling “very systematically” in their semi-final replay victory against Mayo. Neglected in his analysis on both occasions was Donegal’s own fluency in the dark arts but never let the truth get in the way of your intention, right?
Two days ago, it looked and felt like Pat Spillane was outnumbered on The Sunday Game. Ciarán Whelan spoke of his Dublin bias as he did of Spillane’s but then Brolly would be known to be closer to the Dublin group than Kerry. Brolly has socialised with the likes of Kieran Donaghy and Tomás Ó Sé but he would be more acquainted with this current Dublin team than any other and on Sunday he wrote of drinking with them.
Last September, he described receiving a friendly text message from James McCarthy a couple of days before the final.
The GAA being such a small world and Dublin being on top for so long, that familiarity isn’t surprising but Brolly would not share the same relationship with Mayo or Kerry and there are several people in both counties who would wonder if he is non-allegiant.
There was little doubt on that count about the men who flanked him in the RTÉ Davin Stand suite on Sunday and it’s a pity that for the second time in the space of 14 days that the presence of pundits whose counties are involved in the final is being questioned. As Eddie Brennan, Brendan Cummins, and Tomás Ó Sé to name but three have shown, the county jersey can be left outside the studio.
If Joanne Cantwell isn’t careful, she is going to bring an end to the careers of some big analysts. Her questioning of Henry Shefflin regarding Richie Hogan’s red card last month highlighted a prejudice on the hurling giant’s part, as she did on Sunday when she had to ask Whelan twice if Jonny Cooper had held David Clifford’s arm:
JC: The sending off is for persistent fouling — that is one foul you’re seeing.
CW: Okay, the way I look at it I don’t even think it’s a foul. I think that’s two guys going for the ball.
JC: That is one incident. Persistent fouling means there have been several fouls...
CW: That’s fine but I don’t think it’s a foul. It’s two guys going for a ball. He leans in, they are both going for the ball. That’s play-on, in my opinion. But listen we’re all going to be… Pat’s going to be biased to Kerry, I’m going to be biased to Dublin…(three pundits talk over one another)
PS: I’m not going to be biased. I have never been biased. I’m going to call something exactly as I see it. The bottom line, the ball came to him (Clifford), he used his body to protect it and Cooper holds him by the arm.
CW: He (Cooper) goes for the ball. He goes for the ball. He tried to get a hand on the ball.
JC: Straightforward question, does Cooper or does he not hold the arm of David Clifford?
CW: I think he’s going in for a ball, Joanne.
JC: Does he hold his arm?
CW: No, I don’t think he does. I don’t think he does, no.
As the replays seconds earlier clearly showed Cooper holding back Clifford as Cooper failed to get a touch on the ball, Whelan’s defence of the Dublin defender looked feeble and opened him up to the bias he mentioned more jovially than anything else.
On The Marty Squad on RTÉ Radio 1 later that evening which featured Eoin Liston, Jack O’Shea, Paul Caffrey, and Charlie Redmond, there was similar niggling between the counties about David Gough’s performance.
Caffrey took exception to the officiating believing it favoured Kerry, which Liston countered by highlighting how Stephen O’Brien was denied a penalty in the second half.
Eleven days out from Dublin and Kerry locking horns again, we must remember the ground between drawn finals and the replays has been a fertile ground for sowing seeds.
Look back to two years ago when having outplayed Diarmuid Connolly again in the first match, Lee Keegan’s discipline was brought into question by Paul Clarke, prior to Clarke being named a Dublin selector early last year.
Ex-Kerry footballers are experts when it comes to batting for their men but there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed.
As the mind games begin, let’s not lose reason.
Our interpretation of Sunday’s game as not being a classic was not shared by everyone, some of whom rightly asked what is the definition of one. It’s a matter of choice, obviously, but there are metrics you look to for guidance such as reasonable score conversion, a high standard of performance across the board, and levels of intensity.
The game two days ago fell down in each of those departments. That Dublin’s shot conversion was the best of the two teams at 50% said a lot but analyse the areas where they and Kerry shot from and the decisionmaking in the final third never mind the execution was not in keeping with a classic.
That the best players on each team were so easy to pick out didn’t suggest this was a game for the ages either. Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey, and Dean Rock were terrific for Dublin, McCaffrey named final man of the match for the second year in succession, as were David Moran and Seán O’Shea for Ker ry. Consider their team-mates and nobody came close to the standards they set in the game.
As intense as that finish was and we wouldn’t believe the solitary point scored for the final 12 minutes of action as diminishing it in anyway, the extended lulls in the game as each team chose to keep their hands on the ball and play patiently didn’t lend to the type of brilliant pugilism these two counties have conjured in the past.
For classics, go back to the Tyrone-Armagh 2005 All-Ireland semi-f inal, the 2016 Dublin-Ker ry semi-f inal or their immense 2013 semi-final. Finals don’t produce as many classics, certainly not recently save possibly for 2011 or, at a push 2017.
Mistaking excitement for quality is easily done but we have been served up better.
The All-Ireland SFC final replay’s 6pm throw-in on a Saturday evening is hardly ideal for Kerry supporters, most of whom face finding lodging in Dublin or the greater Dublin area for the second time in the space of 13 days. It’s an hour later than the 2016 replay between Dublin and Mayo and their semi-final replay a year earlier.
Those who fancy making a day trip of it face a brutally long one. Waterville to Dublin is a 10-hour return journey without traffic and stoppages.
Special trains are expected to be put on but then what is a reasonable departure time from Heuston Station?
The GAA would have taken advice from gardaí in coming up with the start time of the game and there has been a reluctance for some time now about fixing major football and hurling matches on Saturday afternoons. But as good an advertisement for football as Sunday’s draw was and Kerry now having more reason to expect than hope facing Dublin, demand won’t outstrip supply as it did last time around.
That is always the case with replays and what also has to be considered is the number of overseas supporters who mightn’t be able to plan around another fixture as they would have for the original final.
The expected cut in ticket prices should keep home fans keen but it wouldn’t be any surprise were Kerry to be outnumbered significantly by Dublin who will find the replay a lot more convenient.