Hunting for the grain of rice which will tip the scales

Hunting for the grain of rice which will tip the scales

Sport Scientist Ciarán Deely looks at the five areas Jim Gavin and Peter Keane will be focusing on in the run up to next week’s replay.


Recovery began for both teams immediately after the drawn game.

The players would have been given a carbohydrate/protein-rich mixed drink to replenish muscle glycogen stores and repair aching muscles. They then would have entered the smallAstroTurf room attached to each dressing room in Croke Park where they would have completed a low-intensity cool down with some light stretching.

Both teams are well versed in these, with Dublin’s experience of the previous drawn-All-Ireland final in 2016 giving them extra experience here. Sleep is perhaps the most important factor in recovery.

The simple fact of geography means the train journey back down to the Kingdom would have hindered Kerry players’ ability to get much-needed sleep and recovery in the immediate aftermath. Dublin had a huge advantage here last Sunday.

Psychological and emotional recovery is also important. It will have taken these young inexperienced Kerry players time to come back down from the ‘high’ of Sunday whereas the more experienced set of Dublin players have been there before and will have switched off much quicker.

Advantage: Dublin


Peter Keane’s first job would have been to dampen the euphoria in that hour after the final whistle.

The young Kerry players would have been delighted to have fought back. If I was in Peter’s shoes, I would have read them the riot act.

The quicker those players’ feet return to the ground, the better for Kerry. I would have first had a quiet word in the ears of my experienced warriors like Moran, Murphy, and Walsh to set the narrative that I wanted.

His task now is to delicately toe that line between Kerry confidence and arrogance. He should be tough on the players who played well and throw an arm around the shoulder of those who didn’t fire on all cylinders. He needs to let them know the faith he has in them.

Dublin have trickier waters to navigate. I would suspect Jim Gavin’s approach would have been to sit and go through all the issues in the dressing room. I’m sure this would have been transmitted in a calm but serious manner.

However, make no mistake about it, Jim would have been seething. And rightly so. When you prepare your team so well, you expect your big players to perform.

Jonny Cooper would not have received the hair-dryer treatment. When a player gets sent off, I give him the silent treatment. Cooper would have been hurting, embarrassed, and annoyed with himself.

The cold shoulder for a bit and then a calm but stern wrap on the knuckles back at the hotel would have been the order of the day.

Jim will have been disappointed in himself also in terms of some defensive calls and the decision to leave Cooper on David Clifford while on a yellow card.

A bigger issue, however, is what to do now with Brogan, O’Gara and O’Carroll. How does Jim square his philosophy of having all players on an equal footing with introducing Diarmuid Connolly?

Don’t be surprised to see Brogan brought back into the mix. Being ruthless with older players is one thing, but squad harmony is far more important.

Advantage: Kerry


Once the game has finished, the analysts will have uploaded the game onto Hudl — a remote cloud-based video sharing service — for the coaches and players to view.

The reflection and feedback on their performance would have gone on in the immediate days after the match.

By last Wednesday night that work would have concluded.

The focus in the coming week switches back to opposition analysis again.

As London senior manager, I did three things: the analysts would give insights on the opposition team in the form of a scouting report; the coaches and I would form a plan to limit the opposition’s strengths and exploit their weaknesses; and finally, the players would create clips of the opposition players themselves.

For instance, Tadhg Morley and Tom O’Sullivan would analyse Paul Mannion and Con O’Callaghan and report it back to the group. This gives players ownership of the process and ensures they remain engaged.

I can’t get away from the feeling that Dublin will have the upper hand here. Jim, Declan Darcy, and Jason Sherlock are modern, methodical coaches and with the enormous access to resources which Dublin have, there is an advantage here for them to exploit.

Advantage: Dublin

Training load

The periodised training plan for the past week (that makes sense to me), would have been to meet for a dip in the sea Monday; light recovery pitch session Wednesday; gym session Thursday; hard training session Friday; and an A v B game Sunday.

For the upcoming week, the training nights would be switched to Tuesday/Thursday, with the sessions being short but intense.

The physiotherapists would be busy dealing with injury worries. Brian Howard sustained some sort of fatigue-related hamstring issue Sunday. To be forced to take off one of your top performers in the dying moments is a cause of concern for Dublin.

In my experience, though fit to play the next day, the player may not be 100% right. Kerry will take heart from that.

Both will rely heavily on the technology at their disposal in the form of their Stat Sports GPS system. It makes sure every player is completing the required distances, accelerations/decelerations and sprints in training. It will also show how older players need additional rest while others require extra work.

Advantage: Kerry

New strategies

I would suspect Kerry will spend the two weeks in training practising the things that went well for them.

They will obviously focus also on the specific issues they had problems with. But in the spirit of positivity and confidence, you would suspect Keane and his team will focus on the positives by reinforcing the game plan in training each night.

I believe this would be a mistake by Peter Keane. If you stand still, you’re going backward!

I predict Dublin will take the alternative approach to their training across the two weeks.

Training will be focused on the areas they performed poorly in; rectifying all the issues that went wrong and finding a new way around the Kerry challenge.

I expect to see Dublin coming out with a whole new game plan with new tactics specifically aimed at throwing Kerry off their game.

If I was Jim, I would aim each session at a separate theme. I just can’t see Dublin management dropping the ball so spectacularly for the second game in a row.

Added to that, have no doubt about it, some of their marquee players are currently feeling the pressure to perform the next day.

Instead of alleviating that pressure, Jim needs to quietly apply it.

Advantage: Dublin

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