To hurt Dublin, you must play the game without fear

Ésprit de Corps is a term I have heard Jim Gavin use more than once in relation to this Dublin team.
To hurt Dublin, you must play the game without fear

Loosely defined, it means a common spirit or bond existing within a group or cohort that can inspire enthusiasm, devotion and a strong regard for the honour of the group. It was evident in bucket loads coming down the home stretch yesterday.

While it might be unfair on Kerry to suggest it was mostly on the Dublin side, you would have to admire the naked ambition of the Boys in Blue in those frantic final minutes. If there is one lesson all those who aim to knock Dublin off their perch can learn from their latest thriller, it is surely that if you want to hurt them, you must play the game without fear.

Watch how Diarmuid Connolly lines up an opportunity and narrowly misses and then has the gumption to go for another chance from a similar position under even more pressure in the 74th minute.

As the ball sailed over the crossbar into a sea of blue, you just knew that this was it. Fortune favours the brave. But it also favours those who go bald-headed for it.

Kerry people can and will argue the toss on numerous late second- half incidents - the equalising free kick harshly awarded on 66 minutes against Paul Murphy for apparently touching the ball on the ground, the manhandling of Brian Ó Beaglaoich as he sauntered upfield in search of a score and most controversially of all, Kevin McManamon’s shoulder charge on Peter Crowley.

It would be churlish of Kerry to present such incidents as the difference between the winning and losing of the game but the sight of the normally unflappable Kerry selector Mikey Sheehy seeking out referee David Gough after the game will only further add fuel to that raging fire today.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice in the true spirit of North Kerry football chose to “bite his lip” on the issue afterwards, instead opting to highlight the fact that Kerry simply couldn’t keep the scoreboard ticking over in the second-half. Substitute Barry John Keane’s point on 18 minutes was Kerry’s first from play in that period after Dublin had clawed back level with six points.

Dean Rock’s performance deserves special mention and he was instrumental in doing what Kerry couldn’t- keeping that scoreboard ticking over. Four points, three from frees in that critical opening second half period showcased all that was good about his game yesterday.

Rock would possibly be viewed as Dublin’s least threatening forward from play and by detailing Mark Griffin to chase him down, Kerry might have felt they had that angle covered. By the finish Rock had 12 points nailed, one from play in each half into the bargain. His contribution was significant on a day when he truly came of age. Killian Young, outstanding throughout on Kevin McManamon, was a huge part of Kerry’s first-half revival and yet there was so much to admire in McManamon’s score that finally put Dublin ahead. If one man could be held up as an example of the new Dublin, McManamon is that man.

There was a time when Dublin were all strut and very little substance. There were many days when Dublin got the gong for gallantry but very little else in these kind of games. But so much has changed. We might not like McManamon’s belt on Peter Crowley down in Kerry but the man who broke Kingdom hearts in 2011 and 2013 has had a hard and comprehensive schooling in the game and he is some player in 2016.

The final should be a hell of a game. Mayo, primed and psychologically perfect after such a low key semi-final facing a team who got their first proper gut check of the season. Dublin are playing with a hunger and desire they really shouldn’t have but even in this time of plenty, they too must know Mayo will be ravenous. If it matches the intensity and drama of yesterday’s semi-final, neutrals won’t complain.

In the meantime, Kerry will have to come to terms with their latest defeat in a game for the ages. Losing great games is always a bitter pill to swallow but the latest one will be slightly cushioned by the fact the underage talent is brimming to overflow. The only consolation on this day of days is that a famine should never again visit the county.

The recent progress at underage will almost certainly come too late for many. The sight of Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé, lingering long after the final whistle was elegiac and telling. After over a decade wrestling with the meanest full backs in the game, Kieran Donaghy’s last tour of the battlefield was a few playful rolls on the hallowed turf with his young daughter Lola Rose.

They deserved to take that moment after years of giving.

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